Nearing the end of the season
I have been dreading for this for a couple of weeks now. It has gradually been getting colder, and this morning there it was – the first frost. When the first frost arrives , if you haven’t yet managed to get your plants under some form of cover, be it protective fleecing, indoors or into heated enclosures, that’s it. Your Chilli growing season will soon be drawing to a close. Chillies don’t like the cold!
The first frost arrives in various areas in the UK at different times. The general rule is that the further North you are, the quicker it will come. I live in the Midlands and was expecting the first frost towards the middle of the month. However, this year the first frost arrived at least ten days earlier than I believed it would. Fortunately, I managed to get all my Chillies indoors or into heated enclosures a couple of weeks ago.
Last season I covered some of my plants with drawstring plant covers, as I did not have enough space for my plants under cover. This was the only way I had of keeping the frost off the plants. By covering them, I managed to extend the season for a while, but it was nowhere near as effective as bringing them inside or into the heated areas. The covers can only provide limited protection. After a while, it just becomes too cold for them to work effectively.
The heated enclosed areas I refer to are a mini glass greenhouse, and two tomato grow tents. I erected these last year. I also had some weatherproof outdoor electrical sockets installed. By having these sockets installed, I was able to place low energy tubular heaters inside these areas. These heaters only draw 80 watts, which means they do not use much electricity. They do, however, do a fine job of keeping the plants warm.
On a more positive note
Ripe Scotch bonnets
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I do have some fully ripe Chillies. This morning I made my first harvest of Scotch bonnet Chillies. They are yellow Scotch bonnets from a plant I overwintered last year. This plant has genuinely been a star performer over the last couple of years. Last year it produced lots of Chillies . This year has been no exception. I managed to pick no fewer than forty fully ripe Chillies. There are probably another ten pods on the plant that need to ripen.
Because it is such a good plant, I am going to overwinter it. The only problem is that it is now almost a shrub, rather than a Chilli bush. It has quite a thick stem that runs into a mass of foliage at the top of the plant. It will be difficult to prune. With this in mind, I have decided I’ll not cut the plant back as I might usually do. I will overwinter his one as a house plant in the same way as I would with ornamentals . It is not necessary to cut back plants for overwintering. Pruning the plant is typically done if you are faced with space constraints. This Scotch Bonnet is only about three feet tall. It is a healthy plant and not unattractive at all, so it can easily be overwintered in the way I have described. Luckily, we have the space.
More on overwintering
Trinidad Scorpion Butch T
If I don’t cut plants back for overwintering, one thing I do carry out is transferring the plants into smaller pots. Transferring them to smaller containers for the winter limits the plants growth. In this way, they are able to conserve energy. Plants also grow more slowly during winter. Next spring, I will repot them into bigger pots, and before long, there they will be – full of the joys of spring.
I have also decided to overwinter my Trinidad Scorpion Butch T in the same way. It too is not too large and doesn’t look out of place where I have it. I have still not harvested any fruit from this plant, but aim to do so shortly. The fruit is all ripe. Unfortunately, it hasn’t produced many pods. Only about four or five in total. But then, as we know, with a Chilli this hot (it has a Scoville rating of over one million), you don’t need too many for a significant effect.
Because I have turned these plants into house plants, I now have the luxury of having more space under my grow lights. This has meant I have been able to bring a Longhorn F1 and a Satans’ Kiss indoors to ripen. As mentioned in a previous post, the Satans’ Kiss had already started ripening outdoors in a heated tomato grow tent. The Longhorns are both, however, still green. I would really like to see a Longhorn fully ripe. It’s the first year I have grown them. So, I have decided one of these plants will definitely need to come indoors. This plant has been placed under grow lights to aid ripening of its fruit . Unfortunately, the other plant will have to remain where it is. The Satans’ kiss has been placed under the grow lights to complete the ripening of the rest of its fruit.
Kouya,/ CC BY-SA 4.0 /via Wikimedia Commons