The ideal time to start sowing chilli seeds is when temperatures are above 15 degrees, in Italy this can vary from north to south.
It is a good idea to create a suitable habitat. Seeds can be germinated in a greenhouse or indoors between February, March, April and even May, the plants can then follow their normal seasonal rhythms and be most productive.
It is possible to sow the seeds earlier by creating a habitat in which the temperature is controlled, this can be bought or if you are handy at DIY you can build one yourself. If you have decided to make one yourself the following guide could be of interest: how to build a chilli pepper germbox
Important: unless you are an expert, it is best to germinate the seeds in large plastic cups using the paper towel method; this will avoid the seeds from drying out by making sure that the water evaporates slowly (THIS IS THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE MADE BY BEGINNERS). During the growth phase, the shoots are particularly delicate and suffer from both dehydration/lack of water and drops in temperature.
In the photo above ⬆ you can see what I consider to be the safest and easiest way to achieve germination. After much trial and error in my opinion this is the most reliable method.
It involves the following:
To encourage the first phase of root growth toilet paper is ideal as it is very soft, this is equally crucial for when we decant the shoots to ensure we minimize any damage. Paper towel is more resistant and therefore holds more water, so covering the seeds with this, helps to keep them moist.
The simple answer is that a good amount of paper keeps the seeds moist for longer, avoiding the seeds from drying out after a couple of days, due to lack of water, causing the seeds to die.
(During cold months ensure that the temperature is around 20 degrees if you want your seeds to germinate; if you are a beginner, you could use a halogen lamp inside a wardrobe, or other closed container maintaing an ideal temperature.)
Depending on the variety of chilli, you will see small white radicles emerge from the seeds after 5-15 days. Once the sprout can support itself, you can remove it very carefully and gently in order to avoid damaging the newly formed roots, this can be done delicately using a toothpick. The various growth stages are depicted below. By the time you get to stage 3, they can be planted with care.
(It is worth knowing that the white hair that forms at the base is not mould, but an extension of the roots which disappear with watering).
We have decided to insert information about mould immediately after talking about the extension of the roots so that you can appreciate the difference between the two.
The image above shows a seed covered with mould, unlike the root extensions the mould appears to be an expanding area of dots.
This is not a serious problem.
It can be solved with some attention to detail, the best solution involves cleaning the seed gently with chamomile and paper towel; be careful to change the paper towel or discard the old part with the mould on it so as not to cause any recurring problems.
The quickest solution is to clean the seed with a damp paper towel, always remember to remove any mould from the towel, this is very important.
Because the first radicle of any chilli pepper is vulnerable to mould it is important to remove it before the radical appears, even if it appears on the hard skin. This is not a problem.
How can you prevent mould forming on chilli seeds?
Wash the seeds well before allowing them to sprout, ideally in a bath of chamomile, and then gently drying them with a soft cloth, be very careful as they are delicate.
After a few days the sprout starts to grow and at this stage you could come across “imprisoned cotyledons”, pepper farmers are all too familiar with this problem.
How do we solve the problem of removing the helmet head from cotyledons on chilli sprouts?
The photo below illustrates the problem and gives us a greater understanding:
The solution to the problem is very simple but requires patience and most importantly delicacy.
Cover the skin to be removed with a piece of paper towel and wet it, leaving it over night to rest: this creates a humid environment which softens the shell we are aiming to remove.
Take a toothpick or better still a sewing needle and start breaking the shell from the inside towards the outside, gently teasing the edge without damaging the delicate cotyledons.
At this stage the cotyledons are at their most vulnerable and can tear very easily, try breaking the skin without pulling or forcing the seedling in any way.
The picture below shows clearly how and where to break the shell:
The photo below allows us to observe the different components that make up a chilli seed, the aim of this image being to help and intervene with greater preccision should any problems arise.
SEED OF CAPSICUM ANNUM
Each seed is made up of 3 distinct parts:
This video shows you how to free the cotyledons with almost surgical precision, a steady hand and good eyesight are both necessary along with small-sized tweezers.
The second video illustrates an example of the manual removal of the cotyledons, although this is an easier case compared to the first one.
Chillies need more than just regular soil. Pre-fertilized soil is recommended, or you can add liquid fertilizer containing a high level of potassium and phosphorus and a low level of nitrogen.
A little clay should be added to the mix, especially at the pot’s lower layer to encourage water drainage and avoid stagnation which as previously mentioned can lead to mould. Have a look at the following guide: Soil preparation for chillies.
Once you have removed and solved any problems with the cotyledons you can transplant the seedlings by burying the roots in a container of good soil, place the shoots on the window sill exposed to light, but not direct sunlight, and remember the soil must always be kept moist during this most delicate moment. Once the plant has reached a height of 10 centimetres we can gradually put it in the sun.
The result should resemble the photo below:
After this most delicate moment in the seedling’s life we can proceed and plant it in a large pot in the garden or on the balcony and wait for nature to take its course and for the tasty and spicy fruits to mature.
A second tip, although by no means mandatory, is to clean the seeds to avoid mould from growing. This is a simple procedure. Remove the seeds from the paper towel on the second day of germination and clean them gently to remove any pepper residue, it is easier to clean the seeds on the second day because any impurities will have softened at this stage and will come away more easily.
*Cover the seeds with a layer of paper towel rather than leave seeds to germinate in the air, as this helps to maintain the right humidity level.
*Buy more seeds than you need, mistakes are almost inevitable.
*Do not be discouraged if things go wrong during your first attempts, learn to correct your mistakes
(Discover the spiciest and most beautiful varieties in the world by using the following link: chilli seeds)
To begin with the seedling will be Y shaped. You can remove the extra sprigs growing at the seedling’s base if you like, or you can just remove the dried ones, either way always leave a centimetre of the branch.
Only water the plant when the soil is dry, be careful not to water the plant too much. Ideally you want to water the plants at the end of the day when the sun’s rays are weakest so as not to risk burning the leaves if they get wet.
The soil will have a tendency to dry out if the temperatures are very high, move the soil around with a fork and water late in the evening.
The plants grow very fast, so it is a good idea to tie them to a simple rod, to provide them with support.
If you are interested, we have a dedicated section devoted to selling chilli plants.
Often our customers want to know about whether or not it is necessary to fertilize chilli plants.
The quick answer is: no! If the plants are in soil which is rich in nutrients there is no need to fertilize the ground further.
If you are lucky, poor substrate will produce a small, stunted and not particularly productive plant. If the plant is under-nourished and cannot develop properly, it will not yield fruit, which is always cause for bitter disappointment after months of watering.
At the diavolo piccante agricultural company we recommend using special soil rich in nutrients designed to make the plants go “crazy”, this soil is created with the use of slow-release organic fertilizers designed to ensure proper nutrition for a whole month.
Although fertilizer is not mandatory, if used correctly it will give you a faster growing, much larger plant with big, beautiful and tasty peppers at the end of the summer, ideal for seasoning your favourite pasta dushes and make everyone’s mouth water.
Here are a selectionof articles on this topic:
Chillies, like many other plants are prone to aphids.
By growing other plants alongside our chillies that attract ladybirds which are very partial to these parasites can be an effective solution: plants like fennel, carrots, dandelions and speedwells. Aphids can also be removed using castile soap, the scent of which serves as a deterrent. When the plants have reached a height of 10 com, spray them with a solution made from a handful of soap in 10 litres of water. This guide gathers together all the various pests and parasites you may encounter and a list of neutralizing remedies: All the diseases and pests which attack chillies.
With the passing of time, white flowers will blossom, followed by the chillies themselves, which you can harvest in the autumn.
Open the chilli with a knife (the use of latex gloves is highly recommended) in order to extract the seeds which can then be dried and ultimately stored in a dark dry place.
In order to dry the chilli, place it in an oven at 70 degrees for about 40 minutes, the aim being for all the moisture to evaporate. After 40 minutes expose them to the sun for a few days, after which they will be ready to store or use! In depth article: Harvesting and storing chilli seeds.
If you would like to grow chillies indoors (at home), then read the following guide:
On line there are some fascinating video tutorials which take you through the various steps and could be particularly useful if you are a beginner or wish to deepen your knowledge by learning a few tips and tricks.