Growing chiles in cooler or cold climates isn’t as easy it is here in Los Angeles or in New Mexico. Part of our series, The Pepper Growing Season, deals with chill chiles in detail. Here’s a dashboard of tips for you northern chileheads to get your heat on:
- Select early-maturing varieties.
- Start seed indoors eight to ten weeks before the last expected frost date.
- Plant seed in a sterile, soilless mix, and keep the seed at 75 degrees, under fluorescent light ten to twelve hours a day.
- Two weeks before transplanting seedlings into the garden, cover the rows with clear plastic mulch to warm the soil.
- Before planting, harden off the seedlings by leaving them outside for two weeks or more, for increasingly long periods of time each day.
- Transplant seedlings when daytime temperatures average 70 degrees and nightime temperatures stay above 55 degrees (ideally).
- Soil pH should be 6.5; use a balanced fertilizer (5-10-5 or 10-10-10), but go easy on the nitrogen or you will have great-looking plants and no fruit.
- Cutworms can be a problem in northern gardens, so always protect seedlings with cardboard collars.
- Water during dry spells (at least 2 inches a week), especially after fruit set.