Starting pepper seeds indoors allows you to get a head start on the growing season, giving your plants ample time to mature and produce an abundant harvest. This is important for longer-season crops, like peppers, that take a while to reach maturity.
Peppers are very slow growing; if you don’t start them nice and early, you will find you still have peppers maturing when the first frosts arrive in autumn and kill your plants off. This is particularly true for those of us in colder zones.
If you can’t plant until May or June, then you often won’t have enough time.
The best way to combat this is to sow them early, I start mine now – in January – but Feb or March can work too. Obviously, with the weather, this has to be done indoors!
If you are starting peppers indoors, you will need a few extra bits of equipment, like a heated propagator and grow lights; let’s look at my setup.
My Indoor Seed Starting Setup
*Note – Much cheaper LED grow lights are available; I like this one as it is height adjustable and powerful. But the cheap ones work just as well if set up correctly.
Sowing Pepper Seeds
Pepper seeds need a warm, humid environment in order to germinate successfully. I recommend a heated propagator (or a propagator and heat mat) for the best results.
If you don’t have those and don’t want to buy them, then my milk bottle propagator above a warm radiator can also work.
When it comes to soil, I like to use coir for indoor sowing. This is simply because it is easy to store indoors in its dried block form and use when I want.
It is also sterilised, so you don’t need to worry about fungus gnats!
I fill my heated propagator trays with the coir compost; I use the general-purpose mix that has fertiliser added.
Basic coir does not have any nutrition, so it works for sowing, but as soon as the seeds germinate, they will struggle.
Just one of the many hot peppers I am sowing today. The Carolina reaper! The hottest chilli in the world!
I pop my seeds on the surface of the soil for now, this is just so I can visually see the spacing between the seeds.
Once I am happy with the spacing, I go through and pop each seed down so it is just below the surface and cover it with compost.
I then labelled all my seeds so I knew what was what.
If you need a marker, then buy the garden marker above from Artline. It is by far the longest-lasting marker I have used.
All of my seed labels from last year are still very visible, no more faded labels!
Above, you can see my propagator trays, just missing the lid.
When the lid is on, I give all the trays good water, watering them from the tray below rather than onto the seeds.
This just stops any chance of the seeds being pushed about by the water.
You want to see lots of condensation on your propagator lid, like in the above image. This just tells you it is nice and humid in there, just the way peppers like it.
I already have my grow light on, but it is not actually needed until the seeds germinate.
Just be careful if you don’t have it on straight away, as soon as the seeds germinate you need to switch it on or they will grow very leggy.
After roughly a week, there was a lot of action and germination going on; this is quick for peppers – they can take a while to germinate!
Once your seeds have their true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted; these ones have probably been left a little too long, in all honesty.
I will be transplanting them up into these square pots, I love these as they fit perfectly into a tray.
Again, I fill it with the coir compost – the type with added fertiliser!
I prod a hole in each one with the bottom of my pen, ready for the transplant.
To get the seedlings out I like to use a seed label to prize them up from the bottom.
This loosens up all of the soil around the roots and means you are much less likely to damage the roots too much.
Here is one of my chillis ready to be potted on.
I plant them nice and deep, all the way up to the top leaves.
Here, we have some gorgeous green seedlings with a snowy background. There is something so exciting about growing in winter!
These will now be left under a grow light and in these same pots until they are much larger.
They don’t need to be on the heated mat anymore.