Chilli (Chile) Cultivation Tips
Be careful handling chilli seeds as they can cause a painful burning
sensation: do not rub your eyes after handling chilli seeds!
Storage of Seeds from Ready to Grow
If you aren't going to sow
your new chilli seeds for a while they can be stored for several months,
sealed in their packaging in a cool, dry, dark place, or in the top of a
fridge. Never store them in a freezer as the sudden temperature drop is
likely to kill them.
Sow the seeds on top of a
good sterile seed compost. Cover
the seeds with a light layer of fine compost or vermiculite/perlite.
Keep the compost just moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out
too much, as this is a common cause of germination failure. Cut down on
watering by covering the pot or tray with plastic film. If you have a
heated propagator check the optimum germination temperature (the pop-up
windows when you click on a thumbnail indicate optimum temperatures) and
set your propagator appropriately. You will need a minimum temperature
of 18-20C for successful germination of most chilli seeds. If you like
you could also spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide
(which is acceptable to most organic gardeners). Don't leave the seeds
in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them.
Once they have sprouted,
water the chilli seedlings regularly, but don't let them become
waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let seedlings dry out as they
rarely recover at this stage.
Larger plants should be
watered regularly allow the top inch or so to dry out in between
watering. If they do dry out and droop the chilli plants will usually
recover reasonably well, just make sure that the pots are soaked (by way
of apology!) and the compost properly re-hydrated. Once the plants are
in their final pots and have started to become root-bound you may need
to water the plants daily - do this in the morning. If you are going
away, you can stand mature plants in water for a few days without them
suffering too much.
Potting On Your Chilli Seedlings
When the chillies have
produced their first pair of proper leaves they can be potted on into
individual 3 or 4-inch pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in
some organic slow release fertiliser, according to the manufacturer's
instructions. I use 2 parts peat-free organic peat free compost, 1 part
coir (a peat substitute), plus a little additional organic fertiliser.
Pot the chilli on again before it becomes root-bound (you'll see
roots appearing through the holes in the bottom of the small pots) The
final size of pot required will depend on the variety grown and how big
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to
direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from
autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on
some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light
produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill.
Adult chilli plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or
so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly. Place pots on warm
sunny windowsills, in a conservatory or in a greenhouse. Most chilli
plants will grow happily outside over the summer in their pots, or
planted into the garden, but bring them in before the first frosts to
Planting Out Chillies
Plant them into rich moist
soil. Make sure that plants have been allowed to acclimatise to outdoor
conditions for 2-3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside.
During this time gradually increase the amount of wind, sunshine and
cooler temperatures that the plant experiences. Flower do not form and
fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17C for most of the
day, so wait until June/July for best results with outdoor planting.
Feeding chilli Plants
After the first flowers
appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength organic liquid
tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract (without added
fertiliser) to the water once a week. This toughens them up a little and
improves their resilience in the face of erratic watering...
Pollinating Flowers (optional)
Chilli plants are self
fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to
give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors,
use a cotton wool bud to gently sweep the inside of the flowers one
after another, spreading the pollen as you go!
Capsicums are members of
the same family as tomatoes and potatoes and suffer from the same pests.
Aphids are the prime suspect as they are rather fond of chilli leaves
and can be a problem in greenhouses in particular. To get rid of them
gently rub them off by hand. There are biological controls available for
use outdoors and in the greenhouse (see the links page for suppliers).
Some people use aphid sprays but I have found most to be ineffective, as
over-use has led to widespread resistance. I have had some success with
a new organic product called Eradicoat, which suffocates them (see links
Occasionally Red Spider Mites can be a problem if there
is low humidity. Spray the leaves of your chilli plant with water to
increase local humidity, spray the under-sides with Eradicoat or try
Small quantities of
compost can be sterilised a few litres at a time in a domestic
microwave. Place the compost in a large microwave-able bowl, cover with
microwave safe Clingfilm and 'cook' on full power for 8 minutes.
Remember to let the compost cool before you handle it or sow the seeds