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Sowing your chilli seeds

There are lots of methods of germinating your own chilli seeds. We recommend you check out the links below as you might find some extra tips from other growers.  

We use the old fashioned way of sowing our seeds.  



You will need
  • Compost
  • Seeds
  • Seed Tray
  • Piece of capillary matting / newspaper
  • Water sprayer
  • Plastic Sieve
  • Heated propagator  (Ideally your heated propagator will have a thermostat control but it is not essential).

To start with, make sure you get your seeds from a quality supplier.   Otherwise this whole exercise is likely to be a waste of time.  We use Simpson Seeds, Seaspring Seeds and DeRee for best germination rates. We also use Kings, Moles and Sutton seeds.



We grow from new seed every year.  We need to make sure that the plants we sell are true to their variety. Chillies cross polinate very easily!  We do collect seeds from chilli pods but we grow these separately and use them in cooking, where specific varieties are not so important.

Ideally the best time to start sowing your seeds is the end of January to February.  The main reason for this is that by the time your plants have reached a decent size to go into a greenhouse, this tends to correspond with the end of the frosty weather.  

To start..

1)  Find a clear, level potting area in a shed or greenhouse. 
2)  Tip some compost onto the bench and use your fingers to crumble it to a fine mix. You can use specialist seed compost if you wish.  We tend to use a general purpose peat free compost.



3) Fill a seed tray with the crumbled compost to about 3/4 full, tap it down and place it in a tray of water for 5 minutes. 



4) Remove the seed tray and then spread the seeds evenly at the top of the compost.  Space them about an inch apart. This makes them much easier to pot on once your seedlings are big enough.



5) Add some compost to the sieve and shake over the seeds, giving each a covering only. Vermiculite can be sprinkled on top which is good for stopping fungal problems.

   

6) In the heated propagator, water a piece of capillary matting. Newspaper works as an alternative. This is to give some humidity to the propagator.    It only needs to be done once.



7) Using a water spray gun, give the compost a final spray and then place the tray in the propagator. You want the compost to be moist at the damp and not completely sodden - which is why we do not use a watering can.  



8) Put the propagator indoors in a warm location.  



Depending on the variety, your seeds should start to germinate in 7-10 days although some varieties will take considerably longer (as much as 6 weeks, so be patient!). The hotter varieties, tend to take longer.

We use heated propagators to give the seeds the best possible conditions for germination. If you do not have one you can cover the seed trays in cling film and put them in a warm place such as an airing cupboard or somewhere warm.  We do not recommend putting them directly over a radiator as the compost will dry out too fast.

Heat, light and moisture are all important.  You need heat and moisture for germination and then maximum light as soon as you have seedlings appearing.
   
Chillies originate from South America so ideally you need to keep the temperature at about 25-30 degrees celsius for best  conditions.   You can germinate some varieties without heated propagators but germination can be erratic.

The lids of germinators tend to reflect light inside which is great for seedlings. If you have your trays covered with clingfilm, once you have seedlings emerging, remove them from the airing cupboard as light becomes critically important.   We use Suntunnels (which you can get from B&Q) which are like large propagator lids which reflect alot more light than a conventional lid. Trays can be inserted underneath the suntunnels.  Poor light can lead to weak and straggly seedlings.

Whilst your seeds are germinating, you will need to water them to stop the compost from drying out.  A water spray guy is the best bet.   Water from the top. 

They will need repotting once your seedlings have acquired their 2nd set of leaves or true-leaves as they are also called.

We will have another guide in due course regarding "potting on".



Other guides we recommend : 

Matt Simpson at Simpson Seeds has the following excellent guide for Seed Germination.   



Craig at We Grow our Own also has a fine video which we recommend watching :