With the warmer weather fast approaching, I have made sure that some of my bigger Chilli plants have been hardened off. Hardening off is a process in which Chilli plants are gradually introduced to outside conditions over a period of about ten days until they have become accustomed to being left outside permanently.
At this stage, these Chilli plants have typically reached a height of around 8-12 inches or more. The stems have thickened and become sturdier to support the weight of the foliage and fruit. The leaves have expanded in size, and the plants have developed a healthy canopy of green foliage.
The root system of the Chilli plants has also expanded and filled the space in the current containers. You may notice roots appearing through the drainage holes or circling around the bottom of the container. The roots are crucial for nutrient uptake and anchoring the plant.
The hardening-off process starts with taking the plants outside for initially an hour a day when outside overnight temperatures average 8 to 10 degrees Celsius and increasing their outside exposure by an hour a day until the plants have been left outdoors for at least ten hours. At this point, they become hardened to the rigours of direct sunlight, wind, etc. The temperatures in the early morning also tend to stay around 8 degrees Celsius at this time of the year in the UK, so there is no danger that the plants will be harmed by the cold.
With the hardening-off process completed, I will now be doing the final potting of these plants into the containers that they will spend the rest of the season in, as they have now reached the final stage of growth before flowering and bearing fruit.
What is needed for potting on?
Select the right time: The ideal time to pot on Chilli plants for their final stage is when they have outgrown their current containers and their roots are beginning to fill the space. This usually occurs when the plants are around 8-12 inches tall. Outside overnight temperatures should average between 8 and ten degrees Cel
Choose the pots: Select large pots with a diameter of 10-14 inches. Ensure the pots have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
Soil preparation: Fill the larger pots with a well-draining potting soil or growing medium. You can use a commercial mix or create your own by combining garden soil, compost, and perlite or vermiculite. You may want to try our potting mix that we have developed for growing Chillies.
Remove the plants: Gently remove the Chilli plants from their current containers. You can do this by turning the containers upside down and tapping the bottom to release the root ball. If the plants are stuck, squeeze the sides of the container, or use a trowel to loosen the root ball.
Place the plants: Carefully place each Chilli plant into the larger pot, positioning it in the centre. Ensure the top of the root ball is level with or slightly below the rim of the pot. If necessary, add or remove soil beneath the plant to achieve the desired height.
Fill the gaps: Fill the gaps around the root ball with potting soil, gently firming it down to provide stability. Leave a small space (about 1 inch) between the soil surface and the rim of the pot to allow for watering.
Water thoroughly: After potting on the Chilli plants, water them thoroughly until water drains out from the bottom of the pot. This helps settle the soil and ensures proper hydration. Allow the excess water to drain away.
Placement: Place the potted chilli plants in a location that receives full sunlight for at least 6-8 hours a day (preferably more ). If necessary, protect them from strong winds by providing a windbreak or placing them in a sheltered spot.
By following these steps, you can successfully transition your mature Chilli plants into their final containers, allowing them to thrive and produce a bountiful harvest of flavourful and spicy peppers. With proper care and attention, you can enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own Chillis and savour their unique taste in your culinary creations.
Note: The size of the pot you choose will depend on the anticipated final size of the plant. I use pots between seven and ten litres but will use bigger pots for Chillies like Rocotos and Dorset Nagas