New Year Cheers for Chillies!

Chilli pepper seeds are usually sown from February to the end of April.  However, these vegetables command a long growing season, requiring sufficient time for the plants to mature and their fruit to develop and ripen.  Accordingly, I find that chilli peppers are best started from seed sown in January.

Chilli peppers take on different heats, flavours, and colours, as they ripen.
Chilli Pepper ‘Dragon’s Breath’.

Nurseries stock a limited range of chilli pepper plants in springtime, but gardeners who grow chillies from seed are blessed with the choice of a vast range of varieties.  Seeds present opportunities to grow vibrant or colour-changing chilli peppers that deliver a diverse array of flavours and heat levels.

Chilli peppers can be dangerously hot.  Seeds are usually the most violent part of the plant, so please wear gloves when handling these seeds and wash your hands afterwards.

This is one of my Chilli Pepper ‘Trinidad Perfume’ plants; the fruit are held under the branches. I took this photograph on the 26th September 2020, when the plant was still flower.

However, not all chillies are hot; ‘Trinidad Perfume’ is a Habanero chilli pepper with a sweet, fruity flavour and an upbeat floral aroma, without any fire or heat whatsoever.

‘Trinidad Perfume’ chilli peppers are ripen from green to yellow. Chilli peppers are easily grown from seed; these plants make lovely conservatory plants.
‘Trinidad Perfume’ chilli peppers ripen from green to yellow. Both ripe and unripe chilli peppers can be eaten raw or used in a variety of culinary dishes.

Instead of starting chilli pepper seeds in compost, I prefer to pre-germinate these seeds, tucking them between sheets of damp kitchen paper, that I’ve pre-soaked in chamomile tea for its anti-fungal properties.  If you don’t drink chamomile tea, tap water will do nicely.

I like to get my chilli pepper seeds started early in the year.
Chilli Pepper ‘Medusa’.

However, avoid using water collected or stored in water butts, which is often contaminated with fungal diseases that have a devastating effect on seeds and seedlings.  Damping off can literally obliterate seedlings overnight; the pathogens that cause this disease are frequently found in water butts.  Consequently, use only mains tap water to water your seeds, seedlings, and young plants, and to be on the safe side, wash up your seed trays, containers, and watering cans using mains water, too.

I sow my chilli pepper seeds in January. These seeds need warm temperatures and moisture for germination. I achieve excellent results by wrapping my chilli pepper seeds in damp kitchen paper and sealing them in a tub.

I germinate my damp-saturated, kitchen roll wrapped seeds inside plastic tubs to retain moisture.  Place different varieties in separate containers or use plastic bags, if you prefer.  Pop your containers inside a warm linen cupboard or on a shelf, above a radiator.  Check your seeds every day for signs of germination.

To germinate my chilli pepper seeds, I wrap my seeds in damp kitchen paper.
Then I seal the tub – this keeps the moisture in, which helps the seeds germinate.
I leave my tub of chilli pepper seeds on a radiator, in a warm room. Every day, I open the tub and check my seeds for signs of germination. As soon as the seeds germinate, I pot them up into small containers of peat-free compost.
This chilli pepper seed germinated three days after being covered in damp kitchen paper and stored in a tub on my radiator. This seed is now ready to be potted up in a pot of peat-free compost and grown inside a warm glasshouse, a conservatory, or on a bright and sunny window sill.

Once a seed starts to germinate, it’s ready to be potted up into an individual container of peat-free compost.  Young seedlings are particularly susceptible to diseases, so ensure your containers are scrupulously clean.  Start your plants off in tiny pots; re-pot each plant into a container that’s one or two sizes larger, every four to six weeks.

These chilli pepper seeds germinated four days after I covered them in damp kitchen paper and put the seeds in a tub on my radiator.
Pot up your chilli peppers seeds as soon as they germinate. I’ve just potted these chilli pepper seeds up in small containers of Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Seeds.
Dalefoot Composts Wool Compost for Seeds.

Chilli peppers are tender plants that are killed by frost.  Until summer arrives, chilli peppers need to grow inside the protection of a conservatory, glasshouse, or on a particularly bright windowsill.  Chilli peppers thrive in a warm and sunny environment.

Chilli Pepper plants growing inside a glasshouse.

When all risk of frost has passed (depending on where you live, this varies from the end of May to the middle of June), your plants can be safely moved outside; choose a bright and sunny spot, where your chillies can bask in morning sunshine.  Chilli peppers make charming conservatory or houseplants, they enjoy being cosseted inside a warm and brightly lit room.

This article was first published in the January 2021 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

For advice on growing a wide range of vegetables, please click here.

For more gardening advice for January, please click here.

For more gardening advice for February, please click here.

To find information on snowdrop nurseries, please click here.

For gardening advice for mid-January to mid-February, please click here.

For information on growing a wide range of vegetables, please click here.

To read about my mini glasshouse, please click here.

For tips on growing edible mushrooms and sprouting seeds, please click here.

To see a calendar of snowdrop garden openings, please click here.

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One thought on “New Year Cheers for Chillies!

  1. Lisa

    January 8, 2021 at 9:51am

    Hello! Well today, I am starting my Trinidad Perfume chillies, as well as Poblanos (Anchos] and Jalapeño “Fooled You”, – all cool chillies. I am not a fan of searing hot ones and find these to be very versatile.
    Is there a particular reason to pre-germinate? Faster germination? Easier to see failed seed? I have never tried this, but am open to going it a go!

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      January 8, 2021 at 10:44am

      Hi Lisa

      It’s great to hear from you! I favour this method of pre-germinating chilli pepper seeds, as I find that it’s a really easy way to provide the warm temperatures that these seeds require for germination at no extra cost. The heat of the radiator triggers rapid germination, which also saves time, as you’d need a heated propagator to achieve this high soil temperatures. However even if you are blessed with a heated propagator, this method allows any seeds that don’t germinate to be discarded without having wasted any time potting them up first – so no space is wasted in the glasshouse or on the window sill and all time and energy is used on actively growing seeds.

      Growing chillies is so exciting!

      Happy new year.

      Warmest wishes

  2. Lisa

    January 8, 2021 at 12:54pm

    Thanks for the clarification! This looks handy as I start the chillies well before other seeds and it seems a pain to get out the heated propagator for just a couple of tiny pots. I have some home-saved Chamomile for tea from last summer, so I am good to go!

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      January 8, 2021 at 1:13pm

      Fabulous! I love growing chillies; here’s hoping for a great chilli growing season ahead!

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