Growing Peppers from Seeds
Growing peppers from seeds is a fun and economical way to produce a diverse crop of peppers with varieties that you are not likely to find in any store! There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of peppers in the world. Why would you want to miss out on all the diversity of color, flavor, and heat available by only planting the same 5–10 varieties of seed sold in starters? Instead, try the addictive and rewarding process of growing peppers from seed. We promise you will not be disappointed!
Here is what you need to know for successfully growing peppers from seeds.
Use High-Quality Seeds
For the most successful outcome, every seed starting practice should begin with the best, freshest, and highest-quality seeds. Use seed from a reputable source that has been stored correctly (kept from the sun, heat, and extreme temperatures) and is only a few years old. Most of our seeds are less than a year old!
Use a Heating Mat
Peppers, which originated in the hot wet jungles of tropical climates, prefer warm soil temperatures to germinate. For those of you outside of Zone 10, this means you will likely need a heating mat for the best, quickest, and most even germination of your pepper seeds. Tomatoes and eggplants also enjoy this method but are not as finicky as pepper seeds. Peppers enjoy 80–90 degree soil temperatures for quick germination. An inexpensive seed heating mat like ours will do the trick! You can also attempt to germinate them in an area of the house that is constantly warm. This can be tricky when trying to germinate your seeds 6–8 weeks before the last frost date. When it is chilly outside, it is not likely to be a constant 80–90 degrees inside!
Once Germinated, Separate Sprouts into Individual Pots
Like tomatoes, eggplants, and many other vegetables, pepper seeds do best when not competing with other crops in a small container. If you were a bit heavy-handed when planting your seeds and there are multiple sprouts in each cell or pot, make sure to separate them into individual pots so that they can thrive.
Growing Strong Plants from Pepper Seeds
When growing peppers from seeds, you need to make sure you plant them 6–8 weeks before the last frost date and get them growing as big and strong as possible. To do that, you need to make sure you fertilize them when they get their first cotyledon. Fertilize with a mild organic fertilizer that has low nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. We like to use fish emulsion. You can use any organic, mild liquid fertilizer. We recommend that you dilute it more than the manufacturers’ suggestions to ensure that frequent fertilizing does not burn your plants. Our routine is to water with 50% diluted fish emulsion every 2–3 waterings. Depending on how warm your temperatures are, that might be about once a week.
In addition to feeding your plants, you’ll want to place a fan near your starts to ensure that a light breeze goes over them so that they will grow strong, healthy stems. The breeze from the fan exercises the plant!
If you are growing pepper plants in any other area than Zone 10, you want to be sure to harden off your plants prior to planting. That is because your plants have been growing in a protected environment for 6–8 weeks now and will be shocked when they encounter the less-than-ideal conditions of an early spring garden! Make sure you harden your plants off by taking them outside for a few hours a day during mild weather days and slightly increasing their exposure over time. Do not place them in the full hot sun right off the bat. Instead, place them in a partially shaded area to adjust slowly. Move them in at night until the nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees. Once your peppers are healthy enough to plant outside, and the nighttime lows are above 50 degrees, you can plant your peppers in full sun. If planting in containers, make sure you add compost so that the containers do not dry out quickly. You can also mulch around your plants to ensure they do not dry out too soon between waterings.
Harvest Often for Happy Plants
When you are growing peppers from seeds, remember to plan accordingly. The happiest pepper plants are those you regularly harvest, allowing the plant to put energy into producing more delicious peppers. If your garden lacks pollinators, make sure you plant flowers to bring in bees, butterflies, and moths, all of which help pollinate your pepper plants!
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