The first set of leaves that emerge are called cotyledon or “seed leaves”. These are the leaves your plants use to make an entrance and shout, “Yep, I’m growing!”
Then, the true leaves start to come in and quite often are very different in appearance than the seed leaves. They might have scalloped or jagged edges and be a different shape than the smooth-edged seed leaves.
Once the second set of true leaves come in, it’s time to think about transplanting either to a larger container, or to the garden.
Once our second set comes in, it will still most likely still be a bit too cold to put them in the ground, so I’ll transplant them into clear plastic cups with holes drilled in for drainage until the end of April.
We have cold frames that are south facing, so I will also “harden them off” by placing them in these mini greenhouses for a few hours a day to get them acclimated to the change in environment. This tutorial on hardening off is great. I don’t follow it to a tee, but it is a great step-by-step guide.
The spicy peppers are not far behind. Their first set of true leaves are forming and the second set should come about a week or two after the first set are established.
Some plants take longer than others to grow that second set of true leaves and it often depends on the growing conditions. Under perfect conditions, plants should have their true leaves within two weeks of germinating.
My true leaves have absolutely no respect for that schedule and seem to grow to the beat of their own drummer. They are consistently late so I’ve never been able to accurately predict when to transplant. Instead, I just watch them, talk to them and get a feel for when they need more room and when they need to be left alone.
And now for a haiku:
True leaves where are you?
Your absence is concerning.
Has Spring fooled you too?