How to Grow Chillies from Seeds
Chillies can be grown in less than sub-tropical climates such as Northern Britain (Honest!). They are robust and hardy and can reasonably tolerate water and drought. They even provide bodyguard services for many other plants, especially your tomato crop. You could say they are the proverbial tough guys, and it takes tough guys to eat the truly spicy varieties. It seems strange they are so over-looked as a useful partner to the planting scheme.
Cold climate chillies are well worth the effort and usually come back stronger the next year. They encourage bees and discourage many bugs that love your other veggie so spread your chillies sporadically around your planting and pot space to see how well they go. Once established they are pretty low maintenance but the yield you can reap, with so many varieties available these days, can be as stunningly beautiful as spicy and delicious. They are one the healthiest thing for your general health so find the inner chilli lover in you and give it a try.
They can always be started off indoor of course, during the long drab days of winter, and don’t need much to get going.
1. Fill a well composted multi-cell seed tray. Multipurpose will do fine. Firm it down and moisten. Place a seed shallowly in each cell and pat down with an extra touch of multi-purpose or vermiculite also works well.
2. Give the whole tray a gentle water using a very fine rose then cover with cling film and store somewhere warm and quiet like your favourite corner of the airing cupboard. Be particular about the soil being only moist not sodden.
3 With the first signs of life at around 2 to 4 weeks, transfer the tray to a warm bright corner of the house but not yet in full sunlight. For cold climate winter seeding a window sill by a radiator would be the go. Water the tray from below to allow for roots to develop downwards. Capillary matting works best for this. Check daily your soil is staying moist at the surface.
4. Things start picking up when the second set of leaves finally sprout so you can now transplant them into 7cm pots prepared with moist compost. A weekly dose of liquid tomato feed will do the trick.
5. Once they have reached about 12-15cm it’s time to upgrade to 12cm pots. You can put 3 plants into a 30cm pot no problem, they’ll all get on swimmingly and make the most of the watering. Compost all pots up to a 1cm lip and leave height space for a small support cane at around 20cm. Try and keep them up straight at this stage.
6. When your plants hit around 30cm you can start pinching out any growing tips above the fifth set of leaves. This will greatly enhance bushiness and make the most of the pot space they have. If they have grown well there’s no problem potting up once more. They can start to enjoy sunny positions once the frost has gone. The pots can always be brought in for a late cold snap. Start your daily check for aphids around this stage.
7. When they start to flower it is now thought a good idea to aid your local bee population by dabbing a cotton bud into each flower to help the bees with their important work. Transferring the cotton from flower to flower will help provide the pollination services, particularly if you need to keep your pots indoors most of the time where the bees wont visit. Look for flower drop to see if you need to do this. The petals will appear droopy.
8. Once you start noticing some flowers brown off and die you can then expect to see the first chillies appearing in their place. You will soon have your first crop so you could encourage a full fruiting season from July to October by taking the first fruits while still green. Your second crop can be left for that wonderfully robust red coloured glory. You are now a confirmed chilli grower.