The Chilli Guru

Sowing Chilli Seed

Sowing and germinating the seed is perhaps the most challenging part of growing chillies. This leads many people to prefer buying plants, but in so doing they are greatly resticing the choice of chillies available to them, and losing control over aspects of the cultivation of their plants. Commercially raised chilli plants are generally grown at higher temperatures than would be practical for the amateur to maintain, resulting in something of a shock to the plant when it is transferred to more challenging conditions. Raising your own chilli plants also eliminates the danger of importing pests and diseases.

Although there are a few chillies which really are difficult to germinate, these are mostly obscure types and main stream chillies should offer few problems. Maintaining the correct germination temperature is one of the key factors for success, but this can vary considerably according to the chilli variety being grown. Most annuum chillies germinate well at about 20°C, but chinense varieties need more heat and will benefit from 30°C.

Another important factor is the seed compost. I strongly advocate sowing in a good peat based professional seed & modular compost. Young seedlings are very sensitive to phytotoxic chemicals in the growing medium, and some "eco-friendly" peat free composts are, in my experience, not plant friendly.

If a range of different chillies are being grown, there is an advantage in sowing the seed in modules rather than a seed tray. Not only can seedlings be potted up without root disturbance, but different varieties can be potted up at different times to allow for some developing faster than others.

Do remmember to buy your chilli seed from a reputable supplier. The stories about 'Ebay reapers' are amusing, but frustrating for those affected. See the article on Chilli Plant Identification.

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