How to start pepper seeds: The Double Cup Method



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How to start pepper seeds: The Double Cup Method

It is that time of year again here in Texas – it is time to start pepper seeds for the spring season.  There are different methods to start pepper seeds. 

Each of the different methods has pros and cons that make them a reliable way to start pepper seeds.

We will be exploring the different methods over the next few weeks. The first we will look at is the double cup method!

4 Different Methods

  1. The Double Cup Method
  2. The Bulk Method
  3. Regular Seed Starting
  4. The Plastic Bag Method

The Double Cup Method

The first of these methods that we will be taking a closer look at is the double cup method.  This method is a great choice for people who want to start pepper seeds because of a few different reasons. 

Here is a look at those reasons:

  1. Mini greenhouse
  2. Water/Nutrient Reservoir
  3. Re-Usable Supplies

The Double Cup Method: Creates a mini-greenhouse

The double cup method creates a mini-greenhouse because of the plastic bag that is used to cover the tops of the cups. 

When you put the zip-lock bags over the top – it helps to hold in moisture which creates a micro-climate for the seeds to have the optimal environment for germination.

This greenhouse effect is incredibly helpful for germination.

Here is a helpful video on how to start pepper seeds using the double cup method:

The Double Cup Method: Creates a water/nutrient reservoir

The double cup method also creates a water/nutrient reservoir which allows the soil and the plant in the top cup to “wick” water or nutrient solution from the bottom cup. 

This works on multiple levels because it helps the soil surface from being overly saturated which will help to prevent fungus gnats.

The “wicking” also allows the plant to only soak up what it needs and as it needs it.  Allowing the plant to decide when it needs water also prevents over-watering.

The Double Cup Method: The supplies are re-useable

The cups are reusable from one season to another.  I have used the same cups for five years now.

It is important to clean them with a light bleach solution before you put them up for the season.

The Double Cup Method: Starting the seeds

Starting pepper seeds using the double cup method is not much different than any other method of starting seeds.

You start by getting all of your supplies; your seed starting mix, cups, the pepper seeds, and the zip lock bags. 

You will also need some potting mix when it is time to pot up your seedlings.

Starting Pepper Seeds using the double cup method, starting pepper seeds, starting seeds, growing peppers from seed, Backyard Eden,,
Here are some of the supplies that I like to use.

Step 1: Moisten your seed starting mix

Start with your seed starting mix.  You can buy the seed starting mix or if you prefer to make it yourself – you can find a helpful seed starting mix recipe here! 

First, pour your seed starting mix into a bowl or some other container that will hold some moisture without leaking. 

Add warm water and mix until the mixture can be formed into a clump. 

You want it to clump – but you don’t want water to squeeze out when forming.

Step 2: Prepare the cups

Next, you will want to put a hole into the cups you will be planting in.  For example, if you are planning on starting 5 different varieties – you will need ten cups total. 

5 of the cups should have a hole and 5 of them need to be left alone.  You then put one cup with a hole into a cup that doesn’t have a hole. 

This forms the double cup method – allowing for there to be a reservoir for the water.

Tip: You can use a drill with a bit to make the holes.  You want to make a couple of holes in the proper to provide proper drainage.  You will have to experiment with the combo of the holes and the seed starting mix.

Step 3: Filling the cups

Fill up your cups with the seed starting mix.  You want to press down lightly to ensure that the soil makes good contact with the bottom of the cup

If the soil doesn’t make good contact with the bottom of the cup – it will not wick the water up from the reservoir.

Step 4: Planting the seeds

After you have filled the cups with the seed starting mix – it is time to put your seeds in the cup.  You should put 4-5 seeds in each cup evenly spaced out.

Plant them about a 1/4 inch deep and cover lightly with soil.  Give them a light watering.

Step 5: Labeling the cups

Make sure to label your cups to avoid any mix-ups with the pepper varieties.  I have accidentally forgotten to label cups and I had no idea what seeds I had planted in them.

Step 6: Cover with the zip loc bags

The last step in this process is to place one zip loc bag over each set of cups.  The bag creates a mini-greenhouse effect and helps to hold in the moisture.

What’s next?

Once your seeds sprout – remove the plastic bags and place them under your grow lights

If you do not put them under lights – your seedlings will become too leggy.  They will essentially become too tall and spindly reaching for the light. 

It is better to start all over if this happens as it is incredibly hard to correct.


Once your seedlings have sprouted, you will want to transplant them into their own cups as soon as you can. 

I have successfully transplanted seedlings with multiple sets of true leaves but this can be tedious because the roots can become tangled. 

It is best to transplant them before this.


You will want to start fertilizing your seedlings when they develop one to two sets of true leaves. 

You can use whatever type of liquid fertilizer you want as long as it is half-strength. 

I simply use a half-strength liquid fertilizer once every 7-10 days.

I will be adding new pepper videos weekly to the 2018 Pepper Playlist on our YouTube channel so – be sure to subscribe and click the bell for an email when we post a new video! 

I hope these articles can help you have a successful pepper season.

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About the author

John grew up on a farm where his family raised chickens, goats, rabbits, and grew a huge garden. John has a family of his own and gardens to know where his food comes from.