Of all the vegetables you might consider growing in your garden or even indoors, chillies can rank among the most difficult. They begin life as transplants and then rely on warm conditions to grow to their fullest potential. The difficulties are easy to spot, but that made it all the more important for us to put together a guide of sorts for anyone with interest in growing their own. Read on to discover our best tips for any budding home chilli grower.
1. Decide on the Right Variety
Before the growth phase commences, you need to put in the time and effort to work out which of the available chilli varieties will suit you best. There are thousands of different chillies around the world, so it is not unreasonable to think that there will be a type that best suits your climate and growing conditions. You can take a number of steps to narrow down that wide selection, starting with whether you want to go with chillies or sweet peppers. From there, consider the conditions alongside the end product – you want flavour and usefulness in the kitchen alongside any of your personal requirements.
2. Think About a Choice between Ground and Pots
Given the sheer number of varieties out there, it should come as no surprise to see that some plants prefer to grow in the ground, while others will perform better in pots. The preferences of the plant are not the only consideration either – you’ll also need to consider the state of your garden, the weather you expect during the growth phase and plenty of additional factors. The main consideration is that chillies grown in pots are cut off from some natural resources, and so they’ll need to be watered and fertilised more often.
3. Remember to account for a Long Growth Period
You might be accustomed to growing all sorts of fruits, vegetables and herbs. However, the chances are that chillies will take longer than anything that you have planted previously to ripen. Take this into account and start earlier in the year than you ordinarily might. If you can sow the seeds towards the end of winter or the start of spring, you give yourself the best chance of success.
4. Don’t Go Deep
As you’ll know by now, different seeds have their ideas of how far they should go underground. Chillies are typically small, and so you do not want to go much further than 6 mm under the soil. Any deeper than this and you run the risk that your chillies will not be able to break out of the ground without assistance, and that hurts their growth.
5. Chillies Require Lots of Light as Soon as Seedlings Appear
Plants can be temperamental if they do not receive all the light they need, and you’ll quickly come to find that chillies and peppers are among the most demanding of all. Fortunately, while they prefer natural light, they can make do with correctly designed artificial light too. That’s handy for anyone that likes to start off their growing period inside the house. The results of correct amounts of light are easy to see – plants that do not get enough will be thin and brittle, while those that get all the light they need will be encouraged to grow into a decent bush.
6. Set the Heat to High
Regardless of where you’re reading this feature from, you can’t change nature, and there is no getting away from the fact that chillies naturally grow in tropical climates. Unless you’re far luckier than us, the chances are you don’t live in a tropical climate, so you’ll need to make adjustments to encourage the best possible growth in the plant. In the early stages, the heat demand is so high that you’ll likely have no choice but to provide artificial warmth in a grow tent or room. From there, and as it warms up outside, you’ll want to transfer your plants to an outdoor tunnel or greenhouse to keep them as warm as possible.
7. Keep Them Well Fed
Both chillies and peppers are hungry plants. Much as with heat and light, it is unlikely that they will get everything that they need naturally, especially if you decide to grow them in pots. Even if you decide to grow them in soil outside, you’d need to be lucky for the soil to be as nutritious as it needs to be. That means that even before you transfer your plants, you should get to work on fertilisation to ensure all necessary nutrients are present in the plant. The rate at which these nutrients are absorbed means that you’ll need to stay on top of at least a weekly feeding schedule.
8. Irrigation Matters
Considering how much chillies and peppers like the warmth, they demand a relatively large amount of water. Indeed, if the weather is as warm as it needs to be, you’ll find yourself watering on a daily basis. Pay close attention to younger plants, as they are unlikely to recover if they become dehydrated early on.
9. Aphids are the Primary Predator
Bugs love any kind of plant, but there is some good news for chillies in amongst the challenges. The most common bugs on these types of plants are aphids. They are usually easy enough to remove, even without taking drastic steps with pesticides. Indeed, even the standard watering process can often be sufficient to get rid of any that have decided to stick around.
10. Opt for Regular Harvests
Chilli plants might be difficult to grow and maintain, but they are not out to make your life difficult. Indeed, once the time comes for harvest, they’ll produce as much as you want. The more often you harvest the chillies from the plant, the more it will produce. Aim to collect your rewards as soon as they ripen to give the plant plenty of time to produce more.