What to Look for in Pepper Soil
To start off, pick the right product for your purposes. If you’re just starting your pepper seeds, select a “seed-starting soil mix” that will give your chile seedlings the nutrients they need to turn into little plants. Otherwise, if they have surpassed this stage, choose a “potting soil” that meets the criteria below.
Growing your own hot peppers means that you need to provide a soil or soil-free mixture that has the ingredients that are light and allow for air flow. Ingredients that encourage this flow include vermiculite, perlite, sphagnum peat moss (peat) and sand (builder’s sand). A warning about peat moss: make sure that your soil or soil-free mixture is not composed primarily of peat because this organic material is very acidic and is known to effect the growth rate of peppers.
Your mixture must also meet the nutritional needs of your chile pepper plants. Look for organic ingredients, which include composted pine bark, chicken manure, alfalfa, coir and kenaf. Alternately, non-organic mixtures should contain a commercial fertilizer to feed your chillies.
With a combination of the above ingredients in the mixture that you choose, growing your chile peppers will become much more successful. As a side note: many seed-starting mixes that are labeled for orchids contain many of these essential ingredients and are sufficient for germinating and raising your chillies.
Natural Beginnings Seed-Starting Mix
Pepper Soil No-No’s
Watch for mixtures that have large chunks of materials because these substances will prevent the airflow that is so crucial to pepper plants. Hold the soil in your hand and make sure that it feels light.
Also, if you open your soil bag and find insects do not put your pepper seeds or hot chillie seedlings in this soil. The adult bugs will eat the nutrients and your growing plants before they have time to grow and chances are that these mature bugs had time to lay eggs in the soil, which will become a nightmare to your seedlings once they hatch.
Lastly, don’t use an older mixture (older than a year) because the fertilizer or other nutritional elements may not be as effective in feeding your growing pepper plants. Buy a fresh bag to give your chillies a healthy start.
Growing Hot Peppers with Organic Mixes
Organic seed-starting soil mixes that are organic do not include pesticides, wetting agents or other chemicals that are synthetic. The absence of this non-natural ingredients gives you the ability to grow certified organic peppers and ensure that your hot chillies are as healthy as possible.
Look at the seed-starting or potting mixture bag to ensure that it says “organic” on it because it if doesn’t, then you can safely assume that it is not. If you purchase your soil from a distributor, check if they will prepare an organic mixture for you.