Vegetable Garden – Tips on Growing Chili Peppers From Seed
Days to Maturity: 55-90
- Sow Chili Pepper seeds in shallow flats, 4 seeds/in., 1/4" deep, in late February or March or about 8-12 weeks prior to transplanting outdoors.
- If possible, maintain soil temperatures 80-85°F (27-29°C). Pepper seed germinates very slowly in cooler soil, and may very well rot before they germinate. Make sure that the soil is warm for good germination.
- Well-drained, fertile soil with abundant amounts of phosphorus, magnesium and calcium is best. Peppers do well without much added nitrogen. They are also more tolerant of acid soil than many other Garden Vegetables. Chili Peppers are less likely than bell or sweet peppers to object to the low level of aeration in heavy clay soils. Just remember to water them well in hot and dry weather.
- When the first true leaves just show, transplant 2-3" apart in flats or 2" cell-type containers.
- The use of 2" or larger cells will produce larger plants with better-developed root systems.
- Harden off the pepper plants one to two weeks before your last frost by setting them outdoors, if the plants have blossoms cover the tomato plants at night until the night temperature is warmer.
- Grow plants at approx. 70°F (21°C) day and 60°F (16°C) nights.
- Do not let people that smoke handle your peppers or pick your peppers before they wash their hands. The virus that causes tobacco mosaic which will affect peppers, survives the cigarette manufacturing processes.
- When picking peppers, refrain from tugging on the fruit, which may break off a branch or even uproot the entire plant. Use sharp garden pruners to cut the tough stem.
- Do not place peppers in the crisper drawer or in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Peppers are warm-weather fruits and do not store well in cold temperatures. If you have too many peppers, consider the options discussed under Preserving Information
- Exposing the seedlings to controlled cold treatments can increase the number of flowers and fruits.
- When the third true leaf appears, grow the plants at a minimum night temp. of 53-55°F (12-13°C) for 4 weeks.
- The plants should receive full sunlight.
After 4 weeks adjust temperature to 70°F (21°C) day and night. If this technique is used, peppers should be seeded 1-2 weeks earlier than usual.
- Transplant out after frost when the soil is warm and weather is settled.
- Ideal seedlings have buds, but no open flowers.
- When setting out peppers plants I bury them 2 inches deeper than what they were in the pots or trays. Set plants 12-18" apart in rows 24-36" apart, or 2 rows on poly/paper mulch, 18" between plants.
- Water-in transplants using a high phosphorus solution.
- Use Row Covers: Cold weather is buffered and earliness increased by using plastic mulch, especially in combination with a slotted row cover or lightweight fabric row cover supported by wire hoops.
- Remove row covers when in sunny weather above 85°F (29°C) to prevent heat damage.
USDA Hardiness Zone -First Frost Date- Last Frost Date
- Zone 1 -July 15th -June 15th
- Zone 2 -August 15th- May 15th
- Zone 3 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 4 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 5 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 6 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 7 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 8 -November 15th March 15th
- Zone 9 -December 15th February 15th
- Zone 10 -December 15th January 31st (sometimes earlier)
- Zone 11 -No frost. No frost.
Control climbing cutworms with with paper cylinder collars.
To prevent bacterial spot and phytopthora, drip irrigate only.
Plant only in well-drained soils, minimize soil compaction.
Follow a 4-year crop rotation.
Sunscald is caused by inadequate foliage. Prevent blossom end rot with adequate soil calcium and regular moisture.
Big bushy plants with few peppers can be caused by an excess of nitrogen, hot or cold temp. Extremes during the flowering period, tarnished plant bug injury, and choice of late, poorly adapted varieties.