Well, the chillis that I sowed back in January and have been nurturing in the greenhouse have been steadily growing away; setting flower, fruiting and now ripening up nicely. Here they are the other day:
I’m quite pleased with the size of the plants and the number of fruits, considering that it’s my first year giving chillis a serious go, and that I didn’t get round to putting any of them in the chilligrow planter than I bought specially for the purpose. Next year, definitely (I have plans for reorganising the greenhouse along more sensible lines…)
Most of the fruits that have ripened so far are the standard ‘cayenne’ variety, probably the one you see in most supermarkets. They’ve either been shared around (it’s a minor irony that I love growing chilli plants for some reason, but I’m not all that keen on cooking with them, as I tend to prefer spice to heat) or have been set aside for a batch of chilli jam. There are a few small fruits on one of the habanero / scotch bonnet plants that have ripened to bright red already. I might sneak those into the chilli jam as well, just to give it a bit of a kick.
Here are a couple of close-ups on the more interesting varieties – ‘pot black’ and ‘prairie fire’ that haven’t quite ripened yet:
I’m hoping the burst of warm weather we’re having this week will help them along towards ripening at long last.
May is a pretty mad month in the greenhouse as the seedling shuffle continues apace. Last month’s sown seeds are shooting like crazy. More new seedlings need to be pricked out and potted up daily. And larger plantlets are outgrowing their starter pots and being potted on at a rate of knots. I’m loving every minute of it.
In lieu of time to describe everything in detail, here’s a quick photo gallery to convey the general impression:
What’s giving you particular joy in the greenhouse at the moment? Let me know via the comments…
Last weekend I decided the time had come to pot on this year’s successfully germinated Chilli seeds. it being around six weeks since I sowed them. Not all had germinated but I wasn’t expecting a 100% hit rate, so I wasn’t at all disappointed by the tally of 17 viable seedlings.
I’d already half-filled a sufficient number of 7cm(ish) pots with general purpose compost, soaked it and left it to warm in the greenhouse. The next job was to get the chilli seedlings from their trays to the pots. My tool of choice for that job is an old dessert spoon, which allows a good scoop of compost around the base of the seedling to be lifted in one piece. This helps to minimise damage to the incredibly delicate roots – and the even more fragile, microscopic root hairs – that are so essential to the health of the plant.
Once all 17 (7x Cayenne, 5x Prairie Fire, 3x Pot Black and 2x Habanero / Scotch Bonnet) were safely potted up, topped up with compost and watered in, they went back into the Vitopod propagator – set to a balmy 20°C to bring them within the optimal temperature range for photosynthesis – to grow on. They’ll be moved to the greenhouse in another couple of weeks (some maybe a little sooner if we need the space to germinate more seeds) but it’s a little too chilly in there overnight just yet.
They seem to be doing quite nicely back in the Vitopod: a few of them have started putting out a second pair of true leaves. When they’re big and strong enough – around 12 to 15cm tall, with five or six good leaf pairs – they’ll be re-potted again into 15cm pots. The best three (hopefully of the more interesting varieties) will then be put in the Chilligrow containers.
It’s going to be a bumper year for Capsicum, with any luck. Anyone know a good recipe for chilli dipping sauce?
Always one of my favourite moments of the growing season: the appearance of the first seedlings of the year. A small start, but so much promise of harvests to come.
Here we have germination from seven of the twelve cayenne chilli seeds that I sowed on January 26th. They’re about three days above-ground in this pic, which means they germinated in around (does sums in head…) ten days in our Vitopod heated propagator.
As you can see, I’ve taken them out of said heated unit (seven plants should be more than enough) and transferred them to a vented, un-heated propagato: just a lid on top of a standard seed tray, on our north-west-facing kitchen window-sill.
Two reasons for doing so: firstly to (hopefully) avoid these seedlings from damping off in the humid atmosphere, and secondly so I could whack up the heat in the Vitopod to 24°C in order to give the three slower-germinating varieties of chilli – pot black, prairie fire and habanero / scotch bonnet – a bit of a boost. (It worked, by the way, as there are now tiny seedlings showing in all three trays).
Once the cayenne seedlings are large enough to safely handle, I’ll prick them out and pot them up in individual small pots of compost, then pot them on again a time or two and move them to the greenhouse, before deciding on their final growing position. I suspect that the three-pot Chilligrow planter will be reserved for the more interesting varieties, depending on how they do, so these cayenne might end up in pots in the greenhouse, or wall-baskets in a sunny spot somewhere.
I’ll post more pics and updates as things develop.
I really enjoying growing chillis – the plants always look lovely with their cargoes of red-spike fruits – but to-date I’ve had mixed success. The very first year I grew any veg at all, I chucked a managed to germinate some free seed and ended with a couple of plants in a south-facing wall-basket. They did pretty well, resulting in around half a kilo of fruit. I tried them again a couple of years ago, bringing them inside to grow on the greenhouse staging. They were pretty poor, mostly failing to ripen.
This year I’m determined to up my game and produce something worthwhile. I’ve invested in a Chilligrow planter from Greenhouse Sensation which, combined with the Vitopod heated propagator that I got from them last year, I’m hoping ought to do the trick.
I’ve also done a bit of reading up on the subject of when to sow, when to pot on, etc. and the general consensus seems to be that chillis should be sown quite early in our climate, because they need a good, long growing season to help them fully mature. And so that’s what I’ve done today.
I warmed both the seed compost and the water in the propagator for a couple of days, to make sure everything was within the optimal, 18°C – 21°C temperature range before I began. I then sowed the seeds into the small, green trays shown above. I’ve been caught out in the past by sowing multiple varieties into a single, large seed tray only to find that they germinate, grow and develop at different rates. This can mean that you’re attempting to prick out and pot on one variety before the others have had chance to properly establish, which makes accidental damage to the not-yet-ready seedlings a bit more of a risk.
I filled each 6cm deep tray to within 1cm of the top with seed compost and pre-soaked it with the tepid water (to avoid disturbing the seed by watering from above). I then sowed the seed at regular intervals and covered them with a thin layer of vermiculite. All fairly standard stuff.
I’ve gone for four (or possibly five) different types of chilli this year, none of them particularly fancy or mouth-blisteringly hot on the Scoville scale. Until I’ve sorted out a basic technique and timings there’s not much point in going for something particularly outré – plenty of time to experiment in future years, once I know what I’m doing.
Here’s this year’s line-up.
Capsicum annuum ‘pot black’ – A bushy, ornamental variety with dark purple/black fruits that ripen to red. No info. on the T&M website as to Scoville rating, but Black Hungarian looks very similar and is 5,000 – 10,000 Scoville.
Capsicum annuum cayenne (‘Hot Portugal’?) – The bog-standard magazine freebie with supermarket-style red fruits. 5,000 – 30,000 Scoville.
Capsicum annuum ‘prairie fire’ – Another bush variety that’s meant to be a prolific fruiter. c. 70,000 Scoville.
Capsicum chinense ‘Hotscotch’ – Technically a seed-mix of C. chinense ‘Habanero’ and C. chinense ‘Scotch bonnet’ so I’m not entirely sure what will come up (if anything – it’s an open seed packet b.b. 2016 so might not do so well). 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville.
I’ve already got my eye on some more interesting and/or challenging varieties that I’ve spotted from the likes of www.pepperseeds.eu and www.sowchillies.co.uk, and I’d like to try my hand at C. annuum poblano as well, but as I say: walk first, jog a bit in years to come.
I’ll be potting any successful seedlings on to small- and then medium-sized pots before selecting the three strongest candidates for the Chilligrow. That will be positioned at the business end of our new 8’x10′ greenhouse, at least 9′ away from the door. (Any particularly strong also-ran plants might be grown on in decent-sized pots or tubs, or maybe added to wall-baskets, or maybe just given away to friends and allotment neighbours. We’ll see what happens, rather than count any chickens at this stage.)
I’ll be reading up on watering and feeding regimes when the time comes and trying to get those as spot-on as I can. If anyone has any advice on any of the above, please do post notes and/or links via the Comments.
I hope to be able to bring you future updates, pics and all, as the crop progresses. (Memo to self: chilli jam / dipping sauce recipes will hopefully need to be researched as well…)