Why chillies are the first seeds that Monty Don sows every single year

Get your garden ready for the new year with Monty Don's chilli seed tips

Gardener Monty Don pictured at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It might be cold outside, but Monty Don's chilli seed tips are a surefire way to heat things up – on the gardening front, that is.

It doesn't matter if you're already a pro when it comes to sussing out how to grow chillis in pots or a complete newbie to the world of edimentals; these spicy little fruits (because, yes, they are fruits) are a fun grow your own project for even the very greenest of gardeners.

Even better? With Monty hailing them as one of the best plants to sow in January, they're the perfect way to get back into the (garden) swing of it – especially as they give you something to look forward to harvesting later in the year.

Gardener Monty Don pictured at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chilli seeds need plenty of light, heat and, above all else, time to truly thrive, Monty writes in his popular gardening blog.

As such, the gardening guru insists that you will want to sow chilli seeds indoors from late winter to mid-spring – the earlier the better, in fact, as chilli plants enjoy a longer growing season. 

'Chillies are always the first seeds that I sow in the new year,' he says simply.

Monty Don's chilli seed tips

While the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) suggests that you sow your chilli seeds in February, Monty Don's chilli seed tips begin with the advice to go even earlier: January, he says, is the best time to get sowing.

'They can be slow to germinate and certainly need some heat, either on a heated bench or on a  windowsill above a radiator,' he writes. 

'Because of this, I tend to sow them in seed trays rather than plugs and then transplant them to plugs as soon as the seedlings develop true leaves, potting them on again in March and then to their final terracotta pots in May.'

chilli 'Basket of Fire' F1

(Image credit: Crocus)

The great thing about growing chillies is that you're guaranteed an attractive, compact and decorative edimental, particularly if you opt for a variety like the Chilli 'Basket of Fire' F1 from Crocus seen above.

Keen to get started? We don't blame you; Monty Don's chilli seed tips certainly make this sound a fun and easy gardening project – something which other experts can attest to.

'Planting chillies early in the year allows for a head start, ensuring robust seedlings are ready for transplanting when the weather is more favourable,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries

'Chillies are also warm-weather plants that thrive in heat. By starting them indoors or in a greenhouse early in the year, gardeners can provide the optimal temperature for germination and early growth, even before the outdoor conditions are consistently warm.'

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

Award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore, who has just been named ambassador for the National Allotment Society, agrees, noting that 'chillies are a fab first seed to sow this year'. 

'I find the quicker I sow and plant these crops the longer they have in the summer to ripen - leading to better flavour,' she says. 

'Due to their slow growth speed, unlike tomatoes, I also find if you sow them early indoors they don't outstay their welcome on the bedroom window ledge if late frosts are about.'

Zoe Claymore - headshot
Zoe Claymore

Zoe Claymore is a multi award-winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity for her private and commercial clients.

Adding that there's no need to sow a lot more seeds than necessary, as most seeds will germinate, Morris advises that you cover your chilli seeds with a fine layer of vermiculite and water carefully.

Monty Don's chilli seed tips, meanwhile, go on to suggest that you feed your seeds weekly with a high-nitrogen fertiliser. 

'I use home-made liquid nettle feed until the first flower buds start to appear in June and then switch to a high potash feed (liquid seaweed or homemade comfrey feed are both ideal) to stimulate as many flowers and subsequent fruits as possible on what by now should be a large plant,' he writes.

A close-up of a hand planting chilli seeds in a pot of soil

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The last, but by no means least important, of Monty Don's chilli seed tips? Remember that, much like homegrown lemon trees, these are thirsty plants... but they really don't like to get their feet wet.

'Chillies need plenty of water but hate being waterlogged, so use a free-draining compost and never to water them after 5pm to avoid the risk of them sitting overnight in soggy compost,' he says simply.

On that note, we're off to make our dreams of growing our own chillies a reality. And, sure, it's winter right now, but come the summer, you'll find us chowing down on our own homegrown sizzlers... with a glass of water close at hand, of course.

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.