Growing your own hot peppers from seed can be very rewarding. The
selection of hot peppers available at the supermarket is very poor.
Although the selection of plants from a nursery or store is a little
better, when you start from seeds, there is a terrific variety
available. And as hot pepper popularity is growing constantly, the
varieties just keep expanding. One catalog, Pepper Gal boasts over 200
varieties! So for starters, pick out your selections.
I LOVE this part.
It's a blast in the dead of winter to plan out your garden, ordering
tried and true seeds. But we're all addicted to trying out new,
different and exciting variations. I'll give you some input to fit your
different needs and preferences in a just a little bit.
MAKING THE PROCESS EASY:
If you live in a year-round warm climate, such as southern Florida, you
can direct-sow your seeds into your garden. If you have a greenhouse,
good for you!
The majority of my customers don't fit into these two
categories, so I'll tailor this article towards them, although the same
basics apply. I prefer a plain and simple approach that gets results.
The 2 main ingredients are soil/seedling mix and containers/trays.
Soil: There are many good seed starting mixes available at nurseries or
discount stores. They work very well and I would recommend them as there
is no mixing, measuring, etc. If you prefer to make your own mixture, go
with 1/3 good garden soil (don't go with clay soil as it compacts
badly), 1/3 vermiculite or similar growing medium, and 1/3 sand. Hot
pepper plants LOVE sand as many varieties originate in areas with sandy
soil. Also it provides excellent drainage. Mix all 3 ingredients
together very well.
Containers: I like plastic gro-packs for 6 to 12 plants, peat pellets or
peat pots. Gro packs are especially good because you can cover tightly
with "cling-wrap" after first watering and create a little "hothouse"
environment. The soil stays moist longer at a higher temperature. Just
remove cling-wrap when seedlings emerge. Put your soil/seedling mix into
containers. Don't fill to exact top but leave at least 1/4 inch for
watering or it will run off.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:
Find a good and warm sunny windowsill. Seedlings prefer at least 6 hours
of sunlight, the more the better. Hot pepper seeds need to be coaxed
through the germination and transplant stages. Remember they all
originated from a tropical environment. But keep in mind you'll be
rewarded with a healthy, robust, prolific plant for your patience.
varieties can be finicky to germinate. I recommend soaking seeds
overnight in warm water to give them a head start. I am a 100% organic
gardener, but of course there is many people are not. Some
of them soak the seeds overnight in Saltpeter (potassium nitrate). (When sowing outdoors, the Saltpeter
actually simulates the digestive tract of birds that eat wild hot
peppers, therefore accelerating germination.)
Then sow seeds 1/4 inch
deep 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost. Keep seeds moist, but not
soaked, through germination phase. They germinate best above 65 degrees.
Ideal is 75 to 85 degrees. Because most homes are not this warm, another
tip is to place them on top of your refrigerator until seedlings emerge.
It stays pretty warm there. Don't forget my cling-wrap tip in a sunny
Again, be patient, some varieties can take 4 to 6 weeks to
germinate. Others can show up in 7 to 10 days. It depends on
temperature,sunlight, soil and variety. After they emerge I believe in
the mother nature theory: "Survival Of The Fittest". I plant 3 or 4
seeds per growing area.
As they develop their first set of leaves I'll
snip off with a scissors the weakest one. As they develop their second
set of leaves I'll snip off all but the healthiest one. If any variety
starts to grow tall and too "leggy", open the window just a little bit
to shock the plant with cooler air. This will slow down its growth and
make its stem thicker and more conducive to transplant. Once you have
healthy seedlings you're ready for the transplant and growing stage,
then the harvesting stage, then my favorite the cooking and eating