People ask why don’t I grow green chiles from southern New Mexico or red chiles from northern New Mexico. If I did that, I would need an acre as we eat chile all the time. New Mexicans call their hot peppers chile, not chili, (which refers to the dish chili) while most of the US call them chilies but not here in New Mexico! Confused? I was-when I first move here! The heat of New Mexican peppers can vary drastically so I prefer to buy them already peeled and rated from mild to hot in the fall. (I’m a wuss-I like mild). So I’ve spent some time the last few years growing other less hot, less known pepper varieties and have found some real winners-if you don’t like hot. Besides I want room in my garden to grow other things as well.
Normally I grow 4 varieties of peppers-NONE are hot—Jimmy Nardello, Lava Red (a variety of Corno di Toro), Habanada, which is sweet, (NOT Habanero which is very hot), and Poblano (which is mildly hot-used for chiles rellenos (dried it is called Ancho pepper). I don’t like store bought bell peppers as there are so many better sweet varieties out there.You just need to grow them!
This year, in 2023, in addition to growing my staple of peppers above, I’m gonna grow some new varieties to me. They include Piquillo Lodosa Basque pepper (left pic-courtesy of Secret Seed Cartel), ‘Ancient Sweet’, Calabrian Caviar pepper (I got all from Secret Seed Cartel). None of these are too hot either but look interesting. Secret Seed Cartel has other peppers from all over the world.
In addition, I just bought some hard to find seeds for Chilhuacle Negro Hot Pepper, an ancient chile from Oaxaca Mexico area. I’m getting those seeds from Terroir Seeds. Suppose to be the original pepper seed for mole negro dish. Hope it’s not too hot!
So when do I start peppers?
-End of March or first week of April, I plant the seeds inside in germination trays, under lights, and on a heat mat.
Around April 15, I transplant them out of their germination trays-maybe 2 weeks (after they get their first true leaves-pic left) and into 4 inch pots where they will still stay inside, under lights till I plant them out in the garden the last week of May through the first week of June. And if they do outgrow the 4 inch pot, transplant them up to a bigger pot before transplanting outside.
-Around May 25-June 1-When I transplant them outside, I put them in walls of waters (WOW) for a week or two to keep them safe if we get one of those cold nites again. But don’t leave them in the wall of waters too long (pull the WOW’s off) as you also don’t want to fry them either and we go from cold to hot quickly here in Santa Fe although lately the past few years, it has been getting hotter sooner. So it is important to really watch the weather to see when it will change to take off the WOWs.
-Why plant outside so late? Because if you plant them earlier outside, the nights are cold and the peppers could stall out and stop growing-FOREVER! Then you would have to start over and they take 10-12 weeks to get big enough to plant out which is not enough time with our short season.
-Most people don’t start the seeds early enough here. Timing is everything.
And lastly, if you don’t want to bother with growing your own pepper seeds, I suggest you go over to Agua Fria Nursery, here in Santa Fe which has many different varieties of pepper transplants starts later (not now). There may be other nurseries here that sell pepper plants but I bet AFN sells more varieties.
Would you mind sharing your indoor germination setup? I would like to get grow lights but feel overwhelmed with the options.
Here is a link to Terroirseeds: Copy and make a pdf of it for yourself. That way you can print it if you want to ahve a hard copy.
They have a great post (build your own seed starting station) with pics of what they did. They wouldn’t let me make a pdf of their seed starting station to give out but gave me permission link it to their site-I have the same info on my blog but it is a little scattered and this is really concise-it is what I did for my light table.