I finally tried my hand at gardening this year. As a huge fan of spicy food, I was excited to try growing chili peppers.
To say I was a novice would be an understatement. A good friend who’s been growing for years helped me get started. He walked me through germination, soil types, and the basic equipment needed.
Generously, he also sent me the seeds of some interesting pepper species. The varieties were:
- Bleeding Heart Yellow
- Brazilian Pumpkin
- Carolina Reaper
- Count Dracula
- Jorge’s Small Mexican
- Pimenta Kathumby
- Red Lightning Habanero
- Rooster Spur
- Uchu Creme
- Variegated Purple
- White Thai
- Wild Brazil
I’m thankful for all his help. He sells a huge variety of seeds which you can find at MattsPeppers.com.
I’ve included a gallery of progress photos. Forgive the older camera; it’s long in the tooth at this point.
I started with 12 species of seeds. I soaked them in water for 24 hours to weaken the shells and improve germination.
I quickly ran out of containers and resorted to measuring cups.
For germination I bought a seedling tray. It contained a dome to keep in moisture, and a heating pad to keep the seeds warm.
With 24 cells available, I planted four seeds from each variety (side-by-side, with two seeds in each cell).
March 20 - April 10
After only eight days the first seedling sprouted. Very exciting! Before long another five cropped up.
Unfortunately that’s when progress tapered off. Of the 48 seeds I planted, only six sprouted in three weeks. Those six were doing well, but with a smidge of disappointment I turned off the heating pad.
April 16 - May 24
It seems I was too impatient, as within another week I started seeing sprouts from almost every cell. Soon they were all rapidly growing.
Sadly the reapers never germinated at all. I later learned they’re especially tricky, and I should’ve planted more seeds.
May 29 - June 16
At this point they were growing too large for their cells. With the confidence of someone who just watched a YouTube video on the subject, I began transplanting them to new pots.
You can see what’s either a count dracula or variegated purple starting to show its color.
After three months, flower buds began to form and open.
Today the plants got a little parched from the heat. I brought them inside and rehydrated. They bounced back within hours.
Back outside and continuing to grow strong.
By this point the largest plants had long-outgrown their pots. I bought 12 fabric bags for the next stage and transplanted them again. I didn’t have any soil to fill them unfortunately, and delayed a couple weeks longer than I should have.
Four months in, the first pepper began to grow. It was a variegated purple.
I didn’t have enough fabric bags, so a few plants had to stay in their previous pots. They quickly became root bound and floundered.
July 17 - July 24
Those that were transplanted continued to do well. The purple species were first to fruit, along with the Brazilian pumpkin (a pepper, not a gourd).
We had a small heat wave so I took the plants in for protection. Day and night shot.
August 5 - August 27
Those that did well continued to fruit.
I had the most success with the count dracula, Jorge’s small mexican, Brazilian pumpkin, variegated purple, and white thai.
August 27 - September 30
Truthfully, I hadn’t planned this far ahead. So with no greater ambitions I ate a few raw, and turned the rest into chili flakes. The color was a vibrant red as opposed to the darker store-bought flakes.
Over the next month I harvested what I could.
By the time Autumn was in full swing, the peppers stopped ripening. I plucked what remained and placed them on a covered plate to let them ripen indoors.
I enjoyed growing peppers this year. I found it quite fulfilling and intend to do more next year. I think I’ll try adding in some other crops, too. I’ve already ordered more fabric bags in anticipation.
There’s a few things I’ll know how to do better in the future. I know now I should have pruned the plants early in their growth cycle, and I should have transplanted sooner. This likely would have improved the overall yield.
In the end though I wasn’t too fussed about it. I was more interested in growing something for the experience of it, and from that perspective I’m really happy with the result. I’m already looking forward to next Spring.