Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Adult plants and some repotting

It's been a few weeks since I last updated and what a difference those weeks have made.
The early Summer weather (please don't let it be our only Summer) has been amazing for them and they're growing well and toughening up into nice adult plants.
What you can really see is the differences between varieties, there are some very different leaf shapes and textures showing.

Now the reason for the update today other than showing off the different varieties, is that some of my plants have got flower buds on them, I'd estimate flowering by this weekend. It's a couple of the Krakatoa and a couple of the Ring of Fire plants. These are both long thin chilli varieties which have long and slender leaves which are quite small.

Here's a close up from the Krakatoa with a couple of flower buds showing in the middle, as you can see the leaves are like pointed almond shapes, some with a slight heart shape towards the stalk end.

By contrast, the Habanero, Christmas Bell and Trinidad Perfume plants all have very different, much broader leaves. It's worth noting that all these varieties have bell shaped fruit rather than long slender fruit.

Here's an example of the Habanero. This plant has grown a strong thick stalk but is barely 4 inches tall. It has a leaf span of around 8 inches though.
It's my first time growing a Habanero so I didn't really know how much space they'd need, more than I gave them obviously. I've moved it on into a much larger pot (around 9 inches across the top)

It turns out that despite the size of the plant, it's roots had actually grown to fit the pot already.
Here's a picture of the roots once I took the plant out of it's small pot.

To show the contrast between a few varieties I took a picture with 3 types together.
Here you've got the Habanero which has dark glossy leaves which are quite thick and heavy.
You've got the Krakatoa which has the thin slender leaves and finally a Christmas Bell which has the larges but possibly thinnest and most delicate leaves.

To finish off with, here's a close up from one of the Amazon Chile Roma plants which has particularly impressive leaves. They're rippled and textures almost like a cabbage leaf.

I've only replanted a few today. I should have probably repotted all of them but I have space issues to think about. 
I've potted on a couple of Krakatoa, a Ring of Fire and the Habanero only. The Krakatoa and Ring of Fire are both really high yield so obviously the more space they have, the larger the plant and therefore the more fruit you'll get per plant.
The Habanero is a bit of a mystery to me so I'm treating it as well as I can in the hope I can get it to fruit.

Next update will be flowers, probably not too far off at this point!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Time to pot

First off, this is going to be a quite image heavy post, the plants are starting to look good so best to get a few good pictures.

The shoots are coming along well and most have sprouted their second set of leaves, the 'adult leaves' now so it's time to pot them so they can grow. The biggest plants here are still only about 4cm tall (about 1.5 inches) to give you an idea of scale.

You might notice that a couple of them look different to the others. 1 of these is my fault! The Christmas Bell chillies sprouted quite quickly and couldn't shed the seed case, it stayed pretty firmly clamped to the starter leaves. I tried to remove them as gently as I could but ended up pinching off the tips of the leaves.
I didn't want them to grow too tall and spindly or they'd be weak plants and that's exactly what will happen if they don't get enough light when they first sprout.

The other ones are the Trinidad Perfumes, these were the ones which sprouted with 3 starter leaves, not 2 like every other chilli (and in fact any plant at all) that I've ever grown from seed.
Now they're looking quite squat and dense, I imagine they'll be quite bushy plants rather than tall and slender.

As mentioned before, you should think about potting them on when the roots start to show out the bottom of the peat discs you start them off in. This actually happened last weekend but the weather was pretty bad and I wanted to pot them on a day where they could get loads of sun.

So the first thing I did today was write up labels for the pots, it's for the same reason I'd drawn up the plan when I planted them, to keep the varieties separate.

Once this was done I put a few stones in the bottom of each pot. You only really need 2 or 3 stones, go for some around the size of a large grape. These will do 2 things, they'll help with water drainage and they'll give the roots something to wrap around which will make the plants stronger (a necessity if you're planning to move them outside later on).

Once that's done, fill them about half way with compost and sit the shoot, still in it's peat disc on top and fill in the edges. Don't worry about giving the shoots the odd knock while you're doing this, they're a lot hardier than you might give them credit for.

Finally give them all a watering, this will encourage the roots to take to the new compost and will help the peat disc to break down into the surrounding compost.

I actually gave them all a small amount of plant food too. 
Ideally you want to use either one specific for chillies or one for tomatoes (made to a 1/4 of the suggested dilution) but I've only got an all purpose one currently. I've literally given them a small squeeze of plant food each, just enough to give them a boost. Too much and the plants will grow like crazy but not necessarily healthily, you don't want a lanky weak plant, you're much better off with a stocky plant.

As an added bonus, I checked the remaining seeds which haven't sprouted and have a single Thai Bird Eye shoot. I'll leave it under cover for a few days in the warmth before I bring it out but glad to know that I have at least 1 of every variety growing now.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Just a quick update.

I have a Habanero germinated! It's only taken 31 days (so around 20 days longer than all the other varieties) but I got home this evening and 1 of the 3 I planted has sprouted.
They need a decent source of constant heat to germinate and I had a new boiler fitted yesterday after months of intermittent heating so maybe that helped? Could just be coincidence (and let's face it, it probably is).

The plants which have germinated are starting to sprout their adult leaves, by this I mean the second set of leaves. The first 2 (or 3 in the case of my Trinidad Perfumes) are a completely different shape and used almost like solar panels to get as much light as they can and give the plant a good feed.
I think I'll plant them into pots over the weekend so I'll do a proper update with plenty of new pictures then.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The non-growers

I mentioned in my last post that a couple of the varieties had not sprouted, that's still the case.
I decided to move them back under cover today and have set up another temporary germinating greenhouse.

This is the Yellow Burkina Habaneros, the Thai Bird Eye chillies and "The Dalston Mutant".
I really want to get some Habaneros going this year so my fingers are still crossed for them, I'm not going to give up on them just yet!

So I don't get confused I drew up a new plan for them too.

These are now suitably moistened and covered in cling film sitting on top of the boiler for heat, an essential ingredient for germination especially for varieties used to hot and steamy conditions.

Enough about these non growers for now though, I've taken a few pictures of the growing plants and they're looking pretty healthy despite the horrible weather we've had sine they germinated.

I've got a bit of an oddity with one of the varieties. It's a new variety for me so it may be normal, who knows?

I thought that all plants (chillies and others) always started with a shoot with 2 leaves to get them started, certainly every kind of plant I've ever grown has started this way.
The Trinidad Perfume variety (the Habanero without heat) has 3 starter leaves.

I'd be interested to know of anyone else who's had this with a chilli plant before.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


After day 4 or 5 I checked for shoots and have checked every day since. Yesterday was day 10 and I came home to shoots from a few of the seeds.

So going back to the position plan I drew up (see my last post) I can see that the Krakatoa, Christmas Bell, Ring of Fire and Trinidad Perfume have come up.
I'm not surprised that the Yellow Burkina Habanero, Amazon Chile Roma and De Banco haven't come up yet, they're all from the same family of chillies which are notoriously slow to germinate.
The Thai Bird chillies are a bit of a mystery so not sure how long they'll take to come up, the guy who gave them to me said he'd not been able to grow them so we'll have to watch them and see what happens.
The last one, the 'Dalston Mutant' could be infertile and might not grow. That's the risk you take with hybrid plants.
I've moved them to my kitchen table which is by a window that gets loads of light and also by the radiator to keep them warm.

When I got in from work today I noticed that the Amazon Chile Roma and De Banco seeds have also sprouted (delighted!) I wasn't sure if I should separate them off and put them back under cling film until they germinate but have decided to leave all the varieties together for now. 
I'll separate the 3 which haven't sprouted yet if I haven't seen any signs of life by the end of the weekend.

Here's a couple more shots from yesterday.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Time to plant

It's the beginning of the planting season now, if you're in the UK at least.
Ideally you want to get your seeds in between February and May, I was a bit late last year and while I did get some decent crops I missed out on a second batch because the nights were getting shorter.

So today I planted my seeds for this year.
I went with a few varieties, all of which were new ones this time round.
Here's what I've gone for.

I bought most of these for this years grow but the Thai Bird Peppers were sent to me by a friend who's been trying to grow them himself and failing. Hopefully I can get them to grow and fruit for him.

The large packet with the yellow label is a Trinidad Perfume. This is a Habanero variety with little to no heat! I've been meaning to track down a heatless Habanero variety for a while. I LOVE the taste of Habanero's and Scotch Bonnets but not everyone can handle the heat.
As any of you who know me will now, I do like my chilli sauces and hopefully I'll be able to make a milder one with the Trinidad Perfume fruit without compromising on flavour.

I have some Burkina Yellow Habanero seeds, these could be quite tricky to grow.
Christmas Bell AKA Ubatuba, which are a fruity tasting unusual shaped fruit.
Amazon Chile Roma, also related to the Habanero but a bit milder but with an immense amount of flavour apparently.
De Banco is a medium fiery type which is ideal for hanging baskets apparently.
Krakatoa is an Italian style plant which fruits quickly and repeatedly for a few months, ideal for a windowsill giving you a constant crop right up to Christmas and beyond if your house is warm enough.
The Ring of Fire came free with the others so I figured I'd get some of them planted too.

I'm trying a new method to get my seeds going this year because some of them are tricky to get started.
I didn't want to plant them and hope for them to grow, it's still a bit too cold for that and the windows in my flat (these will all be grown indoors) are a bit draughty until it gets warmer.

So this year I'm starting them off in a makeshift greenhouse indoors.
All you'll need to do this yourself is a deep sided dish, some clingfilm and a warm place.

I've opted for some peat moss discs to get my seeds started. They're dead cheap and you can plant them and the seedlings directly into a pot once they get growing. I got a pack of 50 for around £4.
All you have to do is add warm water to them and watch them expand. Leave them for 2 minutes and they'll be 5 times the size and nice and moist, perfect for the seeds to get started in.
Once they've expanded, pour away any excess water, you don't want them to be saturated or this could cause your seeds to go mouldy.

The image above shows a before and after shot of the peat moss discs.
As you can see they have a small hole in the top perfect for dropping a couple of seeds in to. I went for a couple in each disc because you're not guaranteed to get a healthy plant from every seed. I also planted 3 discs worth of seeds per variety.
When you cover the seeds, do it loosely. You don't want your shoots having to struggle their way through the soil above to get free.

Now you don't want to go mixing up your plants so make sure to draw up a plan of what is where.
This is important because not every type of chilli plant likes to be treated the same and you don't want to kill them off because you got your varieties mixed up.

Here's my growing plan.

You might notice an extra seed type there, 'The Dalston Mutant'. This is the 1 decent seed I got from a hybrid plant last year. I cross pollenated one variety with the pollen of another variety.
The fruit was fairly mangled looking, not at all like it's parent plant should produce but the flavour was the same. It's only when you plant the seeds the following year that you see if your hybrid has been a success or not.

The final thing to do before covering them is to give them a tiny drizzle of water, if you have a spare spray bottle then use that. You don't want them to be saturated, just moist enough that when you cover them up you'll get a bit of a steamy environment going for them to propagate.

Then cover over and leave somewhere warm for them to develop. They could take a couple of days, they could take a week and a half. Different varieties require different lengths of time to germinate.
If some don't come up then don't worry, all is not lost. This is why you kept back some seeds earlier on and also why we're planting early in the season.
Next time try with less water, or more heat, or more water, or less heat. There are obviously lots of variables to think about and you'll only really gauge these from experience.

Here's my makeshift green house with all the seeds in place. I've put this on top of my boiler but if you've got an airing cupboard that'll do nicely. The seeds don't need light to germinate, why would they? they're underground anyway!

If you're planting straight into pots then the process isn't really much different. Don't cover up your pots and keep them moist but not wet.

I'll get the next part up once the seeds start sprouting. Happy planting.


Hello and welcome.

I'll be using this blog to document my chilli growing for the year.
A few people have been asking me for tips so I figured I'd put this together with some pictures which would hopefully be useful.

I'm not an expert and don't claim to be, I just enjoy growing chillies almost as much as I enjoy eating them.

I've got a few varieties to try this year, some pretty easy to grow and others not so easy so this could be a blog of failure as much as success, we'll have to wait and see.