Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, there’s nothing quite like growing and eating your very own produce! There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes paired with successfully raising a plant and after much tender loving care, seeing the plant flower and produce – and end up as part of your home-cooked meals or even as a gift to friends! And what better way to achieve this than by growing your very own chilli plant!
Below is a step-by-step guide to growing your very own fiery garden!
1. Know the difference
As any chillihead knows all too well, chillies come in an overwhelming variety of sizes, shapes, colours and heat. It is important to distinguish what type of chilli plant you will be growing as there are sweet, spicy and ornamental types available to grow.
We recommend heading to your nearest gardening centre or nursery and doing a bit of research to find which variety will best grow in your environment – this will probably be the easiest way to find seeds for your chosen variety as well!
2. Getting ready
Chillies can be grown early indoors which means you don’t have to wait until the right season to start planting your seeds!
For indoor planting, soak your seeds for 24 hours in lukewarm water. Remove the seeds and once they have dried out completely, plant the seeds in small planting pots or even seed trays at least 10cm apart.
Fill with soil and place single seeds 1.5cm below the surface of the soil. This can be done as early as 2 months before the spring season sets in to ensure your chillies will be well on their way to growing tall once spring has sprung!
3. Turn up the heat!
Chilli seeds require an optimum temperature of 22-26° Celsius for germination. In the absence of direct sunlight and for best results, a heat propagator will be of great assistance especially if you’ve planted the seeds indoor a bit early. Germination should take place within 7-10 days, after which the plants can be moved to a windowsill that receives plenty of sunlight with just a spot of afternoon shade or a heated greenhouse if you have one available.
Water regularly (about 500ml tri-weekly in the premature seed stage) and ensure that the soil is kept moist but not sopping wet – you don’t want your seedlings to drown!
4. Time for a move
Once the plants have grown at least 15cm tall, find a spot in your garden with plenty of sunshine and soil that drains well. The type of soil will depend on which area you live in so if you are uncertain about soil choice, consult your nearest gardening centre.
Desensitize your seedlings to the dangers of the great outdoors by exposing them to the direct sunlight slowly – start off with only two hours a day for at least a week, then add one hour per day until the plants can be settled outside. Dig an area that covers twice the size of the root ball when planting out the seedlings, thereby allowing the plant enough room to expand its roots. Press down or tamp the soil only very slightly once finished as the chillies grow best in loose soil.
5. Summer splash
Keep your plants well-watered and as the plant grows, increase the amount of water to about 1.5 litres per plant per day as the hot temperatures rise.
Keep the roots cool by adding mulch once the plants have grown a bit higher.
Chilli plants are prone to the dreaded disease called the Tomato Spotted Wilt virus – sounds nasty, doesn’t it? This unfortunate infirmity will cause your plant to twist and be covered in brown lesions. Infected plants will have to be removed as there is no chance of recovery and it is likely that they will infect your other plants.
The more common powdery mildew that forms can be removed by using a sulphur-based spray on the affected areas.
- Tip! Sweet peppers will be sweeter the more water they are given!
- Tip! Compost and potassium fertilizer can help keep your nutrient levels high as the plants are growing!
- Tip! Help pollinate your flowers by brushing a small moist paint brush gently inside each flower, especially if growing indoors!
- Tip! Give your chilli plant a support stake once they grow past 20cm to help it stand tall!
- Tip! Egg shells or used coffee grounds sprinkled around your plant can help keep away those creepy crawly, heat resistant garden pests!
- Tip! Don’t let your chilli get chilly! If night temperatures drop below 15°C, keep the plant indoors!
- Tip! Remove chillies without harming your plant by pulling it upwards in the opposite direction to which it bends down. Alternatively, use a good pair of gardening scissors!
- Tip! For chilli powder or flakes, let the chillies dry and shrivel up on the bush!
Do not hesitate to share your own tips, experience or pictures of progress below!