October 10, 2009

Grow your own Chilies 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Serrano’ Chilies
  • GERMINATED: 3 May – plastic bag method
  • TRANSPLANT OUTSIDE: When 3 inches tall
  • SPACING: 18-24 inches apart
  • SCOVILLES: 5,000 - 23,000
  • SIZE: smaller version of the jalapeno, 1 - 4 inches long and about ½ inch wide
  • USES: not the best choice for drying, but perfect for salsa, sauces, relishes, garnishes, and more. They are usually best when roasted.

I’ve successfully grown chilies before from plants we bought from a garden centre, but I’ve never grown them from seeds. I got a load of free chili seeds from a restaurant and I saw on The One Show that you could germinate them in a plastic bag. You just get some kitchen towel, moisten with water and place the seeds on it and fold the towel in half. Then you put the seeds inside the bag, blow some air into it and seal it (I used a re-sealable sandwich bag). I left it on the windowsill and it’s taken about a week and a half to get to the stage where they sprouted. I did have to keep blowing air into the bag as it kept deflating.
The photo below was taken on 10 May:
Chilli seeds bag germ
So I just put these sprouted seeds into some compost.

The photos below were taken on 18 May:
Only one of the seeds germinated in a plastic bag seems to be growing.

Tom Chillies 18 May Luckily the other seeds I planted in the tomato peat pots seem to be doing really well, although I’m still not 100% sure if they’re definitely chilies or if they’re tomatoes! I’ll have to wait to see how the plant above grows and see if the leaves are the same shape! Planting different seeds in the same pot was a bit silly, but I got impatient with the tomato ones not growing! But it’s a bit like eating Revels – you never know what you’re going to get!
The photos below were taken on 26 May:
Plastic chilli 26 May Well the plastic bag chili seedling looks like the other seedlings, so I’m a bit more confident that I am actually growing chilies and not more tomatoes! Unfortunately I didn’t take a decent photo of the tomato leaves when they were seedlings so that I could compare.

Tom Chillies 26 May The other seedlings are doing quite well, the bigger one is 2 inches tall and the smaller one is 1 inch tall. I’ll put them in a pot outside when they are 3 inches tall.

The photo below was taken 13 June:
Chilli 13 June
OK I have a confession to make. When I planted my seedlings out into pots, I lost one of them! I was doing tomatoes at the same time, so I think I got a bit distracted and threw one of the chilies away with the weak tomato seedlings. Ah well. I still have two chili seedlings to grow and hopefully they will do well if we get some sun!

The photo below was taken 25 June:
Chilli 25 June
This chili plant has had a bit of a growth spurt in the last couple of weeks I’m pleased to say. It’s now 3 inches tall whilst the other one is sadly only half the size. I know I did plant them outside very early and they might do better indoors, but it’s just easier having them outside with the other plants! I have started giving them the tomato feed and also some slow-release fertiliser, so hopefully that will help them along.
The photo below was taken 25 July:
I didn't realise it had been a whole month since I last updated my chili blog! The plant is now 30cm/12 inches tall and looking quite healthy. It actually looks exactly like my pepper plant. I'm sure it will be a while before any fruits start to grow.

The photo below was taken on 15 August:
Chillis 15 Aug
The first signs of chilies! I have been misting the plant with water (should ideally be tepid but I forgot and just used cold from the tap) as apparently that discourages red spider mite and helps the flower set and subsequent cropping.

The photos below were taken on 29 August:
Chillies 29 Aug
Wahey! I’ve got lots of flowers growing on my chili plant (that I hope you can see because the flowers are white and I stupidly took the photo against a white wall! D’oh!). The plant is really tall now at 24 inches! In my notes I had written that I should have pinched out the growing tips when the plant was 8 inches tall. Of course I forgot to do this and so the plant is really tall, instead of nice and bushy. But as long as I get some chilies I don’t mind.

I’ve been watering regularly and feeding it tomato food once a week. I’ve also been spraying water that has a tiny bit of washing up liquid in it to deter whatever has been munching on the leaves, but I don’t think it’s working very well! But the misting also helps the flowers set and subsequent cropping, so it’s all good for now!

The photo below was taken 5 September:
Chillifruit5SeptHere’s just one of the chilies that has started growing! The white flower has shrivelled up and fallen off. I’m confident I’ll get quite a few chilies from this plant, but some of the leaves are suffering from something that is making them black underneath. It might be the soapy water that I’ve been spraying on the leaves, but I’ve only done that once a week.

The photo below was taken 11 September:
BadChillileaf11Sept1Here’s one of the bad leaves with the black spots. I’m still not sure what the cause is, so I’ve just been picking them off.

Chillies11SeptThe chilies don’t seem to be affected though and are growing quite nicely. I’ve got about 20 fruits growing now. I haven’t had to do any pollinating by hand as the plant is self-pollinating.

The photo below was taken 19 September:
Chillies19SeptNot much to report on the chilies, they’re making good progress, which is surprising since we haven’t had much hot weather recently. I was thinking of bringing the plant indoors, but it seems to be doing OK outside. Today has been pretty warm so a few more days like today would be great!

The photo below was taken 27 September:
Chillies27Sept09The chilies are doing brilliantly – growing bigger by the day and lots of new flowers developing into new fruits. This week is meant to be very warm for the time of year, so I’m going to hold off from picking the chilies until I’m sure the ‘Indian Summer’ is well an truly over!

Update 10 October 2009:
I forgot to say that I tried a couple of chilies last week. They were still green but I expected them to have some heat, so I tentatively ate some raw chili. But I was pretty disappointed to find they had no heat at all! These Serrano chilies are supposed to be on a similar heat scale (Scoville) to the Apache ones which I grew last year. To be honest I’m not that surprised that they didn’t do very well. I was very late sowing my seeds in May – I should have done it in March. Plus we had a really rubbish Summer so they didn’t get the sun they needed. I will probably try growing these seeds again next year as they were easy to germinate. I will just have to be more organised and make sure I sow them early, otherwise I will have to nip down to the garden centre to buy a small plant (which is where I bought the Apache plants last year and they were HOT!).


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