Guide to Starting Pepper Seeds Indoors

Pepper seeds and young plants need a tad more attention than their more forgiving relative, the tomato. Dive into the world of indoor pepper seeding and be amazed by the variety of colors, shapes, and flavors!

 Fatalli Peppers on a table

Pictured: Fatalli Pepper (Click for seeds)

🔆 Key Tips for Pepper Success:

  1. Bright, Artificial Light: Ensure they're well-lit.
  2. Quality Soil: Only the best for your peppers!
  3. Avoid Pot Bounding: Ensure they have enough space.
  4. Harden Off: Prep them before moving outdoors.

💡 Why Indoors?: In northern climates, start peppers indoors for a good harvest before the chilly fall frosts. Moreover, starting your own seeds means diving into a world full of pepper varieties, not just the standard ones!

Timing is Everything: Begin 8 weeks before the last spring frost. For those in USDA Zone 5-6 of southeast Michigan, the magic date is around March 15th.

Recently harvested Sheepnose Pimento Sweet Peppers

 Pictured: Sheepnose Pimento Sweet Pepper (Click for seeds)

🌱 Seed Starting:

  1. Supplies:

    • Soil: We swear by Vermont Compost's organic Fort Vee or Fort Lite. Available at Fedco. Make your own soil mix! Click here for a recipe (if you are in southeast Michigan and/or have high pH water, do not add limestone to the soil mix).

    • Container: Minimum size 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" x 2.25" deep.

    • Heating: Peppers love warmth (77° – 90°). We recommend a seed heating mat.

  2. Steps:

    • Start seeds around March 15th in USDA Zone 5-6.

    • Plant several seeds per container, about ¼” deep.

    • Label each container.

    • Use a heating mat and keep seeds moist but not too wet.

    • After germination, choose the strongest seedling to keep.

🌱 Growing Pepper Seedlings:

  1. Light: Aim for 16 hours/day. Consider T5 fluorescent or High Pressure Sodium lights, and don’t forget a timer.
  2. Temperature: Maintain between 65-75°F.
  3. Watering: Moist but not drenched. We love Haws brand watering cans.
  4. Fertilizing: If you’ve got compost-based soil mix, skip this step. Otherwise, go for fish/seaweed liquid fertilizer weekly.
  5. Pot Bound Warning: Transplant or move outdoors before they’re too restricted.

🌿 Hardening Off:

Prep your indoor champs for the outdoors. This 1-week process makes your plants resilient against sunlight, wind, and temperature fluctuations. You can pick any of the 3 provided methods, but consistency is key!

Hand holding a delicious Lunchbox Orange Sweet Pepper

 Pictured: Lunchbox Orange Sweet Pepper (Click for seeds)

🌱 Planting:

  1. Location: Full sun with organic compost/fertilizer-amended soil.
  2. Spacing: 1.5 – 2 feet apart.
  3. Depth: Plant deeply, leaving only some stem and leaf exposed.
  4. Labeling & Journaling: Optional, but handy for tracking growth.

🌱 Dive Deep Into Soil:

  • Quality Matters: Aim for a mix like peat moss, compost, and perlite. Standard garden soil just won't do in containers.
  • Nutrients: Many mixes lack them. Ensure your mix includes compost or organic fertilizer.
  • Recommendation: We back Vermont Compost's mixes available from Fedco. Also, try Gardener's Supply for a budget-friendly option.
  • DIY: Yes, you can craft your own mix! Find a recipe here.

Click to download a PDF of this guide.