May is nearly upon us and as the aphorism goes, “April showers bring May flowers”, which means it’s time to be thinking about the garden. Pretty much no matter where you live in the US, you should have already started your chili peppers from seeds unless you’ll be buying seedlings for your garden. We are in the Chicago area (zone 5) and still have several weeks prior to transplanting but we have plenty going on inside with about a dozen different types of chili peppers going.
At this point we are selecting which seedlings are the strongest and keeping only those, tossing the weaker ones so that we’ll have nice strong plants. Very soon we’re going to start transplanting to larger pots as the seedlings are growing bigger now. To transplant, we like to take the netting off the soil pellets and place the seedlings in a small pot with soil. By removing the netting we’re allowing the soils to mix and help the roots grow easily. The netting can stay in place and will decompose, but it can tend to take a long time and we feel it is better to allow the soils to mix together to ensure the roots can grow free. This is also a good time to top off the seedling with plenty of soil as chili peppers tend to grow tall. You can cut or bury the lowest set of leaves. Be sure to use a pot that is tall enough to allow you to add soil as the plant grows taller, but not too tall that the sunlight can’t get into your pot.
When it is nearly time to transplant your seedlings in the ground, be sure to harden them off by placing them outside for 30-60 minutes a day, increasing the amount of time each day. Place them out of direct sunlight in a protected area. This will help the plants grow stronger and prepare them for the outdoor elements. When you transplant, be sure it’s 2-3 weeks after the last frost so that the soil will be warm enough for your sun-loving chili peppers.
More information on Growing Chili Peppers: