How To Grow Peppers From Seed

Whether you're a beginner gardener or a seasoned expert, growing peppers from seed is a very rewarding experience. In this post, we'll look into all of the steps that need to be taken when growing peppers from seed.

Choosing Pepper Varieties
The first step is to choose the varieties you’d like to grow. There is an abundance of different pepper varieties to choose from. The two most well known types of pepper are bell peppers and chilli peppers. You might want to grow a pepper variety for its particular colour or for its spiciness. It is always best to grow something that you will actually eat, or that a friend or family member will eat.

Choosing Where To Grow Pepper Plants And How Many You Can Grow!
The next step is to see what space you have available to grow your peppers in. Doing this in advance will help you to not grow so much that you don’t have space for it all! 

Peppers are heat and sun loving plants. In Ireland, they need to be grown under some kind of protection. Some examples of protection are a greenhouse, polytunnel, a conservatory etc. It is not impossible to grow them outdoors under no protection, but the results will definitely be a lot less than optimal, and any fruit the plants produce would be very unlikely to ripen.

Peppers need a space of approx 50cm between each plant, so keep this in mind when looking at your growing area and deciding how many plants to grow.

Planting The seeds
After deciding the final spot for your pepper plants, the next step is to start growing them! In general, pepper seeds are best started about 8 weeks before your last frost date. You can find more information on the last frost date here. 

Sowing pepper seeds is a simple process. You can use a seedling module, a tray, small pots, or anything at all really that you can fill with compost. For example, lots of people plant their seeds in empty egg cartons!

The next step is to put compost into your chosen growing vessel and to compact it. Then put the seeds on top of the compacted compost and cover them lightly with more compost. Compact the compost again and then water it. Water enough so that all of the compost is damp, but not waterlogged.

A humidity dome can be placed over the planted seeds to keep the moisture in the compost. Alternatively, the tray/pots can be covered with cling film from the kitchen! This will also keep the moisture in the compost just the same.

When planting your pepper seeds, plant a little more than you require. There are two reasons for this. The first being that it is unlikely that every single seed will germinate. The second reason is that when the seeds germinate and the seedlings start to establish, you will be able to select the strongest seedlings from all you have grown, and grow these ones into full plants. 

Germinating Pepper Seeds
The most reliable place to germinate pepper seeds is indoors in your home or in a heated polytunnel/greenhouse if you happen to have one.

It is best to start pepper seeds this far in advance, as the seeds can be slow to germinate, often taking up to two weeks to germinate. When they germinate, the plant's growth is quite slow in the beginning weeks. Starting them this far in advance will give you the best chance of a good harvest of ripe peppers, because as mentioned already, they are heat loving plants and benefit from a long growing season.

Germinating them in the warmest room in your house will help. Oftentimes this is the hot press! If you happen to have a shelf in there, this is the ideal place to place your newly planted pepper seeds. Temperatures of 20+ degrees celsius will give your pepper seeds the best chance of germinating.

A heat mat can also be used to help with germination. A heat mat is an electric mat that gives off heat, which a seedling tray can sit on

After Germination
Once the seeds have germinated, move them onto a window sill or somewhere they will receive sunlight, a south facing room is best. Be careful to remove the plants from beside a window if frost is due. A grow light can also be used to provide light artificially.

When the seedlings have two to three sets of true leaves, you can re-pot them into their own individual pot so that the roots of the plant have more room to grow. It is at this point you might select the strongest seedlings to keep if you have too many.

Planting Them In Their Final Spot/Pot
Once the risk of frost has passed, your pepper plants can be moved outside to their final place in a greenhouse/polytunnel etc. Pepper plants can grow well in large pots, or they can be planted directly in the ground in a polytunnel.

If you have the time to spare, it is worth acclimatising the plants to their new environment before they are put out there for good. If you don’t know what this means, it is moving the plants to their new spot during the day for a short period and then bringing them back inside. 

The period of time they get left outside increases each day for approx 1 to 2 weeks, until the plants are “hardened off” This process helps the plants get used to the new conditions gradually, and prevents the plants from being shocked by their new environment.

Care Throughout Growing
As pepper plants grow, depending on the variety, the plants might need to be staked to help them stand straight. Make sure that the soil the plants are in is kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. The plants will benefit from some fertilisation every few weeks.

When To Harvest
A common question we get is why we have no green pepper varieties. While there are some pepper varieties that are bred to only be green, every pepper, regardless of its colour when ripe, will be green before it ripens to its final colour. Peppers can be harvested and eaten while they are green. At this stage they will be more bitter than sweet, but lots of people enjoy this. 

Also at this stage, if it happens to be a chilli pepper, it will not be at its peak spiciness. Chilli peppers get spicier the more ripe they get.

To get the full flavour of the peppers, wait to harvest them until they have changed from green to their final colour. Like previously mentioned, in Ireland, growing under some kind of protection is essential for getting peppers to ripen.

To harvest peppers, simply use a sharp knife or scissors, cut them off the plants and enjoy!

Hopefully you might have found this useful if you haven’t grown peppers before, or if you needed a refresher on the subject.

How To Grow Peppers From Seed

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