Grow Your Own Chillies – Everything You Need To Know – Part 1 Of 3

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Introduction

There are, course, two options for you should decide to grow your own chillies; start from seed or obtain seedlings and take it from there.
In this series of three articles we will begin at the very start – selecting the seeds to grow your chillies from. If it is your intention to purchase seedlings and plant those out then simply skip to the second article, Acclimatising & Transplanting Your Seedlings.

Obtaining Your Chilli Seeds

There are two sources for you to obtain your seeds unless you're lucky enough to live in a location where chillies grow wild. I'll discuss both of these below and give you my recommendations.

Home-Grown

The first source of seeds that comes to mind are obviously one that you have grown yourself, or from a chilli fanatic mate (that's friend for those outside Australia) or neighbor.
This is a perfectly acceptable way to obtain your seeds as long as you set your expectations at the right level, meaning that, you're not too fussy about what chillies you are going to grow, as long as you get some.
Why is this? The reason for this is that chillies are rampant cross-pollinators. This means that even if you bought commercial seeds or seeds and keep the plants near each other, they will fruit true to variety for the first year but after that, what will be produced will be a cocktail of the nearby varieties. The home gardener who completely isolates his or her chilli varieties to prevent cross-pollination is a rare person indeed.
Having said that however, do not suddenly form the opinion that home grown seeds are not for you. If you obtain some seeds from your own plants or those of a friend, plant a few of them anyway – you may end up with a hybrid variety that you really like!

Commercially Produced

Seed produced by the large seed companies is much more likely to grow true to variety as they have a vested interest in maintaining the genetic purity of the cultivar. For the non-botanists a cultivar is cultivated plant that has been identified and given a unique name because it has desirable characteristics that distinguish it from other similar plants of the same species. When propagated it retains those characteristics. The common term for a cultivar is variety.
The seed companies employ a number of systematic crop improvement and seed growing processes which involve the variety producing consistently over a number of generations until certified. Once certified there are strict internal processes used to ensure that the purity is not endangered by cross-pollination or contamination with other seed types prior to packaging.
There are no federal regulations governing seed quality and certification within Australia and there is a significant variation of these concepts between the states. These range from a strict certification process within Western Australia to recommended 'best practice' guidelines in South Australia based on international practices.
As a result of this lack of consistency you may experience some variation in seed quality and reliability when purchasing seeds from small producers as it is possible that they are unable or unwilling to introduce strict processes to guarantee cultivar purity. If you do wish to purchase from the smaller producers that is fine, just approach the purchase with the knowledge and perspective that you now have. Make a small purchase and test the quality before spending too much of your hard earned cash.

Selecting The Seeds

OK, you've got your seeds home and you're eager to plant them out. Just step back for a few moments and listen as there is a test that can significantly improve your results at this stage.
Get a bowl of water and pour all the seeds you're intending to plant, into the water. Give it a good swirl with your finger to break the surface tension of the water and ensure that it is not preventing any of the seeds sinking.
Now, any seeds that are still floating are highly unlikely to germinate, due to a variety of factors including malformation and a lack of embryo or kernel. Discard the floaters and then pour the reminders into a sieve to get rid of the water. Now inspect the seeds, with a magnifying glass if you're really keen, and discard any look look undersized, deformed or damaged.

Factors Affecting Seed Germination

Even with ideal conditions, getting chilli seeds to germinate can be a slow, irregular business. Talking to both small and large growers in Western Australia you can expect germination to take from one to six weeks, even in the tropical areas. The warning here is; do not give up too early on your seeds.
Just the same as the majority of other plants, chilli seeds need warmth, oxygen, and moisture before germination will occur.
Below, I discuss some other factors that may help you increase your success rate planting from seeds.

Ambient Temperature

The ideal temperature for germinating chilli seeds is 22oC to 28oC.

Moisture

While trying to induce seed germination, the medium that the seeds are in need to be kept moist. Ideally this would occur with water that is not too different in temperature to the seed medium, but do not get too hung up on this point.

Fruit Ripeness

In the fascinating but heavily scientific Capsicum and Eggplant Newsletter that used to be published by the University of Turin (Italy) I found reference to a study carried out in 1986 in Texas on seed from tabasco chillies harvested 150, 195, and 240 days after transplanting . What the scientists RL Edwards and FJ Sundstrom, observed, as expected, was that the seeds from the ripe fruit had a better germination percentage than the seeds from the immature fruit.
What surprised a little more was that the germination percentage decreased as the fruit got older; after achieving 81% germination from the 150 day old plants, the percentage dropped to 63% for the 240 day old plants. To summarize these results, the study suggests that seeds from newly ripened chillies will have the highest percentage of successful seed germination. If harvested too far either side of the becoming ripe, you risk decreed seed germination performance.
Several other studies have shown drying of the seeds for 2-4 months after harvesting significantly increases germination percentages, whether discharged within the chilli or separately.

Dormancy

Another factor that affects chilli seed germination is a mechanism called dormancy which is common in many plant types. This is an obvious self defense mechanism that prevails the seed germinating in Autumn only to be exposed to the risks of winter and possible seedling death. All chillies are perennials however, unless you live in the tropics, they will have as annuals and the inherent dormancy in both the seeds and the plants will vary between the varieties.

OK, thats it for this first section. In Part 2, I discuss growing mediums, pot types, acclimating and transplanting.

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Source by Nigel Laubsch