How to plant, grow, harvest, and store Chilli peppers from seed

Written By Mehak Kashif

April 1, 2023

How to grow Peppers? – Beginners Guide [Stage by Stage]

Peppers are essential to many dishes and can add a spicy kick to your meals. You can enjoy more spicy and healthy dishes if you grow your pepper. Starting with chili pepper seeds can be a fun and rewarding experience. But a question comes to mind how to start growing peppers?

Growing Pepper is an easy way if you understand its different stages. Once you understand its 7 stages, you can better care for the chili plants at various stages. From sowing seeds to harvest, you must take care of chili plants.

Be easy and enjoy a cup of tea and read my blog; I will teach you an easy way to grow healthy peppers. You will be guided through each stage with different steps to follow for each stage. Let’s get started.

What is my Philosophy on Growing Pepper?

In nature, the capsaicin in spicy peppers is a deterrent for animals to eat them, allowing the seeds inside the peppers to pass through the animal’s digestive system and be dispersed through their waste. This process helps the plant spread its seeds over a wider area and increase its chances of survival.

When growing peppers, the philosophy of replicating what happens in nature involves taking into consideration the pepper plant’s natural habitat, climate, and growing conditions. For instance, providing the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients can help the plant to thrive and produce a bountiful harvest.

The philosophy on growing pepper is to respect and work with nature rather than trying to control it. By understanding how peppers grow in the wild, we can create an optimal growing environment that supports the plant’s natural processes and leads to a successful harvest.

How to Grow Pepper? [Step-by-Step Guide]

Growing pepper is easy, but you must follow easy steps for tasty and spicy peppers. Here are a few essential steps that you must follow to grow pepper.

Stage 1 – Sowing the Chili Seeds

The first stage for growing the Chili plants is to sow the chili seeds. Follow the steps below to sow the chili seeds for better growth properly.

Step 2 – Chemical Scarification of seeds

The first step is the chemical scarification of chili seeds. It is a process that involves using chemicals to soften the outer shell of seeds, enhancing germination. Scarification is particularly important for older seeds with hardened shells that may be difficult to germinate. However, scarification can increase the chances of successful germination.

The process of chemical scarification involves treating the seeds with a chemical solution, which may include sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, or potassium nitrate. The solution is applied to the seeds for a specific time, depending on the seed type and the solution’s strength. After the treatment, the seeds are thoroughly rinsed to remove any remaining chemicals.

Chemical scarification breaks down the seed’s hard outer shell, allowing moisture and oxygen to penetrate the seed coat and trigger germination. Scarification can also help to remove any natural inhibitors that may prevent germination.

When it comes to the scarification of chili seed, you have two chemical options tannins and hydrogen peroxide. You can soak with any of these two.

a)    Tannins and seeds soaking (Using tea)

Tannins are organic compounds found in plants, and they can be used to aid in scarifying chili seeds. Scarification is breaking or weakening the seed coat to allow for better germination. In the wild, some seeds are scarified by being consumed by birds and passing through their digestive tract, breaking down the seed’s hard outer coating.

However, tannins can simulate this process instead of using a bird’s digestive fluids. English breakfast tea and chamomile tea are both excellent sources of tannins. To use tea for scarification, a tea bag can be steeped in hot water for a few minutes, then removed and placed in a separate container with more hot water to steep for about half an hour until the liquid has cooled to room temperature.

Once the tea has cooled, the seeds can be added and left to soak for the recommended amount of time, depending on the specific seed type. This soaking process will help to weaken the seed coat and promote germination. After soaking, the seeds can be rinsed thoroughly to remove excess tannins before planting.

b)    Use Hydrogen Peroxide for seed soaking

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used for seed soaking, particularly for the chemical scarification of pepper seeds. It is essential to use the three percent strength solution, which can be easily obtained over the counter at a chemist or through online retailers like Amazon.

One added benefit of using hydrogen peroxide for seed soaking is its ability to disinfect the seeds if they risk developing mold due to inadequate drying or poor quality. A 30 to 1 mix is recommended to achieve the desired concentration, which involves mixing 30 parts filtered water with one part hydrogen peroxide.

It is worth noting that while hydrogen peroxide can help disinfect and scarify seeds, it should be used with caution and according to instructions. Improper use or overuse of hydrogen peroxide can damage or kill the seeds, so it is essential to follow the recommended guidelines carefully.

Step 3 – Soaking of seeds

Once you have chosen the chemical between tannins or hydrogen peroxide, the next step is to soak the chili seeds in the chemical. When starting to soak seeds, I suggest using small shot glasses. Shot glasses are ideal for soaking seeds because they are small, cheap, and reusable. To soak the seeds, I recommend adding just enough liquid to cover them.

I also suggest using a container to help dispense the liquid when working with small cups. This can make the process of soaking seeds much easier and less messy. The container can be squeezed to help get the liquid into the shot glass.

I suggest labeling the shot glasses to keep track of the different types of seeds being soaked by writing on the glass itself, using a label or tag, or some other method. Labeling the shot glasses lets you track which seeds are soaked in each one.

It is essential to soak the seed for enough time to get the desired results. You must be careful about the soaking time; otherwise, you may get a hard-coated seed even after soaking in chemicals.

The soaking duration depends on the seed’s age when soaking chili seeds before planting. The older the seed, the longer it needs to be soaked. Here are the recommended soaking times for chili seeds of different ages:

  • Fresh season seed: 30 minutes soaking is enough
  • 1 year’s seed: should soak for 1 hour
  • 2 year’s seed: should soak for 2 hours
  • 3 year’s seed: should soak for 5 hours
  • 4 year’s seed: should soak for 12 hours
  • 5 year’s seed: should soak for 24 hours

Step 4 – Arrange Compost for chili seeds

Compost ensures a suitable environment for the chili seeds to grow well. When starting chili seeds, it is recommended to use good-quality compost. The compost should be plain, dark, and fluffy. However, large particles in the compost may not be ideal for germination, so it is important to sieve the compost to remove these particles.

A riddle can serve large particles, leaving behind a fine, fluffy compost perfect for germination. While seed-starting compost is available for purchase, regular compost is more cost-effective because it can be used later when potting on chili plants.

Step 5 – Fill the tray with the compost

Take one or two trays and spread the compost in the tray. Make sure the compost is leveled in each tray. An even surface will provide a better opportunity for each plant to germinate and get the nutrients equally.

Step 6 – Sow the chili seed

Once the compost is leveled, now it’s time to sow the chili seeds. You do not need to sow the seeds too deep. Just spread the seeds over the compost. It is good to spread the chili seed over the compost in columns. Once the seeds are spread, take a small amount of compost and adequately cover each seed. Make sure there is no exposed seed.

Step 7 – Water the chili seeds

Now water the chili seed thoroughly but in a gentle way. Ensure you have water it as little as it only wets the compost. Avoid waterlogged.

Step 8 – Cover the tray

After watering, cover the tray with a plastic cover or plastic bag to ensure a warm environment. Chili grows well in a warm environment. No worry about light; at this stage, no light is needed because seeds do not need photosynthesis for germination.

Step 9 – Place the trays in a Warm location

If the environment is cold, you must shift the tray to some warm place, such as on the window or outside.

Stage 2 – Germination Stage

The next stage after sowing is the germination stage; you have to take care of your new chili plants by following the steps below at the germination stage.

Step 1 – Remove the Tray covers

Once the chili seeds start germinating, remove the covers because now you need to provide them lightly. Usually, chili seeds take 7-10 days for germination. So, after 7 days, check the tray; if seeds are germinating, remove the cover and allow the light to the small plants.

No worry about the days because germination time can vary depending on the variety of pepper you are growing. You should allow 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. In the germinating stage, you will see a pair of false leaves with seeds covered that may fall in the coming few days.

Step 2 – Alter the temperature

If you see the peppers are not growing well, you have to check for the temperature. You should ensure the temperature is up to 60 F for better germination.

Step 3 – Moist the soil

Have you ensured the temperature level? It’s good, but you also have to manage the moist soil. You have to water the soil to keep it just moist. But avoid filling the compost with too much water.

Once you have arranged everything, wait one more week to see the new plants in your trays. You will surely see a positive result from your efforts.

Stage 3 – Sprouting

The next stage after germination is sprouting. This stage is within the first 30 days. You should take the steps below to manage a good environment for better sprouting.

Step 1 – Arrange for the light

To ensure proper growth of your chili plants in the first 30 days after germination, you need to provide adequate light. If you don’t have a window that receives a minimum of 8 hours of light daily, you must use artificial light. Once most of your seeds have germinated, you should open the vents on the lid of your propagation tray to allow air in and reduce the risk of damping off.

 Step 2- Grow Lights

You should arrange for the artificial grow lights. You have many reasons to do this.

Firstly, if you don’t have enough outdoor space or the right climate for your plants, you can control the environment and grow them indoors throughout the season.

Secondly, if you live in a region with a short growing season, using grow lights can give your plants a head start, leading to earlier and bigger harvests. A sunny windowsill may be ineffective because the light intensity is reduced in colder months, and there is less daylight during these months.

To grow plants indoors using grow lights, it’s essential to understand the light spectrum. While humans perceive yellow and green light as bright and intense, plants use the red and blue parts of the spectrum. Therefore, newer LED growth lights are full-spectrum, focusing on the blue part for the vegetative stage and the red part for flowering and fruiting. Aim for 2500 lux at the canopy of your plants to get the best results, with the lights on for 16 hours and off for 8.

Step 3 – Arrange for the air circulation

In the Sprouting stage, you will see the first true leaves, remove the lid and consider using a small fan to promote air circulation and strengthen your plants. Proper air circulation will make your plant shoots stronger.

Avoid fertilizing during this stage, as your compost already contains sufficient nutrients. Water your plants primarily from the bottom, allowing the soil to dry out between watering. After 30 days, you can start thinking about transplanting your seedlings.

Stage 4 – Seedling

The next stage for your chili plants is the seedling stage. You will see a few pairs of true fresh leaves. Your chili plant height will be almost 8 cm tall. It is time to transplant the chili plants. Follow the steps below for proper transplantation. Depending on available space and your choice, you can transplant your seedling indoors or outdoors.

Steps to follow for Indoor Transplanting

  • Check the tray soil; if it is hard first water it a little to loosen it up the soil. It will be easier to remove the plant from wet soil than a harder one.
  • Prepare the new potting soil by moistening it until it is damp and ready for the seedlings. In the case of insect eggs, you may either use boiling water or spray neem oil on the soil.
  • Fill the new pot with soil, leaving a quarter of the pot empty. Drill a hole in the mid of the pot to accommodate the seedling. Ensure the hole is big enough to fit the seedling without damaging its roots.
  • Extract the seedling from its old container by inverting the container and gently squeezing it, or by using a spoon handle to loosen the soil around the edges and then pushing the seedling out.
  • Transfer the seedling to the new pot and press the soil around the plant to compact it. Add more soil mix to fill any gaps.
  • To help the plant adjust to its new surroundings, water it regularly.

Steps to Follow for Outdoor Transplanting

To determine the optimal outdoor transplanting time, wait for at least three weeks after the last frost in your specific climate. Ensure you have a high-quality potting mix that drains well, a spacious container, and optional compost and fertilizer.

If transplanting to a garden, select a sunny location as the plants require a minimum of 8 hours of full sunlight daily.

  • Acclimate your seedlings before transplanting by gradually exposing them to outdoor temperatures for a few hours each day, starting two weeks prior to transplanting.
  • Fill the container with potting mix, leaving a two-inch gap at the top, and ensure the soil is moist by adding water.
  • Ensure your plant has enough nutrients for growth and development by adding potassium and nitrogen fertilizer to promote fruit and foliage production.
  • Dig a small hole in the center of the potting mix and optionally add compost.
  • Place your plant in the hole and fill the container with the remaining potting mix.
  • Top the container with compost or mulch to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature for optimal root health.
  • Lightly water your transplanted plant, gradually increasing the amount over a few days to allow the roots to adjust to their new environment.
  • Position your container in a sunny location, ensuring your pepper plants receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Water your plant regularly, paying attention to any signs of wilting that may indicate it needs more water. Water until excess water flows out the bottom of the container.
  • Continue fertilizing your plant throughout the growing season, adjusting the frequency based on the type of fertilizer used (liquid fertilizers may require more frequent applications than granular ones).

Helpful Tips

Below are some helpful tips to take better care during the seedling stage and better growth during and after a few days of transplanting.

Fertilization for Chili Plants

As the compost you have been using to grow your Chili Peppers starts to lose its nutrients, you need to supplement them with additional nutrients to optimize their growth. Plants require nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) to grow, although some need more than others. Nitrogen aids in green leafy growth, phosphorus is responsible for root growth and flowering, while potassium helps with photosynthesis, nutrient absorption, and water absorption.

At this stage of growth, when your plants are still small and haven’t been put in their final pots, they need only a small amount of nutrients, which you can add to their water. You should use a seaweed fertilizer, which is organic, renewable, and gentle on plants, but make sure to dilute it more than recommended, as Chili Peppers don’t require as much as Tomatoes.

You can use tap water, but it is advisable to let it sit for a while in a bucket to let the chlorine and other gases evaporate or use roof runoff water if there is no chlorine. It is not necessary to fertilize your plants every time you water them. One watering with fertilizer and one without should suffice.

Soil Mix for better growth

To grow plants, you need some kind of material to plant them in. Compost is a good choice; it can be made by mixing decayed organic matter from your garden. However, using only compost can become compacted over time after repeated watering.

This makes it hard for plants to breathe and grow, so we must add something to help the roots. Two things that work great are perlite and vermiculite. The natural substances perlite and vermiculite help aerate and retain moisture in the soil. Perlite is a volcanic glass that expands when heated, and vermiculite looks like wood and absorbs moisture and nutrients. You can mix compost, perlite, and vermiculite in a ratio of 10:1:1 to make a great soil mix for your plants.

Hardening off plants

Hardening off your plants means preparing your indoor-grown plants for life outside in the sun and wind. If you move your plants straight from your controlled indoor environment to the outdoors, they may not survive because of the sudden change in temperature and sunlight.

To harden off your plants, gradually expose them to outdoor conditions over time. There are several ways to harden off your plants, such as taking them outdoors for a few hours a day or using shade netting. You can also choose a shaded spot in your garden where the plants can receive sunlight for part of the day.

After a week or two of this, your plants will be ready to live outside in the full sun. By hardening off your plants, you help them adjust to the new environment, increasing their chances of survival and producing a successful harvest.

Watering practices for the plants

Watering your plants may seem simple, but people make common mistakes, especially when starting out. Few things to remember to avoid these mistakes.

Firstly, when checking if your plant needs watering, it is vital to check the weight of the pot. If it feels light, the plant likely needs water. You can also use devices such as soil moisture meters to check the soil’s moisture levels. Remember, you don’t want your plants always to be moist or wet, as the roots need to breathe.

When it comes to watering, there are a few methods to consider. If your plants are in the ground, the only option is to water from the top. If your plants are in pots, the best method is bottling, pouring water into the tray beneath the pot, and letting the soil soak up the water. Alternatively, you can water from the top, but make sure to water the plant thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.

Drying out the soil between waterings helps the roots stretch out and find water. Overwatering can lead to unhealthy plants, so underwater is better than overwatering. Pay attention to your plants; if the leaves start to droop, it may be a sign that they need water. Please give them a good saturation, then leave them for a few days before watering again.

Stage 5 – Flowering

Caring for chili plants during flowering is crucial to ensure a healthy and productive harvest. Follow the steps below for better care at the flowering stage:

Step 1 – Provide adequate light

Chili plants need plenty of light during the flowering stage to produce healthy buds. Ensure they get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day or provide artificial light if you’re growing them indoors.

Step 2 – Water regularly

Water your chili plants regularly but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot. The soil should be a little moist but not waterlogged. Watering frequency depends on factors such as temperature, humidity, and soil type.

Step 3 – Fertilize

Chili plants require more nutrients during the flowering stage to producing healthy blooms. You should balance the fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or a fertilizer specifically formulated for flowering plants. Follow the instructions on the packaging and apply the fertilizer as directed.

Stage 4 – Prune

Remove any dead, yellowing, or diseased leaves from your chili plants. This will help improve air circulation and prevent the spread of disease. You can also remove any non-productive branches to encourage the plant to focus its energy on producing more blooms.

Stage 5 – Support the plant

As the chili plants grow taller, they may need support to prevent them from falling over. You can use stakes, trellises, or cages to support the plants.

Stage 6 – Control pests

Pests such as aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies can damage chili plants and affect the quality of the harvest. Monitor your plants regularly for signs of pest infestation and take action promptly if you notice any.

Stage 6 – Maturation

The maturation stage is a critical time for chili plants as it is when the fruits are ripe and ready to be harvested. Here are the easy steps that you can follow to take care of your chili plants during this stage:

Step 1 – Observe the color of the fruits

At the maturation stage, chili peppers will turn from green to their mature color, which varies depending on the variety of chili. Waiting until the fruit reaches its desired color before harvesting is essential.

Step 2 – Check for ripeness

Test the ripeness of the fruit by gently pressing it with your finger. If it feels firm and plump, it is likely ripe. If it is soft or mushy, it is overripe.

Step 3 – Watering

Continue to water the plants regularly, but reduce the frequency slightly as the fruits approach maturity. This will help to concentrate the flavors and nutrients in the fruit.

Step 4 – Fertilization

Stop fertilizing the plants once they reach maturity. This will prevent the fruit from becoming too large or developing a bitter taste.

Stage 7 – Harvesting

Harvesting chili peppers is crucial in ensuring the plant’s continued growth and productivity. Below are a few steps you must follow to care for your chili plants during the harvesting stage properly:

Step 1 – Determine the optimal time to harvest

Different types of chili peppers have different maturity periods. Generally, chili peppers are ready to be harvested when they are fully ripe, firm, and have a bright color. Look for signs such as the fruit’s color and the skin’s texture to determine whether your chili peppers are ready to be harvested.

Step 2 – Prepare your harvesting tools

Get a pair of sharp pruning shears, gloves, and a container to collect the chili peppers. Make sure your tools are clean to prevent contamination of the fruits.

Step 3 – Cut the chili peppers

Using the pruning shears, cut the chili peppers from the plant stem. Make sure to cut the peppers at a slight angle to protect them from water accumulation.

Step 4 – Handle the chili peppers with care

Chili peppers are delicate and can easily bruise or get damaged during harvesting. Handle them gently to avoid damaging the skin or stem, which can cause spoilage or rotting.

Step 5 – Store the chili peppers properly

Store the chili peppers in a cool, dry place that is well-ventilated. Avoid storing your chillis in direct sunlight or humid areas, as this can cause them to spoil. You can also refrigerate them in airtight containers for up to two weeks.

Step 6 – Continue to care for your chili plants

After harvesting, continue to care for your chili plants by watering them regularly and providing them with the necessary nutrients. This will help ensure that the plant remains healthy and productive and can produce another round of chili peppers.

By following the above easy steps, you can ensure that your chili plants remain healthy and productive and that you get good production out of your harvest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do chili seeds need direct sunlight to germinate?

No, chili seeds do not need direct sunlight to germinate. They require warmth and moisture to sprout and can be started indoors or outdoors in a shaded area.

Do pepper seeds require heat to germinate?

Yes, pepper seeds germinate well in warm soil temperatures of around 70-80°F (21-27°C), but they do not require direct heat from external sources.

What is the NPK ratio for the Chili plant?

The ideal NPK ratio for Chili plants is 5-10-10, meaning the fertilizer should contain 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and fruit production.

What common mistakes should I avoid when germinating pepper seeds?

Overwatering, planting seeds too deeply, and not providing enough warmth or light are common mistakes to avoid when germinating pepper seeds. It is essential to follow the specific requirements for each pepper variety.

When should I start pepper seeds indoors?

Starting pepper seeds indoors about 8-12 weeks before your area’s last expected frost date is best. This will give the plants ample time to grow and develop before being transplanted outdoors.

How deep should I plant pepper seeds?

Pepper seeds should be planted about 1/4-1/2 inch deep in the soil, depending on the seed size. It’s important not to plant the seeds too deeply, as this can prevent them from germinating properly.

Conclusion

Growing pepper can be easy and enjoyable if you follow the proper steps. You have seven stages, from sowing seeds to harvest. You must follow a few steps during each stage to keep your chili plants healthy. You must also manage watering, soil preparation, fertilization, and transplanting. By following my above guide, you can grow better chili plants with little or even no skills.

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