Back in 2020 with the pandemic just starting I decided to grow some chillies. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried, way back in my first home I grew a few chillies from seeds that I collected from supermarket chillies. I have no idea what they were and I don’t remember the plants giving any fruit even though they flowered and grew well.
My 2020 chilli growing escapades were trying to grow ghost peppers (bhut jolokia) and it didn’t go very well. I was late planting them (around April) and I didn’t care for them very well. I ended up with 5 small plants and no fruit that year. I managed to keep them alive over winter but again didn’t look after them well in 2021 (which was a rubbish growing year anyway). At the end of 2021 I harvested a single tiny pepper. The pepper was suitably hot but the crop was tiny. In 2022 I will do better.
Thursday 6th January 2022
I planted the chillies today (twenty ghost pepper seed from South Devon Chilli Farm). This seems early but when I looked for growing guides it was about an even split between January and February planting. I’m using John Innes seedling compost with a good addition of perlite to help with drainage. This is much better compost than the rubbish I was using before. I’ve watered sparingly and placed the trays on a propagator. Last year I used the seed trays that came with the propagator, this year I’ve decided to go with plug trays. The trays are covered with a sheet of clingfilm to keep in the moisture. The propagator is in the workshop in front of a large, south facing, window. The plants will be kept indoors until there is no danger of frost.
Saturday 8th January 2022
No sign of the chillies yet! I’m kidding, I don’t expect them for a while but I decided to get the thermocouple out and measure the temperature of the soil. It’s currently about 15 Celsius in the workshop and soil temperature isn’t as high as I wanted. In the centre plugs half way down it’s hitting 25 Celsius but on the edges near the top where the seed is it’s only getting to 18 Celsius. I think I’m going to have to add some insulation around the side of the trays but I don’t want to accidently over heat the propagator.
Sunday 9th January 2022
The chillies were too cold so I wrapped them, and the other seeds, in bubble wrap.
Tuesday 11th January 2022
The cucumbers, peas and one tomato has already sprouted. No sign from the chillies yet.
Friday 14th January 2022
The first chillies have sprouted!
The taller one in the picture was actually above the ground last night so that makes it seven days for the first seed and eight for the second. Unsurprisingly the first two seeds to germinate are from the middle row where it’s warmer. I’ve taken the clingfilm off but I’m keeping the bubble wrap loosely over the top for a bit of extra warmth.
After planning the rest of the vegetable patch for this year I’ve decided to go all in on the chillies. As such I’ve bought more chilli seeds from Sea Spring Seeds. I’ve gone for Lemon Drop, Fairy Lights, Sparkler and Submarine. None are super hot but they should add some colour and flavour variety. I particularly like the look of Lemon Drop as I love the colour yellow.
Sunday 16th January 2022
What a successful year for germination. It feels like I’ve gone from getting everything wrong to at least some things right.
There are now thirteen ghost pepper seedlings showing their face. My planting plan calls for eighteen I think but that’s perhaps a little hopeful from twenty seeds. The seeds along the edge generally haven’t germinated as well as the ones in the middle which I’m not surprised by. I think I got the watering level spot on this year but the temperature wasn’t well enough controlled particularly at the edges. I think germination would be more rapid and probably more complete at higher temperatures but it looks likes twenty Celsius is enough to get most seeds to germinate.
Monday 17th January 2022
I helped a couple of ghost pepper seedlings get out of their seed cocoon today as they appeared to be stuck. One went well but I might have hurt the second one, fingers crossed it is ok. It looks like there might be another three germinating, will probably be able to tell in the morning.
Some space was freed up on the propagator so I was able to get some more chillies going. I’ve put in ten of each if Lemon Drop and Sparkler. I’m really looking forward to trying the Lemon Drop, apparently they are easy to grow so hopefully I’ll get a good crop.
Friday 21st January 2022
A few more ghost peppers have sprouted. Of the 21 seeds I got from South Devon Chilli Farm only two haven’t sprouted. The late sprouting seeds don’t seem as strong as the early sprouting ones. There was one unusually small seed in the pack which has sprouted but I don’t think it’ll survive.
It looks like the first Sparkler seedlings are coming up. They are basically still covered in compost though so it’s hard to tell.
Thursday 27th January 2022
Most of the chillies are up now. The success rate for all of the seeds I’ve planted has been great this year. I think I’ve nailed germination conditions. If I consider only the new Ghost Pepper seeds I got a germination rate of 86%. For the Sparklers I’ve had 90% success rate and for the Lemon Drop 70% although three were much slower than average to germinate.
Time to get the other two varieties in I think.
Friday 4th February 2022
The ghost peppers are just starting to get their first true leaves. They are looking really healthy. They dried out a bit on Wednesday and were close to wilting but I think I caught them just in time.
The Lemon Drop and Sparkler are doing ok. The Lemon Drop have gone a little bit leggy due to insufficient light but I think they will do fine long term. I’ve heard that Lemon Drop is easy to grow, it seems the more vigorous and easy to grow the plant the more leggy it goes with limited light.
I’ve also planted some Fairy Light and Submarine seeds, ten of each. That should mean a week from now I’ll know how many plants I’ll have.
Monday 14th February 2022
The chillies seem to be doing well. The stronger Ghost peppers are just starting to get their second set of true leaves, the first true leaves are all health and growing nicely. The Ghost peppers seem quite resilient to not having enough light I wonder if that’s because they are comparatively slow growing.
The Lemon Drops are growing strongly and have become a little leggy. They are just starting to get their first true leaves. I’ve read that Lemon Drops are easy to grow and I can see why. I found a seedling just sitting on top of the soil yesterday, who knows how it got there so I’ve planted it (cell B2), I doubt it’ll make it. The Sparklers are also coming on well. A surprisingly number have odd shaped seedling leaves.
And finally the newest additions, Fairly Lights and Submarines. The Fairy Lights sprouted like they were on a mission. I think the first was up in four days and every seed was up in a week. Can’t argue with a 100% germination rate! The Submarines have been a little slower to get going. That one seed sprouted very quickly but the others are taking their time.
Tuesday 5th April 2022
No updates for a while because the chillies have just been growing nicely. I’ve been using a little chilli focus when watering and other than that they have just been doing their thing. I’ve put them outside on a couple of warm days just getting them prepared for the shock of the move outside. In the next few days I plan on potting them on to 9cm pots. The photos below are from 24th March but they look basically the same today.
Wednesday 4th May 2022
I’ve been a bit slack documenting my chilli growing progress over the last month so there aren’t many photos. All the chillies were potted on into roughly 8cm pots before we went away for a few days. They survived well with a good watering before we left. After we got back I finished building the cold frame and moved them outside. They’ve been outside for a couple of weeks now and they aren’t doing much but they also haven’t died which I consider a win.
There are 55 chillies in the picture above. The ghosts are at the bottom of the image. The ones right at the top are the submarines and they still aren’t doing very well. They just seem to be weak plants compared to the others. The plan is to plant them out towards the end of the month, maybe early June. Apparently chillies absolutely hate the cold and will die with a single frost.
Friday 13th May 2022
Not a huge amount to report, the chillies seem to like being in the cold frame. The photo below is only 9 days after the one above and you can clearly see that the chillies are significantly larger.
Sunday 15th May
I looked up the last frost date for where I live and apparently its March 20th which feels like forever ago. Night time temperatures are pretty much always over 10degC now too so I think it’s time for the chillies to go out. After much debate I decided to plant the ghosts 700mm apart with a the next row offset back and a diagonal of 500mm. This creates a sort of zig-zag pattern. The spacing is maybe a little tight and I might have to trim the plants back if they do particularly well. This does, however, mean I can get 18 plants in the one bed along by the wall of the house. I’ve also put in some sweetcorn behind them and some sunflowers up at the end – time will tell if that was a wise thing to do.
I also planted out the other chillies in buckets. I decided to make self wicking buckets, time will also tell if this was a good idea as right now it’s raining hard and the buckets are saturated. The Sparklers and Fairy Lights are in the big colourful tubs up at the end, five to a tub. I suspect that placement is a bit tight but I’ll pull a plant out if it turns out to be a problem. The Lemon Drops are the taller ones in individual buckets and the other are Submarines which are continuing to do badly.