How To Grow Peppers From Seed
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Growing Peppers From Seed

Choosing The Right Type Of Pepper To Plant In Your Garden

Peppers are a long standing favorite among gardeners who want to grow their own food. They provide a bright pop of color, come in many many varieties and flavors and are usually heavy producers from just a single plant and can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Peppers belong to the nightshade family alongside eggplant and tomatoes so when planning on where to grow your pepper plants, keep in mind that you don’t want to plant where a previous nightshade has been grown.  Because there are hundreds of varieties of peppers, the best way to decide on which pepper seed you want to start is deciding on what flavor you and your family prefer and how you intend to use them. Most peppers can be broken down easily into 2 categories: hot peppers and sweet peppers. 

Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers are called sweet not necessarily for their sweet flavor, but to separate them from the heat that comes from hot peppers. While the sugar content in some sweet pepper varieties actually makes them have a sweeter flavor profile, it is their low level or complete lack ofcapsaicin, which is the compound that gives hot peppers their heat. 
Some of the most popular sweet pepper varieties are Bell Peppers, Poblano, Banana, and Cubanelle.

Hot Peppers

Hot peppers, also known as chiles, range from pleasant, mild heat all the way to mind-numbing, scorchingly hot. It’s all based on the Scoville units that particular variety contains. A Scoville Heat Unit is a system that was developed to determine how hot a pepper is based on its level of capsaicin. Hot peppers typically take longer to germinate, so be patient with these varieties while they’re coming up. Some popular hot peppers are the Ghost Pepper, Jalapeno, Carolina Reaper, and Trinidad Scorpion. Below is a handy chart for how some common peppers stack up on the heat scale.

Growing Peppers From Seed

Should You Direct Sow or Transplant Pepper Seeds?

As any gardener knows, when you have a plant that can either be directly planted in the ground or transplanted, there are pros and cons to both. At HOSS, we always err on the side of starting your pepper seeds in trays because it has proven to be a more successful strategy for our gardens and our space. We know that every garden is different but we always highly encourage starting seeds in trays when you have the option.

Benefits Of Starting Seeds In Trays

  1.  Beginning in seed trays will give you a head start on the growing season. Instead of having to wait for weather conditions to even out, your pepper plants will have already germinated and established a root system and are ready to go into the ground immediately. This will usually result in an earlier harvest as well.
  2. More control over germination. Because pepper plants don’t tolerate cold, starting seeds in trays helps avoid germination issues that come with unexpected weather changes.
  3. Weed control. Pepper seeds and root systems are delicate during the first phases of growing. Starting in seed trays will help keep weeds from ruining your potential crop.

Benefits Of Direct Sowing Seeds

  1. There is less cost involved with direct sowing since you don’t have to have the seed starting supplies or greenhouse.
  2. Direct sowing has less labor involved. Direct sowing allows you to simply put the seeds in the ground and let them grow as they will.

Pepper Indoor Seed Starting Dates

Pepper seeds should be started indoors at least 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date for your zone. We recommend using our 162 Seed Trays for best results. Zones 1 and 2 typically have too short of a season to grow peppers and zones 10-13 typically don’t suffer from freezing temperatures so pepper seeds can be started any time.

Zone Last Frost Date Indoor Start Date
3 May 1 - 15 March 6 - 20
4 May 23 - June 13 March 28 - April 18
5 May 9 - June 4 March 14 - April 9
6 April 28 - May 14 March 3 - 19
7 March 30 - April 16 February 2 - 19
8 March 13 - 29 January 16 - February 1
9 February 6 - 28 December 12 - January 3

Seed Start Supply List

Indoor Growing

  • 162 Seed Tray
  • Heavy Duty Bottom Tray
  • Hanging Light Kit
  • Sungro Seed Starting Mix
  • Dramm Watering Can
  • Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble
  • Dr. Joe Growing Bubble

Outdoor Growing

  • Temperature Controlled Greenhouse
  • 162 Seed Tray
  • Fogg-It Mist Nozzle
  • Sungro Seed Starting Mix
  • 100 or 150 Watt Germination Mat
  • Germination Thermostat
  • Hoss Premium 20-20-20 Fertilizer

Germinating Pepper Seeds

  1. Fill each cell in the tray with the included seed starting mix. Use your hands to lightly pack the mix into each cell. Save a small amount for covering the seeds in the last step.
  2. Place starting tray on bottom tray and lightly water from above to generously moisten seed starting mix. Repeat 3-4 times to ensure all of the soil in the cells are moist. Water should be dripping from the bottom of the trays.
  3. Make a small indentation in the center of each cell. Refer to the back of your seed packet  or the product page at hosstools.com for correct planting depth. Starting seeds too deep can prevent or delay germination.
  4. Place one seed per indentation and very lightly cover with the remaining seed starting mix from step 1. If you purchased our seed starting kit, attach the included clear humidity dome to the tray and wait for seedlings to emerge. 
  5. Whether you are starting indoors or outdoors, the optimal temperature for pepper seed germination is between 80°F and 90°F, so regularly check temperatures and adjust as needed.
  6. Once at least half of the seedlings emerge, remove the humidity dome. It is vital to keep the soil moist moving forward to ensure good germination. Water 1-2 times a day or if the soil looks dry.
  7. The reservoir tray included in the seed starting kits is for growing indoors and avoiding a mess when watering. It should be emptied after each overhead watering to avoid stagnant water and creating a breeding area for diseases. 
  8. Once seedlings form their second set of leaves, called true leaves, fertilize once a week using 20-20-20 fertilizer. Mix 1  scoop per gallon of water and water from above.
  9. Once the seedlings have developed a good root system and can easily be removed from their trays, it will be time to transplant

Get A Head Start On Your Peppers!

Pepper Seed Starting Tips

Give Them The VIP Treatment

Because pepper seeds take so long to germinate, when starting your seeds, keep them isolated to one tray and don’t start other seeds with them. Other plants may shade out the soil or cause your peppers not to germinate well. Even if you end up with extras, they make a great gift to give to neighbors and friends so they can also grow peppers.

Keep It Simple

There are a lot of gimmicks out there about what to do with seeds before planting. From soaking seeds in buttermilk to putting an egg in the hole, there are all kinds of tips and tricks you’ll find to be successful. While some of those may or may not work, the best advice we want to give for any level gardener is to keep it simple and stick to the basics. Be patient with your pepper seeds and, when in doubt, reach out to us at HOSS and we are more than happy to help you along the way.

Do You Need a Heat Mat For Seed Starting?

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