With Covid-19 running amuck, one huge positive is that people are starting to think green! Sustainability and home grown produce are on their way up as people start learning to grow at home... and I know this because there's no seeds left at Bunnings!
There's no better feeling than growing something from a seed, to plant, to plate. I can tell you right now, you'll be way too excited waking up everyday, bouncing out of bed to check on your little babies to see how they're doing.
With three years of trial and HEAPS of error (pour one out for the homies that didn't make it :/ ), I'm bringing you my beginner's "Ghetto Guide to Chilli Growing", a four part series on how to grow your own spicy bois from seedling to fruit (and on the cheap too).
I'll kick this off with my germination process. Strap yourself in to learn how to germinate chilli seeds at home. There are HEAPS of ways to germinate seeds, the net is flooded with different processes, most of them I've tried... and this is the one that worked best for me.
What You Need
Jiffy seed tray ($7.90 at Bunnings)
Spray bottle ($1.50 at Bunnings)
Sharpie (colour of your choice)
There are so many seed suppliers online and when it comes to varieties, the possibilities are literally endless. Choose from natural species like the Jalapeño to gnarly cross breeds like the Scarlett's Chilli by Hippy Seed Company. Go and have a scout, you'll be spoiled for choice.
Here are some of my favourite seed suppliers. They all have many different rare and exciting chilli plants so GO WILD!
I like to use Jiffy seed trays. They're cheap, keep things tidy and you can re-use them over and over again.
Inside the trays you'll see some compressed peat puck. Peat is a neutral grow medium - because seeds are heaps sensitive, and most potting mixes contain fertilisers, a neutral medium like peat makes sure you don't fry your seeds. Follow the instruction to hydrate the peat pucks and place them to the side.
Now heres where I go a bit rogue...
Usually you'd set each puck into an indent in the tray... but I cut them open and mix them all together in a bowl, then place the freed peat back into the tray evenly, like a flower bed. The reason I do this is I've found it gives the seeds a little more room and makes them easier to monitor how moist the soil is when watering.
Make indents in the peat (about 1.5cm) using the jiffy tray moulds as a guide.
Place a seed in each indent. Try not to touch your seeds with bare hands - as I said earlier, your seeds are super sensitive and the oils (and what ever else you have) on your hands can affect their germination, so always handle your seeds with gloves or tweezers. Cover lightly with peat.
Pro Tip from Spitfire Chillis: Soak your seeds in half strength tea for 24 hours before placing in the peat. This process emulates the stomach of a bird and will speed up your germination time
Next is probably the most important piece of info I've learnt though this whole experience... LABEL YOUR TRAYS!!!
Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way and still have some unidentified chilli plants in my crop. Masking tape and a sharpie are your best friend. Another hot tip - put a piece of tape at end of the jiffy tray so you know which way the lid sits
Humidity is key!
For your babies to germinate, you need a combination of heat, moisture and air.
To create this environment you want to lightly spray the peat and cover of the jiffy tray and place it in a warm dark area that allows some airflow (don't just chuck it in the cupboard).
Here in Australia it's pretty warm and our winters are also nowhere near as harsh as the northern hemisphere, so even in winter my seeds will still germinate (no need for a heating mat).
Temperature does play a vital role in the germination process however, and although each chilli species is different, you want your tray to sit at between 18-25 degrees celcius (64 to 77F according to Google). I find that above the fridge is a good spot.
Pro Tip: Although using tap water is generally ok, depending on where you live it can contain some chemicals that are good for us but bad for seeds! Fill up a tub or bucket of water and let it sit overnight which should allow the chemicals to sink or evaporate. Even better - collect rainwater and really treat your plants.
Your tray and seeds are good to go!
You want to keep the "environment" moist, not wet, so spray as needed.
All you have to do now is wait... and when I say wait I mean WAIT! Resist all urges to poke and prod the area. Let them do their thing. Germination time depends on the seed so it can take days, weeks or a month max. If you still haven't seen life after a month then that's ok! Let 'em go and start again.
I've had seeds sprout in a few days and I've definitely lost a few! When you see green, you know you're in business!
When the babies' heads have fully emerged from the peat, it's time to take off the cover, admire them for a bit (probably take some photos), then get ready for the next installment of our Ghetto Guide... transPLANTing.