Starting your chilli seeds at the right time will result in a large harvest of spicy treats! In this article we’re going to discuss:
- When to start your chilli seeds
- How to optimize your chilli growing season
- How long it takes to germinate chilli seeds
- Soaking chilli seeds for improved germination
- What species of chilli should you grow
- What tools you will need
- Additional information for a first-time chilli grower
If you live in the northern hemisphere (north of the equator) for example North America, United Kingdom or Europe then generally January to February, in the southern hemisphere (south of the equator), July to August would be the perfect months to sow your chilli seeds. Some species can still be planted later but expect a shortened growing season.
How Can I Optimize My Growing Season?
This question plagues many growers as not everyone lives in the same place, well we have an answer for you. As mentioned above although there are suggested growing months, this isn’t always the rule.
Chilli Seeds that take 120-150+ days to fruit (Carolina Reapers, Habanero, Scotch Bonnets etc.): We suggest that you plan to start them 3 months before your last frost. We define the last frost as the time when temperatures average approximately 5-10°C/41-50°F but don’t dip below 0°C/32°F. Chilli plants will die if their roots freeze.
Chilli seeds that take 60-90 days (Jalapeno’s, Sweet Bell, Piri Piri, Tabasco, Cayenne, etc.): We suggest that you plan to start them 2 months before your last frost date. If you decide to wait longer than this your optimal growing season will pass quickly.
If you have a covered outdoor growing space like a glasshouse/greenhouse or polytunnel, then you can start your seeds a couple weeks earlier than if you were going to grow them outdoors without cover. This is one of the benefits of a covered growing area (earlier starts, and later finishes to your growing season.
Starting Chilli Seeds Too Early
As much as starting your chilli seeds too late can be a problem, so can starting your seeds too early! If you start your chilli seeds too early you will find that you have to wait too long before taking them outside into the sunshine. This could stunt the growth of your plant. You want to time seed starting so that when your plant is ready to be potted up to their final pots, you can take them outdoors.
How Long Does It Take To Germinate Seeds?
We’ve all asked ourselves this very question time and time again so welcome to the club. It can take anywhere from 1 to 5 weeks for your chilli seeds to germinate.
Generally speaking, chilli seeds that take 120+ days to fruit (Carolina Reapers, Habanero, Scotch Bonnets etc.) usually take the longest time to germinate, whereas species that take less time to fruit (Jalapeno’s, Sweet Bell, Piri Piri, Tabasco, Cayenne, etc.) will take much less time.
This however has many caveats in that these are usual germination times. Age, strength, health, preparation & execution will heavily impact your germination rate and success. Please read on to learn more.
Should I Soak My Seeds Before Planting?
Great question! There are many differing views on this topic. A key factor of whether you should soak your chilli seeds and for how long should be made based on your seeds age.
Why Soak My Chilli Seeds?
Soaking your chilli seeds (also known as chemical scarification) is a process where you soften the seed shell to maximize the chances of germination success. Older chilli seeds have a harder shell than those of fresh chilli seeds, so a helping hand to get them started right is advisable.
Chemical scarification by soaking chilli seeds is a method in which we simulate nature’s touch in the life cycle of a chilli plant.
When chilli fruits are ripe birds will inevitably eat them (birds aren’t affected by the capsaicin the way we are). The acids of the bird’s digestive tract are what we’re simulating here. These acids are mild enough to not damage the seed but are strong enough to soften the seeds shell.
After passing through the bird’s digestive system the chilli seeds are distributed away from the parent plant and with a little luck and the right conditions the seed will develop into a chilli plant.
Chemical scarification not only helps improve germination rates and speed, but it can also heavily reduce chances of getting helmet heads (this is where the seed shell remains stuck on the seedling which could result in its death).
What Chilli Plants Should I Grow?
So, you have the basic rules on when to plant. You know if you’re going to soak your seeds and now you ask yourself “What chilli plants should I grow?”
Your choice of chilli plants has to be a personal one. Your choices should be based on sauces/salts/powders you’ve enjoyed, knowledge of your tolerance and some experimentation. A common mistake however is growing too many of one variety and not enough of others.
We all want to grow that superhot but a mistake many first-time growers make is growing a lot of superhot chilli peppers (Carolina Reapers, Habanero, Scotch Bonnets etc.) and not growing enough peppers that they can actually be used in a sauce/salt/powder that you will enjoy.
Mild peppers (Jalapeno’s, Sweet Bell, Piri Piri, Tabasco, Cayenne, etc.) are great for bulking, they are very prolific, and they generally taste better than the superhot varieties also (Carolina Reapers, Habanero, Scotch Bonnets etc.).
When you’re planning your season try to imagine what you’re going to do with them. Are you looking at utilizing the fruits or do you simply want a beautiful house plant?
What Tools Do I Need?
Planning your season doesn’t just end at picking your varieties, you will need some tools and materials as well. Hopefully, this doesn’t take you by surprise, although should it, then we’ve got you covered.
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- Propagator (large enough for your needs).
- Heat Mat & Thermostat (if your propagator isn’t heated)
- Seed Trays with humidity lids
- Seed Starting Soil Mix (compost or potting soil is not good for starting chilli seeds)
- Plant Labels (so you don’t forget what you planted)
- Spray Bottle
The ChilliChump Facebook community is another amazing source of information regarding reviews of options available to you when you’re first starting. Meet and discuss with our members the benefits of one vendor or seed starting mix over another. We’re all here to help you succeed.
Once you have the items listed above you are now ready to start your season. Time to select your chilli seeds see below for last minute guidance and tips for success and tools to help your season amazing!
This Is My First Year Growing Chillies, Help!
That said, in 2022, ChilliChump will be redeveloping the seed to sauce playlist with updated content.
You may have done research or even watched others planning their seasons on YouTube. You may have also asked yourself “how do I track my plants? How do I know if I’m doing it right?” Well, many seasoned growers use Spreadsheets to track their seeds, plants and seasons.
What is SeedsIO?
And it’s not just for chilli plants! With SeedsIO you can dispose of those pesky spreadsheets as you’ll never need them again. Historical data will be retained.
Some of the aspects that make SeedsIO so useful is the ability to track everything, to plan your season’s seed tray ahead of time before ever sowing a chilli seed. You can comment on other gardens and set the visibility of your seed trays and garden also.
Keep an eye out for some features that are coming, including IOT! This means you will be able to monitor your growing areas and even control the irrigation, fans, heating etc. all directly from SeedsIO!
Start your season with quality chilli seeds
Make sure you start with the healthiest chilli seeds to ensure you have a successful season.
It is heavily recommended that you also read reviews of the seed vendors you’re looking at purchasing from. There are plenty of honest and great vendors available but be aware that some are dishonest, reviews will normally help you determine whether to use one vendor over another.
Please note as well that when ordering chilli seeds customs can confiscate seeds so be prepared when ordering from any vendor that this is possible although in many cases unlikely. We also suggest ordering early to receive them in time for when you expect to sow your chilli seeds, international shipping can be slow.
Thank you for your time and we wish you the very best of seasons, happy growing and Stay Spicy!