Growing chillies is not the easiest as already germination can be eratic. The hotter the pepper the harder the seeds germinate, and that is my experience.
The best time to sow the pepper seeds is January – March, but I am sure that some of you keen gardeners sow the chillies as early as December. With chillies is all about the temperature, as they are originally from a very warm part of the world such as India or South America. The most popular variety is still the Jalapeno and the Habanero type peppers.
If you are new to growing chillies choose an easy variety like Jalapeno or Cayenne. These are easier to grow than the very hot habanero chillies. Even I have problems with germinating the hot types.
Sowing the chilli seeds
The chilli seeds really need some attention, so make sure you use a fine seed compost. Some gardeners prefer to use vermiculite and compost mix, you can buy them in any garden centre. Sow the seeds about an inch deep and cover with perlite if you prefer, however it is not necessary. The temperature should be between 20 and 25 Celsius, so it is only possible to germinate the peppers inside your house. Aid the germination by sealing the seed tray or the pots, whichever used for sowing, into a plastic bag, surely you have one somewhere in your home. The bag will keep the moisture in as well, but be careful here and do not overwater. Sometimes the pots or seed trays don’t need watering for a whole week as the temperature is low the compost doesn’t dry out for a long time. Check before you water!
Keep the temperature as even as possible during the germination, well I know it is hard so again if you seal them into a plastic bag will help a lot. Growing chillies is best at the highest temperatures you can possibly provide, right from the start. If you have a sunny windowsill than place the seed trays on there and cover them until the seedlings emerge. An other good place to germinate the chilli seeds is the airing cupboard. It is very warm there so make sure you check the compost daily and water as necessary, and take the seed tray out as soon as you spot the small green shoots, as they need light to grow from the very first day.
Growing on the chilli seedlings
Once you have success with the germination, just transplant the seedlings into individual pots and keep the seedlings and the plants above 20 Celsius during the entire growing season, conservatory or a greenhouse are the best places for your pepper plants.
First plant the seedlings into smaller pots and as they grow you can plant them on into bigger pots, into a growbag or any container you have available. I found that a 30 cm tall pot is suitable for any pepper plant to grow in. Again it is a hard job to keep the temperature high as even if you have an unheated greenhouse the temperature will drop quite dramatically during the cold English nights, but do not worry you will have some good results if the sun starts to shine every now and then. The greenhouse warms up a lot during the sunny days and the chillies will be growing happily.
The habanero peppers need a warmer and longer growing season then the smaller bush varieties like tepin or the Bulgarian carrot. And yes, you do get better results if you feed the plants. Tomato feed from the shop is just fine for peppers too or even better if you make your own liquid fertilizer.