The tried-and-true method we recommend to germinate seeds is simple. Seeds are fragile so it’s best not to mess with them too much. Nature is full of surprises and germination is a delicate process, so here’s how to maximize your chances of a good germination rate.
Wherever you may live, we recommend to start the seeds indoors with the following method. You can start the seeds between December and March to get a headstart on the growing season. Then, you can move the young plants outdoors when the weather is nicer.
What you’ll need:
- A good seed starting soil mix and seed starting cells (or jiffy pellets)
- a propagator
- a seedling heat mat
- full spectrum led grow light (optional)
The propagator and heat mat can be found bundled together for less than 25€/30$. It’s a small investment that’s really worth it as they greatly improve germination rates and you’ll be able to reuse them season after season.
Place the cells filled with soil or the jiffy pellets in the propagator. Water them until they’re wet but not saturated with water. The jiffy pellets need to absorb the water to take their final form. Then, make a hole in the soil about 1.5 cm/0.5 inches deep and gently place the seeds in it, then cover them carefully. We recommend putting up to three seeds in each cell or pellet so as to not overcrowd the seedlings.
Label each cell with materials that won’t fade with humidity or light like with wooden sticks inscribed with a marker pen for example.
Then, cover the propagator with the lid and place it on top of the seedling heat mat. Now, what matters most is to control the temperature and the humidity levels. There are two types of heat mat, the ones with and the ones without built in temperature control. The ones without are cheaper and will range between 25°C/77°F and 28°C/82°F, often depending on the ambient temperature. If yours has a controller, keep it at these temperatures too. As for the humidity, the aim is to keep the soil moist and not soaking wet. Water regularly, generally once a week is enough or when you see that the soil isn’t moist anymore. There shouldn’t be water left in the bottom of the propagator after watering. Condensation should form on the lid. Check that there is no pelicule of fungus forming on the soil, it could indicate that the humidity level is too high and the seeds could rot and not germinate. Don’t feel bad if some or all of your seeds don’t germinate, it has happened to all chilli growers, us included. Germination is a delicate process, so keep trying and you will eventually succeed. We also advise not to use all your seeds the first time so that if you lose your first batch for any reason, you have spares to try again.
From then on, it’s a waiting game. Pepper seeds can take a few days from a few weeks to germinate. Generally the superhots take the longest, some up to a month.
When the seeds sprout, the seedlings will need a source of light. If you live in a sunny place, you can use your windowsill. If you find it’s not possible or sufficient, you can use an artificial light. We recommend using full spectrum LED lights. The wattage depends on the surface. For one propagator, 60 W to 100 W is more than enough.
When the seedlings grow a second set of leaves, what’s referred to as the first true leaves, they’re ready to be repotted. Don’t move them directly from the propagator to the ground or to the biggest pot you have. It’s best to transplant them gradually. Also, the plants will need to get acclimated to the light of the sun and the outside weather. So, for two weeks, the plants will need to be place for a few hours outside and the, back in.
Water the plants approximately once a week or as needed. We recommend using quality organic fertilizer that’s suited for peppers. Those for tomatoes work well too.
And that’s it, your plants are on their way to produce a ton of delicious hot peppers!