Peppers are a delicious and highly versatile vegetable. They are relatively easy to grow, but it is important to know when to start pepper seeds indoors in order to get a good crop.
If you plant your seeds directly in the garden or vegetable patch, it will take much longer for them to grow into healthy plants. However, if you start off with germinating seeds indoors, you will be more likely to grow healthy seedlings, which will be ready for transplanting after about two months.
Of course, you could simply go to a nursery and buy established seedlings, but there is something so satisfying about eating fresh vegetables that you have grown from scratch.
Which Peppers Should I Plant?
When choosing which seeds to buy and what kind of peppers to plant, you should take into consideration the conditions of your garden in addition to your personal preferences. There are many different types of peppers, with different flavors. Some are sweet and some are hot. So before considering when to start pepper seeds indoors, let us take a look at some of the options available.
JALAPENO PEPPER – this is one of the most popular peppers. They usually need only 75 days to reach full maturity.
CAYENNE PEPPER – these are fast growers that are perfect for small spaces. Just one plant can give you an ongoing supply of peppers for a full season.
SERRANO PEPPER – these peppers are quite similar to jalapeno peppers but smaller and a bit spicier.
TABASCO PEPPER – this pepper is used to make that iconic Tabasco sauce that is so well-loved. It has a unique flavor, tasting almost like hot barbeque, and is bright red when fully ripe.
CABERNET – these are long, thinnish bell peppers. They are bright red and very sweet.
LUNCHBOX – mini-sized, these peppers are perfect for slipping into school or work lunch boxes, as their name suggests. They are assorted shades of red, yellow, and orange and are also very sweet.
GOURMET – these peppers are bright orange, with a fruity, sweet flavor. They are particularly easy to grow, as they thrive in many different environments.
There are many other varieties to choose from, but these are the most well-known and most popular. It is a good idea to plant a few different varieties, as different peppers have different flavors and intensities of heat. If you have a variety, there is sure to be something for everyone in the household.
Can I Plant Seeds Taken Directly from a Pepper?
It is advisable to buy ready-packaged pepper seeds. You are sure to find many different varieties at your local nursery or garden center. Although it is not always successful, it is also possible to save the seeds from your favorite pepper and attempt to propagate them. Store-bought peppers are often not suited to this. You are more likely to succeed with the seeds taken from home-grown peppers.
Cut open the fruit and remove the seeds. Spread them out on a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and place them in a warm, dry, dark place. Leave them for about a week to dry out completely. They are now ready for planting. They will also keep for at least a year if stored correctly. Place them in an airtight container or jar, and store in a dry, dark place.
When to Start Peppers from Seed
Knowing when to start pepper seeds indoors is an important factor in your success at cultivating your own peppers. It takes about eight to ten weeks from the time of sowing the seeds for the seedlings to be strong enough to transplant into the ground.
The most favorable time to start pepper seeds indoors is approximately six to eight weeks before you expect the winter frost to come to an end. This means that your little seedlings will be ready for transplanting about two weeks after the last frost.
How to Grow Peppers from Seed
Place your dried seeds on a plate, between two sheets of paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with water until damp, but not soaked. Put the plate in a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Place the bag in a warm spot.
After about five or six days they should be sprouting. As soon as the sprouts are at least
1 cm long, you can plant them in individual little containers.
What Kind of Containers is Best to Use?
The little plants are very delicate, and transplanting them often traumatizes them so badly that they do not survive the process. Therefore I always suggest planting your sprouting seeds in peat pots. These are pots made of wood chips, peat, and other organic material. They are completely biodegradable and you can place the little pots directly into the ground. In this way, you avoid handling the actual plants and risk damaging them in the process.
What Kind of Soil Should I Use?
Your best bet is to go to your local nursery or garden center. Buy a bag of good quality potting soil that is rich in minerals. This will give your seeds the best chance of growing into healthy seedlings.
Where is the Most Ideal Position for the Pots?
Once leaves start appearing, move the containers to a very light, sunny spot indoors. Remember that you need to start pepper seeds indoors in mid-winter, so even the sunniest window-sill might not be warm enough.
How Can I Ensure Healthy Growth?
These seedlings need a lot of heat to grow quickly. You might want to consider placing them under a fluorescent light, or on top of a heat mat, for a few weeks to get them going and growing well.
How Often Should I Water the Plants?
Water lightly every two to three days. I always like to recommend the “finger-tip test”. Dip the tip of your baby finger into the soil. It should feel just slightly damp. As the plants get bigger, they may need more frequent watering.
When Should I Transplant into the Garden?
After about eight weeks, your seedlings should be ready for transplanting into your garden. But it is crucial that the temperature does not dip too low, as the cold will kill them. Wait until night-time temperatures are at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Can I Take Them Outdoors and Plant Them the Same Day?
Pepper seedlings are very delicate and fragile. After you start pepper seeds indoors, the seedlings then need a gradual introduction to the harsher outdoor conditions and lower temperatures.
Think of it as being a little bit like developing a suntan. If you have been indoors the whole winter, you would not go out when the weather warms up and then spend an entire day lying in the hot sun. Such drastic exposure would be a sure way to get a severe case of tomato-red sunburn, which could cause serious damage to your delicate, pale skin.
If you want to sport a glowing, bronze tan, you need to do it slowly, gradually building up the length of time that you spend in the sun. By limiting your initial exposure, and gradually lengthening the time spent in the sun, you give your skin a chance to become acclimatized to the heat and avoid a fierce case of dangerous sunburn.
Exactly the same principle applies to your little pepper seedlings. The process of introducing them to the outdoors is known as “hardening off”, or sometimes also called “setting off”. So how does this work?
At first, take the seedlings outside, in their containers, and place them in a sunny spot for one or two hours. Over the next few days, slowly extend the period of time that they are left outdoors until they are spending a full day outside. This will enable them to become used to outdoor conditions. Now they should be ready for transplanting into the ground.
The Transplanting Process
It is vital to choose the right spot and ensure that the conditions of the soil are right for your pepper seedlings. Peppers need nutrient-rich, well-drained soil.
You should also make sure that the soil is not too cold, as cold soil will shock and probably damage the roots, and possibly even kill them. A few days before planting, it is a good idea to cover the patch of ground that you have selected with thick black plastic. This will help to trap the warmth from the sun and will ensure that the soil does not lose heat.
How Deep Should I Plant the Seedlings?
Dig your holes about 5 cm – 6 cm deep. Carefully place your seedlings – in their little peat pots – into the ground. It is sometimes necessary to break off the two leaves at the very bottom of the stalk before covering the plant with soil. If there are any leaves touching the ground, remove them, as contact with the soil will cause your leaves to rot, and this can damage the healthy plant.
When Will My Peppers be Ready to Harvest?
Depending on which variety you have planted, you should be making delectable, healthy salads with your luscious home-grown peppers in about 60 – 90 days. You have worked hard for them. Now enjoy them!