Germination:-

 

So there you are. You trailed the internet in search of varieties of chilli plants that you can already see yourself admiring and more importantly using next summer, the order has gone through and after an anxious couple of days the postman finally drops off the envelope that looks so small yet you know will make such a big difference soon.  

 

Except that now you are holding the chilli seeds’ packets in your hands, it dawns on you that you actually have to plant the buggers and nurture them and are not exactly sure what to do. Any beginner and even experienced grower have doubts as to their skills in bringing such a tiny thing that a chilli seed is to a mature and productive plant that will yield numerous pods.

 

A chilli plant will give you all it can as long as you give it what it needs. Simple enough? In theory, yes. Chilli plants like a good routine and will thrive under the right conditions but change one element in their day to day life and they’ll let you know right away that they’re not happy! 

 

Most chilli seeds will take about 2 to 6 weeks to germinate (the ones taking the longest being the superhots such as Habanero, Naga or Trinidad Scorpion) so adding the time for the plant to grow and bear fruit, the best time of year to start is January/February although with the milder weather we are experiencing these past few years and depending on whether you will keep the plant indoors or outdoors you can plant chilli seeds up to April. If you grow under special types of lights you can of course germinate chilli seeds all year round.

 

So, with all that said, where do you start? Well, equipment is important but the crucial factor that will essentially make or break the whole process is warmth. In an ideal world all chilli seeds should be kept at the optimum temperature of 25 degrees Celsius but we have been able to germinate chilli seeds in much colder temperatures, they just took longer and the germination rate got reduced by about 15-20%. Alternatively (and if your wife allows it!) you can always put a tray of planted chilli seeds in your airing cupboard, in a heated bedroom or on the kitchen window sill!

 

In recent years we have found that heated propagators are the best way to quick-start a chilli seed and our plants have thanked us for it. We usually start 50 to 100 chilli plants using special growing pellets and more than half usually germinate within 2-3 weeks. Again do not fret if you do not see stems peaking out as some varieties of chilli plants really like to come out only when beautiful enough for the ball…

 

As mentioned we use special pellets that come in big bags and have to be rehydrated before being used but you can perfectly start with 3 inch pots and free draining compost (just carefully insert 5 or 6 chilli seeds per pot and add a thin layer of compost or vermiculite on top before lightly watering the soil). The advantage of pellets or growing trays such as Root Riot cubes is that they have specific nutrients that will promote the growth of the chilli plant. The other benefit is that they are rather compact and therefore take less space in a propagator. 

 

In all cases, and although it might seem utterly logical, remember to label your chilli plants!! We have had the arrogance to think that we would of course remember which pot is which or recognise the variety of chilli plant simply by observing the hue of the stem but unfortunately our awesome chilli growing skills do not include that kind of power… yet.

 

Once the stems of your chilli seeds have reached a height of about 5 cm transfer each plant into 5 inch pots and keep warm until summer comes!


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