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Let’s talk about…How To Grow Chillies

This article describes How to Grow Chillies, the best methods, tools & techniques as well as when and how to harvest Chillies.

Chillies provide a delicious kick to many recipes and have become part of many of our diets. Growing chillies is often associated with parts of Africa and Asia, but chillies can be grown well in all climes, provided they kept warm.

Growing them can start as early as January or February as long as they are nurtured indoors until frosts and cold weather has passed (usually by March although we never know what to expect!).

How to Grow Chillies

Photo taken by Leonora Enking

How to Grow Chillies: What do you need to know about growing conditions?

Chillies start their lives indoors provided you have room to store them as they need to be kept warm in their early days. After all, they originate from a tropical environment! Thankfully, we have fairly warm summers so once they have become established indoors, you can take them out later in the year where they will hopefully produce an excellent crop. As long as they are left in a minimum temperature of 10°c and they get good sunlight they should grow well. By may, the weather should have warmed enough for the plants to be moved outside.

How to Grow Chillies: Useful Tools and Equipment

When growing chillies, there are a few things you might need to help you along the way.

  1. Canes and String: As with many home grown fruits and vegetables, they often need something to grow ‘up’ to stop them from flopping in their early stages and again later when they become heavy with crop. Guide them up a cane, tying the plants to it loosely if need be to prevent it falling over.
  2. Cling Film: Chillies need to be warm to germinate, and so it is important that the pots are covered with cling film or a sheet of glass in the early days to keep them warm enough.
  3. Troughs: Due to their tropical origins it is advisable to rear them in a greenhouse once they have matured enough to be moved outside. Grow them in troughs to make the most of your space.
  4. Capillary Matting: Watering from underneath will encourage roots to grow stronger.

How to Grow Chillies: What about useful tips and techniques?

  • When starting off your chillies indoors, fill seeding trays with compost, water and allow the water to drain through, and sow your seeds around one inch apart, covering the trays loosely with cling film or glass to retain moisture and heat.
  • Germination usually takes 7-10 days but it can be as long as four to six weeks for the Habanero variety weeks. Placing the tray on an electric blanket or using a heated propagator can speed this up.
  • Place your trays somewhere warm and bright such as a windowsill or in the conservatory if you have one. When the seedlings are big enough for you to handle (at least two inches in height and when they have their second set of leaves) move them to their own individual three-inch (eight centimetre) pots between winter and the beginning of spring.
  • When plants are around six inches (15cm) in height, move them again to 12cm pots. Alternatively, you can have three plants in one 30cm pot. These pots should be filled with compost up to approximately 1cm from the top.
  • When the flowers begin to appear, it is useful if you hand pollinate by dabbing a cotton bud or a fine paintbrush into each flower, especially if you are growing them indoors.
  • If you choose to move them into your vegetable patch, gradually introduce them to the conditions over one week, planting them into fertile, well-drained soil. In most of England, this is not recommended.

How to Grow Chillies: Harvesting your Chillies

  • When the first chillies appear, snip them off using secateurs while they are still green. This will encourage fruiting all season right through from July to October.
  • Allow future chillies to develop to red if you prefer for a better flavour.
  • If your chillies are struggling to ripen due to bad weather or by not getting enough sunlight, bring them inside and put them on a windowsill to keep warm and in sufficient light.

How to Grow Chillies: Did You Know

  • Feeding weekly with tomato feed encourages better growth and most experts recommend it.
  • Pinching out the tip of flowering shoots promotes branching which will increase the number of chillies your plants may produce.
  • Chillies can fall victim to aphids, so check leaves daily. If need be, treat your plants.
  • Do not allow soil to become waterlogged, erring a little on the dry side where you can. By stressing your plants ever so slightly, it is thought this can produce hotter peppers.
  • A well-cared-for chilli plant can last four to five years before it should be retired.
  • Chillies can be dried or frozen and stored so you can use them all year round.

Credits: Featured image taken by Alpha