You can find growing tips on many places, and we do not intend to repeat that. Instead we have put together some information that we think could be of some help if you live in a northern climate.
We start our seeds in the beginning of January. Maybe you think we start too early. But the reason for this is to have a backup plan. If the plants don't make it, there will still be time to put new seeds in soil even in March or early April.
We start the seeds in small plastic pots that measure 5x5 centimetres. Depending on the variety of the chile pepper, we put two or three seeds in each pot. Some varieties are hard to germinate, while others are easy.
We place the pots in small green houses that we keep on our heated bathroom floor. There is no need for light before the seedling shows up. Most important is that they get the heat. We probably have around 25-30 degrees C.
Depending on the variety, you should see the first little seedling in about 7 to 10 days. But have patience. We have some varieties that take months to germinate.
When the small seedlings show up, we move them to a green house in the window. This is when we start using our artificial light. The lights that we use are for aquariums, but probably any light will do. Our windows are also quite bright, so that helps. It's still important to keep them in a warm place. We rely on our radiators for that. Using artificial light, even this simple one, makes the plants grow stronger, with leaves coming much closer to each other.
So far we have only used a standard sowing soil for the seeds. It has worked very well. However, some people mix some sand, or perlite (leca) in the soil. This makes the draining better.
When the plants hit the ceiling of the green house it is time to put them in larger pots. At this time they are approximately 15 centimetres (6 inches). Always check that they have well developed roots before putting them in the larger pots.
The sizes of these new pots have approximately a diameter of 10 centimetres. They should not be larger than that. It seems that the plants have easier to develop good roots in the smaller pots, than putting them in big pots at once.
The chile plants grow really fast with the first 'real' spring sunlight. It's fairly easy to see when it's time to re-pot. At that time, the plants are 20-30 centimetres, and have well developed root system. Usually you can see the roots in the whole in the bottom of the pot.
These new pots are 15-18 centimetres in diameter.
We re-pot some plants a third time. In reality this shouldn't be needed, but because of our space limitation, we keep some peppers in smaller pots as long as possible.
Mostly we use 10 litre plastic and ceramic pots. Depending on the size of the plant, we keep 4-6 plants in each pot. Of course it would be better to give them more space, but the size of our balcony doesn't allow that.
During hot summer days we water the plants every day. Sometimes even twice per day. If there is no direct sunshine and not so hot, it is good to check the humidity of the soil with a finger.
In April, we start giving them the same kind of fertilizer as the other ordinary flowers that we have. Once a week seems to work fine.
We usually wait as long as possible with harvesting. In July the pods are green, and at that time you can harvest, but we wait until they turn red, yellow, orange or whatever the mature colour is.
During the years, we have learnt some lessons that we would like to share with you.
The Swedish sun in early June can be really harmful to the fresh leaves on the plants. It has been so bad, so the plants have died in some cases. Therefore we put them in the shadow to avoid the morning sun.
Light is very important. If you don't have good light conditions in your window, make sure you have artificial light! This is most important when the plants are small. Without light, the plants will try to stretch toward the little light they can get. This causes them to be very thin and weak.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions that I have got through the years.
Can I overwinter my plants?
Yes, it works fine! But it's not always they enjoy the winter darkness and the dry air indoors.
I cut down the plants to about half size in November. But make sure that you keep plenty of leaves. Extra light helps during the winter.
If I don't know the colour of the mature pod, how will I know when it is mature?
Usually mature pods are red, orange or yellow. But there are also varieties that turn into a dark brown, almost black colour when mature.
How do I save seeds?
Use only mature and healthy pods for seed saving. Take the seeds out, and let them dry on a piece of paper for a week. Then I put them in a coin envelope which I keep in a box in the cupboard. They keep for 6-7 years that way. For longer storage, keep them in a cool, dry place.
© 2014 Mats Pettersson. All rights reserved.