October 23, 2010

Grow your own Chillies 2010

PLANT: ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ Chilli Pepper
HEAT: mild to medium (10,000 Scoville)

This is a popular`Yellow Wax' type, originating from Hungary and is sometimes known as the Banana Chilli. Fruits start out a pale yellow then turn orange and red at maturity. The smooth and waxy peppers grow 5 to 8-inches long and 1 to 2-inches wide. Known for being prolific and easy to grow.

The Serrano chillies I tried to grow last year were a disaster, but I did plant them very late and the seeds weren’t brilliant to begin with. I’m quite confident I will get a good yield from these Hungarian Hot Wax chillies as I’ve started them early. I’m hoping I’ll have enough to dry and store – fingers crossed they won’t be as hot as the Apache chillies I grew in 2008 as they blew our heads off!
Sow under cover: February - April 1st Mar
Sow direct:

Germination time: 10-21 days 21st Mar
Plant out: Before the end of June. 26th May / 5th June
Harvest: June-October 15th July
Time from seed to plate: 70 days

  • Sow as early as possible as they can take a long time to germinate and have a long growing season. Don’t start seeds off after April as it’s too late.
  • Sow in small pots of Jiffy 7’s. The ideal temperature for germination is 18-21°C so a windowsill above a radiator is ideal. The plastic bag/pot method is the best way to germinate seeds.
  • When seedlings develop leaves that are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual 6-9cm (2.5-3.5in) pots.
  • A few weeks later when the plants are 8-10cm (3.25-4in) tall, transfer to larger 21-23cm (8-9in) pots, growing bags or directly into the ground before the end of June.
  • Water regularly.
  • As soon as fruits begin to set, feed with a general fertilizer or liquid tomato feed every 2 weeks.
  • Stake for support and limit height by pinching out growing tip.
  • Pick them at their peak – usually September, depending on how good the Summer has been!

March 15th:

None of the seeds that I planted in my windowsill propagator have germinated yet and I got impatient so I decided to try and sprout some more using a different method. This is a slightly amended version of the plastic bag method that I used last year.
I’d kept a clear plastic pot with a lid (from some foodstuff that I can’t remember what it was!) and I thought it would be perfect because I can easily remove the lid if I need to moisten the tissue later.
I just got one sheet of kitchen towel and made it wet, then I placed my seeds on the wet towel and folded it in half. Then I put the towel inside the pot and put the lid on. I’ve put the pot right next to the radiator as the seeds need a high temperature to germinate. Fingers crossed this will work and then I will transplant the seedlings.
March 21st:
Hurrah! One of the 6 seeds I planted in the propagator has finally sprouted! I was beginning to lose all hope of ever having any chillies to harvest this year!
3 of the seeds I put into my plastic pot have also germinated, so I removed 3 of the inactive seeds from the propagator and replaced them with these sprouters. Hopefully they’ll make more progress and I’ll have a few chilli plants to nurture.
March 28th:
28-03 chilies sprouted 3 more of the seeds I put in the plastic pot germinated, so I put these into the propagator as well and now I have lots of seedlings that are doing very well. I must remember next year to use the plastic pot method as the success rate was almost 100% compared to putting the seeds straight into the soil

28-03 chilies covered I can’t really use the lid of my propagator anymore as some of the other seedlings are too tall, so I’ve put the plastic pot over the chilli seedlings to keep them warm and I think it’s doing a good job.

06-04 Chillies
The seedlings are large enough to handle so I’ve put them into 7.5cm pots. They were still delicate and I broke one, but I expected to lose some and that’s why I planted so many seeds to begin with.

06-04 Chillies 2
The seedlings didn’t really like being transplanted as it was quite a windy day and I think they got a bit of a shock and just decided to keel over. But after a little drink of water and back in the comfort of the warm windowsill, they perked up.

15-04 Chillies
My chilli seedlings are doing really well, so I’m absolutely chuffed as last year my chilli plants were pathetic! I now know that I planted the seeds way too late last year, so that’s why I started them ASAP this time.

This is the biggest seedling at 5cm tall and it’s developing its 5th and 6th leaves now. The other seedlings are 3cm tall and now have 4 leaves.

I bought some special feed for my chilli plants when we visited Wisley in March. It’s called Chilli Focus and it cost £1.95 for a 100ml bottle. I’d actually forgotten I bought it until today, but the instructions say to use on ‘young plants – from seedlings onwards’ so I thought now was the perfect time to start.

At the seedling stage you need to use 5ml of feed per litre of water (so I’ve used my spray bottle as that’s a 1 litre bottle) and to feed plants weekly. I only used about 500ml as the 6 seedlings I’ve got are still in small pots and I didn’t want to drown them. I’ll use the rest of the diluted feed next week.

The instructions also say at the ‘onset of flowering – first sign of blossom’ you can increase the feed to 10ml per litre of water and to feed weekly.

This feed is apparently a precise formulation for optimal performance of chillies. After the terrible yield I got last year, I’m taking no chances with my chillies this time! There is more information on the Growth Technology website and they also do other products.
01-05 Chillies
My chillies are looking really healthy and have grown quite a lot in the last couple of weeks. I think the feed has helped as the growth rate is quite fast:
On April 26th the largest seedling was 8cm tall and the smaller ones were 5cm tall. Today the largest is 10cm and the smaller ones are 6cm. So that’s between 1-2cm taller in just under a week.

I’ll transplant all the seedlings into bigger pots once the smaller ones reach 8-10cm.

MAY 26th:
26-5 Chilli
I’ve been so busy lately that it took me a while to get around to re-potting my chillies and so far I’ve only had time to do the biggest one. It’s grown quite a lot in the last few weeks as you can see from the photo. Sam was hovering around me whilst I was gardening and got into the picture, which is actually quite a good indication of how big the chilli plant has grown.

I didn’t manage to plant it very straight in the pot, but it seems to be doing OK as buds are actually starting to develop so it’s well on its way to producing fruit!

I didn’t bother to harden off the plant when I re-potted it, I just covered it with fleece and left it outside.

I really need to get my other chilli plants re-potted as they’re almost as big as this one. I just need to get myself some more compost and more time to do it!
5th june:
05-06 Chillies all
I finally managed to re-pot all my other chilli plants. Since the other one survived without being hardened off, I just kept this lot covered with a fleece for about a week and there haven’t been any problems…

05-06 Chilli
… apart from whatever is having a good old munch on all the leaves! I did find a  tiny little snail on one of the leaves, but I can’t believe that he alone has done this much damage to so many of my plants as it’s not just the chillies that have fallen victim. Still, it hasn’t stopped them from producing flowers/fruit, so I’m not too worried.

I’m still feeding them roughly once a week with the special chilli feed I bought.

19th june:
19-06 ChilliesDespite the leaves getting eaten to shreds, the chilli plants are doing pretty well and are starting to produce fruit!

I’ve got 6 plants and hopefully I’ll have a good harvest this year. Apparently you can freeze chillies, so if I have loads then I’m going to try this.

3rd july:
03-07 Chilli
I was shocked to see how big the chillies have grown after returning from a week’s holiday! They’re roughly 3 inches long, but I’ve only got one chilli this size on a couple of plants so far.

I’ll probably pick them when they’re still green as this will hopefully encourage them to produce more fruit.

15th July:
I did pick 4 chillies when they were still green and I’ve used 2 in my meals. The first one was in a pasta dish and I’d removed the seeds, so it wasn’t hot at all. The second one I used in a stir fry and I left the seeds in and it was the perfect heat. I’ve got lots more chillies growing so I’m really pleased with my crop so far. I’ve run out of the chilli feed so I’ll need to get some more. I’m pretty confident it has helped my plants!

31st July:
31-07 Chillies
I ran out of the Chilli Focus feed, so I started feeding my chilli plants with liquid tomato feed instead, which is recommended (I actually compared a chilli feed with a tomato feed in a shop and they basically have the same composition). I’ve been feeding them weekly but other than watering them when it’s been dry, I’ve pretty much left them to their own devices. So I was shocked when I checked on them and saw how huge some of them had grown! I’ve had a really good harvest so far having picked about 15 green chillies and there are still loads more growing. I’ll be giving some to my family when I see them and I’ll be freezing some too. Apparently you just put them into a freezer bag (must be good quality to prevent freezer burn, or even better to double-bag them) and then they can be used from frozen, especially if you chop them up before freezing.

28th August:
28-08 Chilli
A few of my chillies started to get black marks on them, so I posted a question on the Chilli Lovers Group on UK Veg Gardeners asking if this was normal. I was informed that some chillies do turn black before they change to red. So I kept them on the plant to see what happened…

28th September:
28-09 chillies
…and it looks like my chillies shouldn’t turn black before they turn red! This chilli is on a plant that I brought indoors to overwinter as I read on the Chilli King website that this is possible. The chilli had started to turn red just before I brought the plant indoors and now it’s been in a nice warm room on the windowsill for a few days it is really starting to change colour even more.
So there is obviously something wrong with the ones that have black spots on them – I just wish I knew what it was!
Sorry for the awful photo, I was too goddamn lazy to get out my SLR and just grabbed my point-and-shoot, which does not perform well in low light!

23rd October:
23-10 Chillies
A few weeks ago I decided to bring 2 of my other chilli plants indoors as the fruits were starting to turn red. The ones on the far right of the picture are from the first plant I brought indoors and now they are a gorgeous deep red colour. I’ve used one in my cooking and the flavour was so much nicer than when they were green in my opinion – a bit like how ordinary peppers lose their bitterness when they’re not green anymore.

The fruits on the other 2 plants are catching up so I’ll soon have quite a few nice red chillies! I’m going to chop up and freeze the ripest fruit today and then I’ll cut the stem down to overwinter the plant.
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