Chilies are similar to sweet peppers except they are hot. They are in the same family as tomatoes, making them a warm season plant. In the south, the plants can be sown from seed outdoors. Farther north, it's best to start the seeds indoors or purchase plants ready to go into the ground in late spring or early summer. There are many varieties of chilies, from mild to very hot. The peppers can be frozen if you can't use your entire harvest at once.
Place three pepper seeds in each peat pot and cover slightly with compost. Place the pots in a tray with enough water to soak into the pots. Spray the tops of the peat pots to moisten the seeds. Start the germination process in March or April, depending on the species.
Place the tray in a warm area, such on top of the refrigerator or on an electric blanket. The temperature the seeds should be kept will depend on the species, but 70 degrees is about average.
Keep the peat pots evenly moist by placing small amounts of water in the tray every other day and spraying the tops. Germination can take from a week to six weeks depending on the variety of pepper.
Once the seeds germinate, place them in a sunny windowsill or under grow lights. Keep the soil moist and thin out each peat pot to the strongest plant. Plant outside when the night temperatures reach an average of 60 to 70 degrees and daytime temperatures are between 70 and 80. If the plants outgrow the peat pots before they can be planted outside, plant the peat pots in a larger flower pot with drain holes, using potting soil.
Prepare the soil in the garden by taking off the top layer of weeds and grass. Add 2 inches of compost to the top of the remaining soil and turn it over, working it into the soil well.
Use a garden trowel to create holes the size of the peat pots and place the entire pot into the soil. The plants should be spaced 2 feet apart to leave room for sufficient air flow. Place the peat pots in the holes and tamp the soil down around them.
Water the chili plants two to three times per week depending on whether it rained that week. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
Use a liquid vegetable plant food once a month when the plants start to bloom. Follow manufacturer's directions on amount to apply.
Harvest the peppers when they are the color they should be. Most peppers will start out green and turn yellow, orange, red or purple, depending on the species. Don't leave them on the plants too long or they will lose flavor and wrinkle.