Are you interested in starting pepper seeds indoors and growing your own supply of this delicious vegetable? Starting your seeds inside will allow you to get a head start on the growing season by allowing your plants to grow for weeks of extra time that they wouldn’t get to have outside due to the temperatures. Growing pepper plants is a very easy process that can be mastered by all skill levels. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of starting your seeds inside!
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Why should you begin starting pepper seeds indoors?
Peppers plants are a warm season vegetable that can have a long growing season if there is plenty of time. To optimize the growing season of this plant, many people choose to do much of the initial growing indoors while the temperature outside warms. This means that starting your peppers inside can give you a more prolific harvest this growing season!
Choosing a Pepper Variety
The first step to starting pepper seeds indoors is selecting which kind of pepper to grow. There are tons of exciting options of peppers, ranging from very spicy to sweet. Some things you will want to consider while choosing a variety is your heat tolerance, the intended use of the peppers, and what kind of flavor profile you are looking for. Many plant packets or websites list the best use for the variety, such as cooking, snacking, or preserving.
Some of the most popular choices for mild heat or sweet peppers are bell peppers, banana peppers, pepperoncini, Anaheim, ancho, or poblano. If you are more interested in a medium heat level you might want jalapeno, chipotle, serrano, cayenne, or tabasco. If you are a heat seeker and want hot chili peppers you might choose habanero, Thai, or scotch bonnet peppers.
Gather Your Supplies
Before you begin, gather all the necessary supplies. You’ll need high-quality pepper seeds, seed starting trays or pots, a sterile seed starting mix, a spray bottle for watering, and clear plastic covers or plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect.
After you’ve chosen the variety of pepper you want, you need to acquire the seeds. Excellent places to purchase seeds are from a seed store online, a local retailer, or a home improvement store. You can also store your own for future growing!
You will then need to purchase plant trays and seed starting cells to contain your seedlings. The most common type of plant tray is a 10×20 tray. We recommend you start many types of plants in large or extra large cells in order to give your seeds plenty of room to grow while they spend the next many weeks inside of your house. You can choose to have a dome on your plant trays or even a heating mat to give them plenty of warmth for faster germination, however these are not vital to the success of starting pepper seeds indoors.
Best Soil for Peppers
To prepare the best soil for peppers, you are going to want to purchase either a store bought potting mix or mix your own. You will want to make sure that your soil has plenty of aeration and isn’t too compacted. This will ensure the soil is well draining to allow the roots to grow well.
You can achieve the best soil for peppers by making sure the potting mix has peat moss and perlite. Optimally, you will have a peat moss based potting soil. You can purchase a bag of perlite if you feel that you need to add more to the potting mix you purchased or to mix your own. Take your soil mixture and fill your seed starting trays or nursery pots. Make sure the soil is evenly moist, though not overly soaked, and you’re ready for seeds.
Schedule Your Seed Starting With Your Last Frost Date
This is an important step with starting pepper seeds indoors because you want to give your peppers a head start by beginning them inside but you don’t want to keep them inside for too long. You are going to want to start your pepper seeds indoors roughly 8 weeks before your last frost date. You will want to aim to transplant your peppers outdoors roughly two weeks after that date in order to ensure another freeze doesn’t happen. There are many websites online that help you figure out when your predicted last frost date is.
We Recommend: Old Farmer’s Almanac Frost Dates
How to Plant Pepper Seeds
Let’s now get into how to plant pepper seeds! Before planting your pepper seeds, you are going to want to make sure you follow the seed packet instructions on the depth of which to plant your seed into the soil. Many different plants and varieties call for differing depths. You will generally plant pepper seeds at a depth of 1/4 inch. Cover the planted seeds with a thin layer of soil.
Don’t forget to label the plants as well! You can plant two or three seeds per cell to make sure that at least one grows. If more than one grows, you will need to thin the seedlings by cutting the weakest ones out and leaving the strongest plant to thrive.
Alternatively, you can choose to germinate your seeds in a wet paper towel inside of a sandwich bag. All you have to do is leave the bag in a warm location and wait. You will have to transfer the germinated seeds into the soil once they begin to grow.
Providing Optimal Growing Conditions
Pepper plant seeds prefer to stay consistently warm for the best and quickest germination. For this you can choose to place a heating mat under the trays to warm the soil. You can also place the trays in a warm location in your house that stays a consistent temperature, as long as the location is not too cold. Aim for a temperature between 75-85°F (24-29°C). You can expect your seeds to germinate in about 7-14 days. Expect there to be some variation in germination times depending on the variety you choose, so always be sure to read the packet the seeds come in for more specific timelines.
Watering and Care of Pepper Seedlings
One of the most important parts about starting pepper seeds indoors is keeping the soil moist during germination and growth of the plant. You can choose to mist the soil with a spray bottle or gently pour water on top after sowing your seeds when the soil dries out. You can switch to watering from the bottom up after the seedlings have sprouted to avoid any fungal problems from occurring due to the soil being too damp.
Pepper plants love their water but try to avoid overwatering your seedlings, which can lead to fungal problems and root rot. Peppers don’t like their roots to be waterlogged. You need to provide your seedlings with plenty of light via a window or a grow light. You will want to aim for giving your seedlings 12-16 hours of light each day.
The final piece of information you need to know about starting pepper seeds indoors is the process of transplanting your pepper seedlings. You may need to transplant your seedlings more than one time. After your seedlings get to be around two to three inches tall indoors, you will need to decide if they should be transplanted into larger cells or containers while you wait for the danger of frost to pass. If you started them in large enough cells or pots, you can keep them there until you are ready to transplant them to their final growing locations outside when the weather warms. You will not want to transplant your seedlings outdoors until your last frost date has passed and there is no longer any risk of the night time temperatures dropping below 55 to 60°F.
When transplanting peppers be sure to handle your plants with care to avoid damaging their roots. Plant them in a well-draining soil in a hole with plenty of room around the root ball. Bury the plant up to its first leaves covering most of its lower stem. You can add organic matter into the soil for added nutrients and moisture. Adding mulch on top of the soil may assist in moisture retention during the hot months as well!
By following these steps, you will be on your way to happy and healthy pepper plants! With plenty of love and patience your plants will thrive and produce tons of delicious peppers for you and your family. You’re in luck, these amazing plants are indeterminate and will produce until stressed by the changing of temperatures! Enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables by hand from the comfort of your own home.