A guide to growing chilli plants
Growing Chilli Plants from Seed
Growing peppers from seed is a rewarding experience. What follows is a short guide on how to grow your own seedlings, managing light, moisture, and timing. After you’ve done it once, it will seem easy and routine, and lots of fun as you gain insight into how chili plants grow. What follows is based on years of experience when it comes to growing chilli plants – we hope it helps you.
Peppers are heat loving plants that need a long season to grow from seed to fruit. Plan to plant your chili seeds as soon as possible this way the plants will have enough time to grow and ripen their fruit before the days shorten and weather cools at summer’s end. The goal is to have sturdy seedlings ready to plant into 200 mm pots when spring weather is warm and settled and night temperatures are consistently in the 50° range. Chile seeds germinate at soil temperatures of 75ºF to 90ºF, (20 to 35ºC), with 85ºF or 30ºC being ideal. You may think this is too high a temperature for in the house but you would be surprised where in your house this is possible.
Sowing Chilli Seeds
It’s important to use a good, light well drained seed compost for your plants, rather than the ordinary garden soil, garden soil may contain fungus organisms and tends to get hard after a few watering’s. We have prepared this selection of the best types of premium compost for growing chillies. We use multi celled seed trays, (the cells are about 25 mm square) and plant one seed per cell. We find this gives the seedling a good solid root system and helps prevent shock when transplanting to 75 mm pots later on.
Add water to your compost and mix well; it should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge before you put it into your containers. Fill containers close to the top with evenly premoistened compost. Tap or jiggle the container to settle the mix. Do not firm the mix at this stage, just make sure the mix is level with the top of the cell. Drop individual chili seeds in the middle of your cell. Cover with soil mix and firm gently. Water the seeds to settle them in with a spray bottle or a watering can fitted with a very fine rose.
Write the variety names and sowing date with an indelible marker on small labels and place in the trays. Cover the tray with cling film, this helps retain moisture and creates a mini greenhouse effect. You can buy a small cheap electric propagators. (we have selected a whole range of them for you here) These electric propagation trays come with a lid so you will not need to use cling film. You also get a non-electric seed tray with lids which also dispenses with the need for cling film. Your chili seeds need warmth, 80º-85ºF, to begin the germination, (sprouting) process. Light is not critical at this stage, but bottom heat or a warm location is. If you are using an electric seed propagation mat or tray, just plug it in and put the seed containers on it.
If not, put them on top of the refrigerator, or in the airing cupboard. Keep seed trays or containers moist but not soggy. Check at least once every day for signs of emergence. Just as soon as the seeds have begun to sprout and show above the soil line, the baby seedlings require bright light. If using a sunny windowsill, be sure to rotate plants and protect them at night, when windowsill temperatures can drop.
Plants that don’t have enough light will grow up weak and pale, with long stems leaning toward the light. Seedlings can be grown on at a temperature somewhat lower than those for germination (a range of 65 to 80 degrees). When your seedlings are up and growing, and have at least 2 sets of leaves, it’s alright to let the top half-inch or so of soil have a chance to dry out between watering. Check daily by putting your index finger into the soil-actually using this finger test to see how moist the soil is works best; it’s hard to tell from just looking, even for experienced gardeners.
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