Chillies can be germinated much as any other seed. In order to give the seeds a bit of a helping hand to germinate you can place the seeds in between two sheets of damp kitchen roll and put into a either a sealed freezer bag or plastic container.
Place the bag somewhere warm. This method will help keep the heat and the moisture around the seeds, speeding up the germination process. An important thing to do at this stage is to label the seeds so you know what is what when it is time to plant them!
After 5-10 days you will notice some of the seeds will have swelled up and may be even be starting to sprout. Now is the time to plant the seeds. Ideally you need a propagator but in reality they can be planted in any kind of container.
Of course you can take the easier approach and simply plant your chilli pepper seeds straight into the compost. Remember that different varieties take different times to germinate. If you are growing Habanero peppers, for example, you can expect them to take up to 3 or 4 weeks to germinate, where as annum varieties such as cayenne will sprout much quicker.
When planting chilli seeds, aim to space them about 5cm apart in normal multi purpose compost, ideally mixed with some Vermiculite. Lightly cover the seeds with about 1cm of compost and spray the tray lightly with water. Check them every day and spray with a little water if they look a bit dry. The aim is to prevent the compost from drying out rather than keeping it wet.
The two main requirements that the seed has at this stage are heat and moisture. The optimum temperature for germination varies but roughly speaking can be said to be in the region of 23-30 degrees Celsius.
Probably the best advice is to try and keep the temperature of the seeds constant. This can be achieved a number of ways, such as by using a heated propagator or old electric blanket under your seed trays. In my case I simply place the trays either on a window sill or on top of the refrigerator which will keep them slightly warmer than room temperature.
The time taken for germination varies greatly between varieties. More common varieties such as Jalapeno usually germinate in anything between 1-2 weeks. Other more erratic varieties such as Ghost Chillies may take up to 6 weeks or longer. The key is to be patient, and don't assume they are dead!
Once your seedlings have poked their heads out of the soil they suddenly have a new requirement -light. Depending on where you are and which way your windows face etc the windowsill or conservatory may well be adequate and provide your seedlings with enough light to flourish. One problem with growing plants this way is that if they don't get enough light they can grow tall and spindly.If this happens then they need more light
Potting On Your Chili Plants Out
Once the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves it is time to re-pot them. I usually pots about 10cm in diameter are perfect. Be very careful not to damage the seedlings during the potting-on process. One good tip is to avoid touching them altogether by re-potting the area of compost around the seedlings roots. By doing this hopefully you will avoid damaging the roots of the plant. What type of pot you use is pretty unimportant. You can save money and use old yogurt pots or recycled drinking cups while the plants are still small.
Again, depending on the time of year, your location and amount of light available you can keep the plants on the windowsill, in the greenhouse or under artificial lighting. Pepper plants love light, so the more they get the faster and stronger they will grow.
Depending on the variety you will most likely need to re-pot the chillies again in a few weeks time. It is a good idea to avoid potting on to early as there are many theories that potting on too early into too big a pot focuses the plants growth on growing the roots rather than stems, leaves, flowers and ultimately chillies. A general rule of thumb is to only do this when roots are appearing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pots.
Once the risk of frost passes you can put the plants outside. Initially you might want to harden them off by placing outside for just a few hours a day. This will get the plants used to the direct sunlight and wind that they may not have experienced so far during their indoor life. During these early stages of growth your plants can be particularly susceptible to pests like aphids and snails. Neem oil is a great Organic persticide, and whilst it's not cheap, a little goes a long way!
One of the most asked questions is how often to feed them and what with? In the early stages and while the weather is quite mild just give them a bit of tap water every 2-3 days or whenever the soil is looking dry on top. As the summer temperatures rise then increase this to once a day. In South Africa you may also need to use a partial shade net if your area is particularly hot. Liquid Tomato feed (if you can find it) is a great food for Chillies.
All that now remains is to watch nature at work and then reap your harvest.
Good question... Now how many other seed sellers do you know who actually grow and test their products? Not many at all. Most sellers simply buy in bulk and on-sell to you. How do you know what you are buying until it's months down the line and then too late!
We buy hermetically sealed parent stock from a reputable seller, then we grow the plants and harvest the fruits. Only after testing germination of these seeds do we then sell on to you. This very lengthy process unfortunately has its disadvantages if we lose plants due to pests or other factors (sometimes the Dog!!)
So buy from us and buy with confidence.