Updated: Mar 1, 2020
It may not seem like it, but January and February are the best times to sow chilli seeds. Early sowing gives the plant plenty of time to grow and the fruit to ripen by the end of the summer.
You can post at any time, keeping your 'competition' updated on your progress. So lets see who's planted, the seedlings along with bundles of chillies ripening.
What do you win? Honestly...nothing apart from kudos and bragging rights!
Stage 1 - Start your seeds off indoors - they need plenty of warmth to germinate.
• Fill a seed tray or some 10cm pots with moist seed compost and flatten down. • Sow a few seeds on top and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost. • Place in a propagator at a temperature of approx 20C (. If you don't have one available use polythene to cover your seed trays and pop them on a sunny windowsill or in a warm airing cupboard. • Germination normally takes 7-10 days, after which you can move your seedlings to a warm, sunny windowsill (or heated greenhouse). • Keep the compost evenly moist but take care not to let it get soaking wet.
Stage 2 - Re-planting
When your chilli seedlings are big enough to handle without breaking, gently transplant them from seed trays into individual pots of compost and grow them on until all risk of frost has passed. When they are large enough, you can transplant them to their final position, which is usually about May.
You can grow chillies individually, by transplanting them into 2 litre containers, or plant them in grow bags, allowing three plants per bag. Place the pots or growbags undercover in a warm greenhouse, conservatory, or polytunnel or alternatively place your containers on a window sill.
Stage 3 - How to grow chilli plants
Water your chilli plants regularly throughout the growing season and once the first fruits show feed them weekly with a tomato fertiliser. Remember to:
• Pinch out the growing tip of the first flowering shoots to promote more branching and a better harvest. • Water regularly but sparingly. It's best to keep your soil a little on the dry side because slightly stressing your chilli plants helps to produce hotter peppers.
Growing chillies indoors? Do remember to open windows and doors to provide insects access to the flowers to ensure good pollination. Alternatively, hand pollinate the chillies by moving from flower to flower, tickling the centre of each with a fine artist's paint brush.
Stage 4 - Harvest
Chillies require warm sunny days to ripen properly. With an early sowing, this shouldn't be a problem, but sowing later in the year in the UK may leave your peppers struggling as summer days begin to shorten.
Chillies are usually ready to start harvesting in about July. The more you pick, the more chillies your plant will grow. If the weather starts to cool before your crop has fully ripened, bring your plants indoors and let them ripen on a warm sunny windowsill. Harvest chillies one at a time by cutting them from the plant with secateurs. Chilli peppers grown outdoors must be harvested before the first frost.
Happy growing and we look forward to following your progress @hedge_cutting.