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In Italy, it is ideal to start sowing when temperatures do not go below 15°, a period that can, therefore, vary from north to south. We recommend creating a suitable habitat. Usually, seeds are germinated inside a greenhouse in February - March - April - May* in order to follow the normal rhythms of the season and have sure results.
Important: if you are not an expert, we recommend germinating the seeds with the paper towel method in large plastic table glasses because, in this way, the water evaporates slowly, preventing the seeds from drying out (MOST COMMON MISTAKE FOR BEGINNERS). In fact, in the growth phase, the shoots are very delicate and suffer from the low temperatures as well as the dehydration due to the lack of water.
In the photo above ⬆ you can see the easiest and safest way to germinate the chilli seeds, after having done so many tests I have come to the conclusion that this one is the safest. I will explain briefly how to proceed:
Why did we choose two different types of paper?
The toilet paper is very soft so it is perfect for the first phase of root growth while the more resistant paper towel we use to cover the seeds helps to keep them moist. Additionally, when we are going to decant the shoots it will be easier to export the roots without damage.
Why do we put so much paper as a base?
The answer to this question is very simple: in order not to let the water evaporate in a few days and to avoid leaving the seeds dry, causing death due to lack of water. (If you want to make the seeds germinate in the cold months make sure that the temperature is around 20 degrees; you could use heaters or if you are at the beginning just put a halogen lamp in a closed container, such as the inside of a wardrobe)
After 5-15 days depending on the variety of chilli, you will see small white radicles emerge from the seeds. Wait a few more days for them to take root in the paper. Once the sprout can support itself, you can remove it very gently, being careful not to damage the newly formed roots. You can use a toothpick. In the image below you can see the various growth stages. Once you get at stage 3, you can gently plant them. (Note that the white hair that has formed at the base is not mold, but it is the extensions of the roots that disappear by watering them)
ATTENTION: at this point there may be a problem which the pepper farmers know very well: the imprisoned cotyledons
How to remove mold from the seed?
As we can see the seed is covered with mold. It is not a serious problem, you can solve it with a bit of attention. The best solution would be to put it in chamomile and clean him gently with paper towel; remember to change the paper towel or to remove the old part with mold to prevent the problem from recurring. Another quicker solution is to clean it only with a damp paper towel. Important: remember to remove the part of the paper towel with mold. Mold on the hard skin is not a problem, the important thing is to remove it before the radicle comes out, in fact the first radicle of the chili pepper is vulnerable to mold.
How to solve the problem of cotyledons imprisoned in chilli sprouts?
First we need a picture of the problem to understand it better.
Once the problem arises, the solution is very simple but we must have patience and, above all, delicacy. We cover the skin to be removed with a piece of paper towel and wet it; then we leave it all night to rest, in this way we have created a very humid environment that will serve to soften the shell to be removed. Let's take a snack or even better a sewing needle and start to break the shell from the inside towards the outside, teasing the edge, being careful not to damage the delicate cotyledons. At this stage the cotyledons are very vulnerable to tearing, we try to break the skin without pulling or forcing the seedling. Here is a picture that explains how and where to break the shell:
In this photo we can instead observe how a seed of chili is structured, the purpose of this image is to help you to intervene more precisely in case of problems.
The seed is composed of three main parts:
1. The embryo is the organism that contains microscopic cotyledons and the rooting apparatus;
2. The endosperm is the spare tissue within the semen and is used by the embryo to nourish itself during germination;
3. The casing protects the embryo from external damage.
Regular soil is no good for chillies. It is recommended you use pre-fertilized soil. You can add liquid fertilizer that contains a low level of nitrogen and a high level of potassium and phosphorus. It is also advisable to mix a little clay with the soil, especially on the bottom of the pot, so as to encourage water drainage and avoid stagnation which, as previously mentioned, may cause mold. We have made available the following guide: How to prepare the soil for chillies
Once this possible problem is solved we can do a transplant by burying the roots in a jar or container with good soil, we place the shoot on a window sill with light, but be careful, not direct sunlight, the soil must always be moist in this delicate period of his life. Once the plant has reached 10cm in height we can gradually expose it to the sun. The result should look like this:
The video below shows how to transplant the chilli pepper
During growth, the seedling will take a Y shape. If you want, you can remove the extra sprigs that grow at the base of the seedling, or you can remove only the dried ones, but always leave a cm of the branch. Be careful not to water the plant too much. Water it only when the soil is dry, preferably at the end of the day when the sun's rays weaken to avoid the effect produced by water on the leaves that in a few days can burn them.
If the temperature is very high, the soil will tend to dry out, and it is good to move it around occasionally with a fork and water late in the evening. The plant will grow very quickly. For this reason, it is better to tie it to a brace, such as a simple rod. For those interested, we have dedicated a category to selling chilli plants.
Often the question posed to us by our customers is the following: is it mandatory to fertilize chilli plants? Our answer is: no! Plants do not always have to be fertilized, but they must be in a ground or soil that is rich in nutrients. A poor substrate will grow a short, small, and not very productive plant if you are lucky. If it cannot develop properly due to lack of nourishment, it will not yield fruit, a bitter disappointment after months of watering. We at semipeperoncino.it recommend above all a rich soil in nutrients for which plants go "crazy" we have created organic fertilizers designed to ensure the proper nutrition, our products are slow-release, in this way you will have the plant fertilized for a whole month. The fertilizer as we said is not mandatory at the beginning, but if used correctly will make the plant grow faster and give you a must larger plant, which at the end of summer will give you many big, beautiful, and tasty peppers, perfect for seasoning pasta dishes that will leave everyone's mouth watering.
We have selected these articles concerning this topic:
Fertilizer for growth
Fertilizer for flowering
Another enemy of the chilli, like many other plants, are aphids. Ladybugs are greedy for these parasites, and we can attract them by growing near our chillies other plants that attract them, such as fennel, carrots, dandelion, and speedwells. Or we can remove them with castile soap, the scent of which removes the aphids. Dilute a handful of soap with 10 liters of water and spray it on the plants when they have reached 10 cm in height. In this guide, we have brought together every kind of diseases and parasite you might encounter and the remedies for neutralizing them: All the diseases and pests of chillies.
As time passes, you can admire white flowers blossoming, followed by chillies, which you can harvest in the fall.
The chili must be opened with a knife (we highly recommend the use of latex gloves) and you must extract the seeds, which can be dried and should be stored in a dark, dry place.
As for the drying the chilli pepper itself, it should be placed in the oven at 70° for about 40 minutes, so as to evaporate the moisture. After 40 minutes you have to expose them to the sun for a few days, after which they are ready to be stored or used! In-depth article: How to collect and store chilli seeds.
If you want to grow chillies in your home (indoor) you can read the following guide: