Having soaked our chilli seeds in tea; chitted them on warm, damp kitchen paper until they germinated; and sung sweetly to them… it is now time to plant them in some actual soil and let them do their thing.
The beginning of the new year is a cold, dark and lonely time for a seedling in the UK. We look after our chilli babies the best we can to stop them being affected by the January Blues.
So what exactly do we do?
Careful preparation is the name of the game. We make newspaper pots using a wooden pot maker. Each germinated seed gets popped into a warmed paper pot for the next stage of its journey
These pots are perfect for us because…
- they are free,
- made from recycled materials,
- can be potted directly into a bigger pot, with minimal root disturbance
- can be composted at the end of the season
- No labelling mix-ups, just write on the outside of the pot.
Ok, so they take time to make and are a little flimsy. They can dry out quickly, especially on a heated surface or in direct sunlight but we love them and they work for us.
Paper pot production goes into overdrive as we attempt to keep up with the number of seeds that are germinating. 50 is our goal today, must get rolling!
The seedlings need very little to start of with as they are still being fed from the endosperm (food stash from within the seed). Use a dedicated seed compost as it is low nutrients, good drainage, small particles. All good for little roots trying to develop.
Gently warm the paper pots filled with seed compost BEFORE the seedlings are put in the soil. This means there is no shock to the system and they should continue to grow as if nothing has changed.
We place our pots on plastic windowsill trays. Lined with capillary matting. These tray conveniently rest on top of our radiators. Soil stays warm. Chillies LOVE it!
In addition to keeping the pots warm we use warm water when giving the seedlings a drink. Water from the base every few days. Careful not to overwater as waterlogged soil can check growth. Keep an eye on the outside pots as they will dry out quicker than the inner ones.
Make sure the seedlings get as much natural light as possible. We started in January last year, grew under only natural light and had a pretty amazing harvest. We just had to rotate a lot. The light keeps the plants from getting too leggy in the early days. Consider a set of grow lights. We are about to embark on this journey with our first set of lights: The Phlizon 1200W. More will be said about this at a later date.
After a week or so, once the seed leaves are unfurled and looking a good strong green, we start to feed a weak solution of Chilli Focus. Not too much, or the roots can burn, just enough to keep the wolves at bay. 5mls to litre of warm water should do it.
And there you have it, a simple but tested way of looking after your precious babies at this early stage of the game.