This is the time of year to think about sowing peppers, both sweet peppers and spicy ones. You may think it is still rather too chilly – pardon the pun – to sow these warm weather crops – but starting early, indoors, is the key to getting a good crop of ripe peppers later in the year. The problem with growing peppers in the UK is the short growing season. But starting seeds indoors can give you a head start and when the growing season begins in earnest, you will already be well on the way towards a successful harvest.
Simply put, some peppers are suited to growing in the UK climate, while others are not. Try to choose varieties that have a relatively shorter period to wait before harvest, and consider varieties that were developed specifically for growth in the climate of the area where you live. Remember that if you want to collect seeds for next year, you will need to choose heritage seeds, not hybrids.
Peppers take a while longer to germinate than many other seeds and for this reason, are often considered to be more difficult than other food crops to grow. This said, as long as your seeds are warm enough and have a good moist growing medium that does not dry out, they should germinate within a couple of weeks. Seeds are usually sown indoors January or February – though you will need a propagator (see below) for the best results.
While it is possible to germinate your pepper seeds in any warm spot (above 21 degrees C.), you are likely to get better results if you can give your pepper seeds the best start in life. A propagator is easy and cheap to make or buy and will help provide a steadier environment for your seeds to germinate and begin to grow. LED grow lights will also help make sure that your pepper plants thrive in the winter, and do not get too leggy and weak from lack of sunlight.
One of the main problems that can occur with seeds is that they can be watered too much or too little. It is important to regulate the amount of water seedlings get carefully. Always water from below and consider the humidity levels inside your home.
It can sometimes seem like a long wait until the weather warms up enough to transfer your peppers (and tomatoes etc.) to your polytunnel. Do not neglect your plants. Make sure you pot your peppers up before they outgrow their pots, or their growth may be checked and your plants will not be as healthy as they could be for the rest of the summer.