You’ve purchased your Carolina Reaper ® pepper seeds or one of PuckerButtPepperCo’s other exceptionally hot pepper seeds, now it’s time to get growing. To help you on your growing journey, our very own Smokin’ Ed Currie and his fellow Pepper gurus from around the world created this Pepper Growing Guide. With these Step-by-Step instructions and tried and true techniques, you can go forth and grow your own hot pepper plants like a pro.
Another equally important element in farming is Humor; so we encourage you to follow these steps closely and to laugh…a lot, along the way. If you have any questions, as you dig into the soil and start getting your hands dirty, feel free to contact us and our pepper gurus will help any way we can.
So, with that said here is the complete Step-By-Step Pepper Plant Growing Guide, which starts with a few things you’ll do Before planting.
PuckerButt Pepper Company Seed Starting and Plan Care Steps:
- It is important that every seed in your PuckerButtPepper Co seed packet be washed, dried, and ready to be planted.
- If you plan to wait months/ years - Keep seeds in a cool, dark and dry place.
If you plan on growing your seeds right away, continue on to the following steps on planting. Again, you can proceed confidently knowing that Ed Currie, the creator of the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper ®. and the man behind our thriving hot pepper farm of over 100,000 plants in South Carolina is behind these steps and techniques.
As with many good things in life preparation is key. Your seeds will need a few days of prep work and a little tea time before diving into the soil.
- Refrigerate seeds for 3 days before planting. This can mimic winter conditions and once seeds are brought back to room temperature they may respond as if exposed to spring conditions.
- Soak seeds in room temperature, plain, black tea for about 30 minutes to soften seed shells.
SOIL & PLANTING:
The right soil, container and seed depth are key during the soil and planting phase. You may assume the deeper the better but in the case of pepper seeds the real success is located close to the surface.
- Organic Potting Soil Blend:
These mixes provide adequate water holding and supply some nutrients.
Lightweight soil is usually preferred.
You can purchase bags of this soil at most gardening stores. The type will depend of your budget and dedication. Most potting soil varieties work just fine.
- Simple blend:
Add one gallon of moist, coarse sphagnum peat moss, followed by one gallon of coarse sand, perlite, or vermiculite, and black cow manure. Adjust the texture of the medium to create a loose, well-drained mixture. Sand feels gritty and clay feels sticky. If the potting soil feels too sandy, more peat moss should be added.
- Sow seeds approximately 1/8” deep in sterile, soil-less planting mix.
- Sow in clean containers allowing adequate drainage (i.e., holes on bottom of container).
- Cover seeds with a light dusting of soil.
- It is preferable not to load it with additional water.
- Dampen soil mix from the start and continue to keep moist, but not so much where it is completely soaked the majority of of the time.
- Never let the soil completely dry out.
- Plant seed no more than 1/8 inch below the soil (1/8 inch is about the size of the seed itself)
- Seeds may take 4 – 6 weeks to germinate. If planted too deep, germination time can increase or cause loss of seeds.
- Cover with a light dusting of soil or vermiculite.
- Lightly spray the covering with water.
- If needed, bring soil temperature up to 80-85 degrees to speed up germination. This can best be achieved indoors using a heat mat under the tray.
- We do NOT suggest using paper towel or any other methods.
- Seedlings- It is preferable not to load it with additional nutrients; as young seedlings do not need a lot of food in early stages and it can actually hinder the process. Established Plants are those with at least 3 Sets of Leaves.
- Fish Emulsion- To use fish emulsion, you'll first need to dilute it. Add just a 1/2 ounce of fish emulsion to 1 gallon of water. Then water the plants using that fish water. Yum...the plants find fish water delicious.
- Flora Bloom- Liquid Concentrated Nutrient, stimulates flower and fruit development by providing phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulfur, which are essential for a comprehensive plant diet. It's all about stimulation here.
- 10 10 10 Fertilizer- The numbers are percentages and the component parts are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in that order. So 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10 percent each of these three main nutrients.
- Black Kow Manure- An organic soil amendment for gardens. Add this to the soil to promote healthy plant growth. It has a 0.5-0.5-0.5 fertilizer analysis and provides nutrients for your plants.
- Cal-Mag- Is a plant supplement designed to correct the inherent problem of calcium, magnesium and iron mineral deficiencies found in most soil fertilizers and some hydroponic nutrient formulas.
*IMPORTANT. Too much of too many good things all at once is not a good thing. Do not use all of these at the same time.*
If you haven't already started feeling like a mad scientist, this is where it should start setting in. Just keep following Ed's mad science steps, you've got this.
Once your seedlings are planted and fertilized, this is where the rest of the chemistry of growing begins. The following elements are a beautiful balancing act that takes time and attentiveness. It’s a labor of love to find and create your plants perfect, Goldilocks growing conditions. (not too wet, not too dry, not too cold, not too hot, not too sunny, not too shady, not too crowded.…just right)
Just like a bad conversation, you can’t break free from soon enough- you don’t want your soil to be too dry or to be a wet blanket at the growing party. Here’s steps on how to water your soil to perfection.
- Dampen soil mix from the start and continue to keep moist, but not so much where it is completely soaked the majority of the time.
- Never let the soil completely dry out. Soil should be moist, but not extremely wet during the germination attempt.
- Soil that is too wet can result in fungal issues such as damping off or rotting of seeds.
- Place a humidity dome or plastic over the seedlings/trays to retain moisture.
- It is important to keep soil damp, but not overly wet to avoid seeds from rotting.
- We do NOT suggest using the paper or any other method.
There are so many funny things we could've said at this stage in the game but why steal all the thunder? We want you to use your own imagination and make yourself laugh a little here too.
Pepper plants, like most southerners, struggle and begin to decline in cold temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm temperatures are equally as important during the seed germination process. These growing temperatures and steps will help your pepper seeds thrive.
- Place trays/containers on a heat mat or use another means to achieve soil temperatures of 80-85 degrees F to get best germination rates.
- Seeds will still germinate with lower temperatures. BUT time to sprout may be dramatically lengthened.
- We highly recommend confirming soil temperature with two independent devices for accuracy.
- Heat mat thermostats can go bad.
- If you have the seedling tray in the window, be sure they are not getting too hot. Soil temps can rise very fast in full sunlight.
- Measuring with a soil thermometer is a good way to ensure they are staying in the optimal range.
- If the soil gets too hot, seeds can get ‘cooked’ and become non-viable.
Remember, time is patient, time is kind. So, at this phase in the game, be patient with your pepper plants and give them time to grow. The time needed for intense peppers like Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper ® can vary and may take up to a few weeks.
- Germination time for Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper®, as well as most other Capsicum Chinese type peppers can vary substantially.
- We have experienced germination times as little as seven days, up to six weeks.
- Please be patient as this species of pepper generally takes longer to germinate than common Capsicum annuum peppers like chili peppers, bell pepper and jalapeños.
PLACEMENT & LIGHTING:
Placement is everything and your plants; just like humans need their space. Be sure to provide plenty of space for your plants to grow.
- Space 4′ apart. Plants can grow to 4′ wide x 6′ tall.
- We’ve found that a window sill, even a sun porch, can provide enough light to grow strong, healthy, compact starts. If you want some form of artificial lighting– we especially favor the T5 fluorescent for the quality of their light, the simplicity in using them and relative low expense to purchase and operate. Once seedling emerge keep a close eye on new sprouts and move the lights up as they progress. We give our seeds a minimum of 12 hours of light a day.
- Fully Established Plants- Need full sun after becoming acclimated to the sun. Full sun would be sun light for the entire day (10 - 12 Hours).
Just like all big moments in life, your new peppers will need time to acclimate to their environment and will need thoughtful monitoring and adjustments to find what works best for them to grow and thrive to their fullest potential.
- Slowly acclimate plants to full sunlight, wind and other weather conditions of their final destination.
- Expose your new plants to full sun in short time increments, slowly increasing while monitoring closely.
- Return them to shade or other protection if under stress, wait for recovery, then start exposing again. Stress can be seen in the leaves (such as browning or shedding or if you see it smoking cigarettes back to back)
- Some climates may require a shade cloth, depending on your location (USA Zone 8, 9, 10 & 11 - See map below). You can usually judge this by the leaves- If you are watering an adequate amount and the leaves are wilting or turning yellow. They may be getting a harsh exposure to the sun light for too long and they will not thrive.
Once you find your plants optimal growing condition and location, they will begin to thrive more with each day. At this point in the growing process your plants are established and stable and it’s just a matter of time before your plants fully bloom with incredibly beautiful hot peppers of your own.
Congratulations! You did it! You are officially growing peppers like a PuckerButt Pepper Company Pro.