I grew a couple of different varieties of chilli last year, with indifferent results. I ended up with a lot of plants, but not a lot of chillies. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a total wash, just not enough for pickling or turning into relish. I had enough to fill a tub in the freezer for the year’s cooking.

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I have decided that this year I’m going to do chillies more purposefully. It’s going to be chillie-tastic! I’ve been more selective with the varieties – last year I just grabbed whatever was left in the end of season sale at the garden centre.

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I plan to grow several different varieties this year:

  • Cayenne
  • Jalapeno
  • Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Pearls

The Pearls are from the Suttons 2018 range that I’m trying out. There were just 10 seeds in the packet which seems a little bit mean compared to the 50 or 60 in the cayenne packet. Perhaps these are just more unusual. They are apparently good for pickling. In any case, I am aiming for just a couple of large plants of each variety. In the UK, chillies need a long growing season to fruit well, and while some can be grown outside, most benefit from warmer conditions. I’ll be growing mine in the greenhouse. I am aiming to pot the plants on until I get to 3L pots which should be a decent size for them to fruit in.

I have sown 5 to 10 seeds of each variety. This seems early in the year but I hope this will give them the longest possible growing season, and has the added but important benefit of giving me a winter seed-sowing fix! Chilli seeds need warmth to germinate, 18-25°c or more. Last year I got good germination results using the heated bench which is set to 20°c.

The downside of sowing at this time of year is the potential for leggy plants due to low light levels. Ideally I would have grow-lights but I will have to make do with good old fashioned sunlight and hope that’s enough. I’ll prick them out as soon as large enough and grow initially in 7cm pots which I’ll move to a sunny spot in the greenhouse.

In a fit of chilli enthusiasm, I’ve just ordered seeds for a few more varieties, some hotter ones this time. I’ll sow a few of each once they arrive in the post.

  • habanero chocolate
  • habanero tobago
  • numex jalapeno pinata
  • lemon drop

Chilli-tastic!

Are you growing chillies this year? Do you have any tips to share?

I’ll be back in a month or two with an update on germination and early growth.

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