I don’t tend to grow Chillies here at My Tiny Plot. Firstly, because I don’t have a greenhouse and secondly because I’m not a huge fan of spicy food. So I was very happy when the Chilli King offered to write a short post on how to grow Chillies. And here it is:
Growing Chilli Peppers is easier than most people think. Even in the relatively cool UK climate Chillies can be easily grown providing all the spice you need to get you through the cold winters!
There are literally thousands of varieties of Chilli plants out there to choose from. Below is a small selection of varieties you’ll find in most shops that sell seed or plants.
The main image above is a Jalapeno – A thick-walled pepper of medium heat often used as a pizza topping. Great pickled.
Above is a Cayenne Pepper – Long, thin and red. Medium heat. Best eaten either fresh or dried and crushed into flakes.
This is a Habanero/Scotch Bonnet Pepper – These are intensely hot but also flavorsome Peppers used a lot in Caribbean cuisine. Best eaten fresh or made into hot sauces.
Naga/Bhut Jolokia – Thin and slightly shriveled these are amongst the hottest chillies in the world. User very sparingly in cooking!
Caring For Chilli Plants
If you can then keep them in a greenhouse then do so (they’ll love the heat) however Chilli plants will do equally well outside in a sunny spot. Treat them much as you would a Tomato plant. They like heat and lots of light but are easily damaged by cold spells of weather.
Now we are in June it is probably too late to start off your Chillies from seed. If you haven’t already planted some (ideally you should plant your seeds indoors in March) then buying small plants from the garden centre is your best option. Their increasing popularity over recent years has meant that most garden centres now stock many varieties, both seed and plants.
Chilli plants prefer well-draining soil as they don’t like having their feet wet so always water from the top. I water once every other day on average, waiting until the soil is visibly dry on the surface before watering. I tend to use regular potting compost mixed with a couple of handfuls of Vermiculite that helps to retain nutrients and some (but not too much) moisture around the roots
So long as they get lots of light they should grow fairly quickly. Lack of light can cause leggy plants which may mean they need pinching out to encourage sideways growth. When they start to flower feed them twice a week with half-strength Tomato feed. Pollination shouldn’t be a problem if your plants are outside however if growing indoors you may find flowers simply dying and dropping off caused by the lack of insects pollinating the flowers. To combat this you can easily pollinate by hand by very gently rubbing your little finger inside all the flowers on each plant every couple of days.
All varieties of Chilli can be picked and eaten at any stage of growth. Most varieties tend to ripen from green through brown to red with the flavour becoming sweeter the nearer to red they are. As with Tomato plants, picking fruit will encourage the plants to produce more.
Another common misconception about Chillies is that they are annuals. In-fact most varieties can be successfully over-wintered by pruning right back and moving inside in mid Autumn. While not every plant will make it through the Winter, those that do will mean you get a good head start on the next year. From my experience Chilli plants tend to produce heavier yields in their second or even third years.
James runs The Chilli King, a site dedicated to growing chillies. For a more in depth article, be sure to read his piece on growing Chilli plants.
If anyone out there has specialist knowledge in one particular type of vegetable or fruit and would like to guest post, then drop me a line.