Success with Chillies
There are yellow, green and red, but not blue.
Photo: Grøn Communikation
Originally written by Lars Lund
Edited by Louise Curly
Although chillies originate from Central and South America it’s still possible to grow them in the UK, the key is to sow them early in the year. February is the ideal month to start off chillies but they’ll need a bit of extra help to encourage them to germinate. A heated propagator will raise the temperature to around 22C and the addition of a clear plastic propagator lid or clear plastic food bag to cover the pots or trays will provide the required humidity.
Once the seedlings have two sets of leaves prick them out into individual pots and keep them somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory. When they have 5–6 sets of leaves pot up into 20–30cm pots, depending on the variety and how large they will eventually grow. Use a John Innes No2 compost which is soil-based – this will provide nutrients over a longer period than a multipurpose compost and it won’t dry out as quickly.
With extra heat, the plants can be planted earlier.
Photo: Grøn Kommunikation
Don’t feed your chilli plants too much nitrogen as this can produce lots of leafy growth at the expense of flowers and fruits. A dilute seaweed fertiliser once a week will be sufficient until the flowers appear, then switch to a tomato fertiliser once a fortnight. Water regularly so that the compost doesn’t dry out but take care not to overwater. If you notice flowers dropping off it might be because it’s too cold, there’s a lack of humidity (give them a mist spray) or they may need some fertiliser.
There’s no need to remove the early flowers and chillies are self-pollinating so they will set fruit without an extra help.
Chillies are tender perennials, so if you can protect them from frost over winter it’s possible to keep the plants for another year. Bring them indoors before the first frost. You may need to trim them so that they can fit on a windowsill – simply cut back any side-shoots and the main stem if necessary. Keep them on the dry side over winter while they’re dormant, then in March repot with fresh John Innes compost and start to water them more frequently.
Om Lars Lund
Danish horticulturist and journalist
Lars Lund has for many years engaged in the garden and greenhouse. Lars has published many books about greenhouses, and he has participated in many Danish horticultural TV shows. He is a walking garden encyclopaedia, and he has answers for most basic cultivation questions – also the more ambitious ones.