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Grow Your Own Chilli Peppers

Find out how to grow your own chilli peppers

Grow Your Own Chilli Peppers

grow your own | fruits

There are more than 200 known varieties of chilli pepper that the vast majority of people will never have the joy of tasting. Supermarkets and even speciality shops sell only a few common varieties, so the best way to discover new flavours is to grow your own chilli peppers.

Grow your own chilli peppers

Chilli peppers are commercially grown in the hot climates of Asia and South America, so the suburban British garden is never going to offer the ideal growing conditions. However, as long as the plants are started off indoors or in a greenhouse, a good crop can still be obtained. The chilli plants should never be exposed to temperatures of less than around 12-13 degrees Celcius, so in some locations it will be necessary to keep the plants indoors all summer.

Chilli Seeds and Seedlings

Buy chilli seeds to grow yourself

Chilli seeds need heat and moisture to germinate. The easiest way to achieve this is to place the seeds between two sheets of damp kitchen towel and place it somewhere warm sealed inside a plastic container. Do this in February in the UK.

In a few days the seeds will start to swell, and some of them will sprout. The seeds will now be ready to plant. Place them a few inches apart in a seed tray filled with multi-purpose compost mixed with a little vermiculite to retain water and prevent the compost drying out too quickly. Sprinkle a thin layer of compost over the seeds and spray water over them.

Chilli plant seedling

The seed tray will need to be kept at at least 20 degrees Celcius (70 degrees Farenheit), and sprayed every few days with water to prevent the compost drying out. Ideally the tray should be heated from below. Within 1-6 weeks depending on the variety of chilli seeds planted, seedlings will hopefully begin to poke their way out of the compost and begin growing onwards and upwards. When the first seedling appears, move the seed tray to a warm sunny location.

When the seedlings have grown two sets of leaves, they are ready to be transferred into individual 7-10cm diameter pots. The potting medium should ideally be a mixture of 80% multi-purpose compost, 10% vermiculite, and 10% ,perlite (to aid drainage and prevent the roots from rotting). Be very careful to not damage the roots when transplanting the seedlings.

Chilli plants growing well and ready to be potted on

The more sunlight a chilli pepper plant gets at this stage, the faster and larger it will grow so ensure that you put the plants somewhere with as much daylight as possible. In around a month, the chilli plants will have grown a good root system in the small pot and be ready to be potted on again to the final 20-30cm diameter pot with a few centimeter deep layer of gravel at the bottom to aid drainage. The arrival of this time will be obvious as the roots will start to grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the current pots.

Pinch out the growing tips now and then to promote a bushy rather than tall skinny plant.

By now it will be spring (mid-May) and the days will be getting longer and warmer. Start to harden the plants off by putting them outside for a few hours a day on dry sunny days. Being exposed to the wind at this stage will help to strengthen the plants and thicken their stems. When there is absolutely no chance of frost, the plants can be left outside all of the time - obviously in the sunniest, warmest, most sheltered spot that you have to maximise your crop.

When the chilli plant begins to flower it is time to start feeding it

It is not necessary to start feeding the chilli plants until they start to flower. (If you feed them before this, they will just grow a lot of foliage.) After flowering begins, start to feed the plants with doubly diluted liquid tomato feed every time you water them.

The plants should be outside when they are flowering since they need to be pollinated by bees if they are to fruit (though it is actually possible to pollinate them yourself using a cotton wool bud or small artists paintbrush to move pollen from flower to flower if you intend to keep the plant inside. This hand pollination must be done between noon and around 3pm).

Growing your own chilli plants

If everything up to now has been successful, then the leaves of the flowers will soon start to turn brown and fall off. The central green part of the flower will begin to swell. This pod is the start of what will finish up as a chilli pepper fruit. Keep on watering and feeding the plant, keep it warm and in the sunshine and it will keep giving fruit throughout the summer.

Chilli plant ready to be harvested
When a pepper goes green (or reaches the colour you want it to be), pick it from the plant. Any unripe peppers can be ripened on a wire rack or hanging on thread in the sun.

Click here to read how to dry chilli peppers so that you can preserve them and use them all year around.

In addition to livening up your food, order flowers online and bring color to the rest of your home.

Article Published: 13:33, 16th Mar 2012

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