Chile Pepper Growing Tips
Tough Love Chile Co.
PO Box 540
Radium Springs NM 88054-0540
Phone/Fax: 800-749-3101 or 575-647-9411
WARNING! SOME OF THESE SEEDS ARE TREATED WITH INSECTICIDES AND/OR FUNGICIDES. DO NOT EAT THEM AND WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER PLANTING!
Starting the Seeds:: Chile seeds germinate at soil temperatures of 75 - 90F, 20 - 35C with 85F or 30C ideal. We have found that a drug store heating pad and an inexpensive dial pocket thermometer work just as well as those expensive plant propagation mats advertised in the catalogs. Plant the seeds in a moist, not wet sterile potting medium in pots or flats 1/4" - 1mm deep and 1/2" - 2mm apart and cover with plastic at least 8 and preferably 10 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Water should be boiled to sterilize it and if it comes from a public water system should sit for a day prior to sterilization to allow chlorine to dissolve. Many chiles are slower to germinate than others, so don't give up. Once the seedlings are up, remove the plastic cover, but do not let the soil dry out. If the seedlings are allowed to wilt, they may not die, but their growth will be set back. Some of these seeds take a long time to germinate, but they should do so using these instructions. Some sources recommend soaking the seeds in a solution of 1 Teaspoon of Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate) to one quart of water or 1 Teaspoon of 5% Chlorine Bleach in one quart of water. We recommend one of these soaks for Bhut Jolokia seeds. A minimum soak of 5 minutes.
Transplanting: When the first true leaves (pointed) reach 3/8" to 1/2" wide the seedlings can be transplanted to jiffy pots, six packs or even to waxed milk cartons. Soil temperatures should be kept to a minimum of 70F for fastest growth. Most good potting soils contain some nutrients, but a good non-burning liquid high phosphorous fertilizer can improve root growth which is most important at this stage. Apply according to package directions about once a week. Phosphorous is the middle number between Nitrogen and Potassium. A 15-30-15 fertilizer has twice as much Phosphorous as the other two elements. We use Peters 15-30-15 soluble plant food which is widely available in the United States.
Hardening Off and Setting Out: About two weeks prior to planting in the garden, about one week before your last expected frost, begin hardening the plants gradually increasing the amount of sunlight and wind which they are exposed to. Any good gardening book will explain more about this proceedure. Before transplanting, be sure that the soil temperature is at least 65F. If it is not that high, the blossoms will drop and you'll get leaves, but no chiles. When transplanting from containers, there will be some root damage which will slow the plants, so try to be as careful as possible. If you use jiffy pots, cut off enough of the top of the pot without disturbing the roots so that it can't act as a wick to dry the soil and plant out. If cutworms are a problem in your area, a paper cup with the bottom cut out, placed around the stem about 1/2" into the ground should protect the stem. Fertilize with high quality fertilizer. We like to use a balanced one like 15-15-15.
Growing and Harvesting: Now that your chile plants are in the garden, keep them watered, fertilized, protected from the wind, but getting lots of sunshine. Keep a lookout for pests. The major pests we've encountered are aphids, and they can build up rapidly. You can try organic controls such as liquid dish soap and water, or spray with a chemical such as Diazanon solution only when you see a build-up. Remember to follow label directions and don't harvest until the proper number of days after spraying. The Diazanon label says five (5) days for peppers. You can harvest your chiles when they are green, but they're so much prettier if you wait until they turn to orange or red or yellow or brown. As the growing season comes to a close, cover the plants at night if the temperature is predicted to go below 30F or -1C. You will be surprised at how long you can extend the growing season. We usually cover our chiles with old sheets. Just remember to uncover the plants before the sun gets too high. NEVER TOUCH PLANTS OR SEEDS IF YOU HAVE USED OR TOUCHED ANY FORM OF TOBACCO UNTIL YOU HAVE THOROUGHLY CLEANED YOUR HANDS. Tobacco mosaic virus attacks peppers.
Saving Seeds: Hang a couple of ripe chiles up in a dry place and save the dry seeds in a cool dry place. Many of our chiles are open pollinated and they should grow true to form unlike hybrids. You may not get as high a germination rate as treated seeds, but the typical Habanero pod has 100 -150 seeds, and you should have no shortage of seeds. The seeds should remain viable for 2 -5 years. You can also purchase seeds from us and be assured that they will be true to type.
Growing Indoors: Chiles are actually perennials which are usually grown as annuals. We are now conviced that chiles are deciduous. Some of them grow as big as trees and maybe they just lose their leaves like oak trees.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY HOT STUFF!
Be sure to Visit the Bookstore, click here.
For Ordering Information, click here.
For the Tough Love Chile Co. Home Page, click here.
For Great Locations, click here.
For Great Salsa Recipes, click here.
To send Electronic Mail about this site or to ask questions, please go to the home page.