Chillies and heat waves

Stuck in France

Sometimes when growing Chillies, the strangest things happen. And that is exactly what happened to me this season.   My Chilli growing season was following a normal pattern, and then disaster struck. Half my Chillies died. This wasn’t due to any mistakes I made, but rather due to what life throws at you.  Let me explain.

When my wife and I went to Bordeaux in France for her birthday, we had no idea what was waiting for us.  We had gone to the region to visit wine estates when a we were hit by the unexpected.  What was supposed to be a relaxing one-week holiday, eating fine French cuisine and drinking good wine in sunny France, turned into a nightmare. We caught COVID-19.

In France, the regulations dictate that when you get Corona virus disease, you must mandatorily self-isolate for seven days. In our case, it struck down my wife first. Three days later, I too became infected.  That was it. It meant we were stuck in the country. We had no choice but to follow the rules. A holiday that was only supposed to have taken a week landed up with us being holed up in a hotel room for ten days, with reception and room service being our only connection to the outside world.

Before leaving for France, had I known that we were going to be away for so long, I would have been more careful to ensure my plants had more than enough water to survive longer. Particularly because I knew that the United Kingdom was in the throes of a heat wave. Temperatures were predicted to be well over 30 degrees Celsius for the period. Unfortunately, I didn’t. There was no way to predict what would happen.

A close call

Nothing short of a miracle

While stuck in France, I had resigned myself to the fact that there was no way my Chillies would survive. Very hot weather and a lack of water usually means they won’t.  Chillies are strong plants and can take a beating, but it comes to a point that when they are given too little water, they will wither and die

So it was much to my surprise that when we finally arrived back home, somehow half had survived. How this happened is nothing short of a miracle. All the plants, given the heat wave and lack of rain, should have died. The temperatures had been in the high thirties, and there had been little to no rainfall. They should have made it through  , and why they did  will forever  remain a mystery to me.

Now I say I didn’t make any mistakes. The truth of the matter is  I did. In retrospect, I had been in too much of a hurry to get the plants watered. So instead of placing them in trays with lots of water, I watered them from the top. Not only was this a mistake, as it didn’t ensure the plants would have  enough water, but if done frequently, also results in minerals and salts building up on the surface of the potting soil. In time, a build-up of these salts and minerals inhibits the ability of Chilli plants to grow healthily. It is definitely don’t a good idea. It is much better to ensure they get watered from the bottom

Luckily for me, the plants that survived are now going from strength to strength. The hot weather that we are experiencing in the UK this season is closer to what they are used to in their natural environment. This means they are in their element. They are healthy, green, and I am now expecting a bumper crop.

Many plants have fruited, and many more have flowers. To encourage further fruit set, I will now start feeding my plants with flowers and buds with Chempak 4.  This is something I normally do when plants are at this stage of maturity.  Chempak 4 is a blue granular powder that dissolves easily in water. It has a high potassium content. Giving plants this type of fertiliser reduces the risk of flower drop. This is a phenomenon that flowers fall off plants before they turn into fruit.


This year I am trying out Chempak 8.  This fertiliser is something that I will be trying out for the first time this season.   Champak 8 is lower in nitrogen but has higher levels of potash and phosphates. I will give it to my plants that already have fruit to encourage firmness and ripening in Chillies . Its NPK is 15:15:30. Let’s see how it goes

So the season has been salvaged. Thank goodness for that. Buying plants online or finding them in nurseries is nigh on impossible now. It’s not to say they can’t be found; it is just very difficult getting your hands on them at this time of the year. Had I been in a situation where I had no Chillies to take to the end of the season, it would have been no fun at all


Any mention of fertiliser has not been sponsored by the manufacturer.





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