How long do Rocotos take to grow?

Seed to maturity period

As a follow on to my previous posts on growing Rocoto Chillies I decided to research how they would take to grow. This is what I found:

Apparently Rocotos  have a pretty long seed to the maturity growth period. It takes ten to twenty days for the seeds to germinate. Then, after germination, they will go through a series of potting -ons until they are in one-litre pots. This could take anything up to two months or even longer.  After all, plants grow more slowly in winter. The first opportunity will be potted on for the last time, hardened off and then placed outdoors for the rest of the season. It can then take over one hundred days after this until they bloom and set fruit. Apparently, Rocotos   grow quite quickly but take a long time before they flower  produce fruit

One thing I am going to have to consider is the temperature at which I start the seeds. I usually start seeds at between twenty-six and thirty two degrees Celsius. I would imagine  this Chilli should be started at lower temperatures because of its origins. Seed starting temperature is something I will need to experiment with for these Chillies. I will probably begin two batches in heated propagators. One at a lower temperature, say in the region  of eighteen and twenty three  degrees Celsius, and the other at between twenty-six  and twenty-nine  degrees. It will be interesting to see what starting temperature is the best

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Planting Chilli seeds – Is it too late?

The latest date to sow Chillies

It is not too late to sow Chilli seeds in April and May if you choose the right variety to grow. While the best time to plant chilli seeds in the UK is usually in late winter or early spring, around January to April, depending on your location and weather conditions. This will give the chilli plants plenty of time to grow and mature before the end of the growing season, which is usually around late September to early October.

However, if you missed this window, you could still plant chilli seeds in the UK as late as May or early June, as long as you provide them with optimal growing conditions such as a warm and sheltered location, good quality soil, and plenty of sunlight. You can also consider using a greenhouse or a polytunnel to extend the growing season and protect your plants from cooler temperatures and harsh weather conditions.

It’s important to choose Chilli varieties that have a shorter maturity period, usually between 60 to 90 days, to ensure that they have enough time to produce fruit before the end of the season. Some recommended varieties for late planting in the UK include ‘Apache’, ‘Thai Dragon’, Hungarian Hot Wax’, and ‘Jalapeno’.

These Chillies all fall under the Capscium Annuum species, These are the most commonly cultivated Chill because of  their  relatively short seed to maturity growing period. Other species such as  Capsicum Chinense can take as long as one hundred and eighty days before they reach maturity.  Varieties that fall under the C Chinense species include Scotch Bonnets, Habaneros and the officially the worlds hottest Chilli the Carolina Reaper. Read more

The best Chillies to grow in the UK

Star performers

Based on my experience this Chilli growing season, I believe I have found some of the best Chillies to grow in the UK. I say this because as at this point in the season, I have some seedlings that are doing exceptionally well. Even though they were planted at roughly the same time as the other varieties, they are just streets ahead.

These Chillies – my Cherry Chilli and a Rocoto are so far ahead of the others; they are already in one-litre pots. My other top performers – another Cherry Chilli, three other Rocotos and three Madame Jeanettes , are still in two and three-inch pots. I expect to pot these seedlings on in the not-too-distant future.

My mega star performers, the Cherry Chilli and the tallest Rocoto, have already been potted on twice. Firstly, they were potted on into three-inch containers, after reaching two inches in height. Once they were three inches tall, they were transplanted into one-litre pots. They will now remain in these pots until they get hardened off. After that, they will be replotted into their final containers, where they will spend the rest of the season

Once seedlings are potted into one-litre pots, I start feeding them with a fertiliser higher in nitrogen. Before being potted- on into these larger containers, they would have been fed with Chilli Focus at a dilution of 2.5ml per litre of water. This is all the fertiliser they would have needed, as up to then, they would have absorbed nutrition from the potting soil in their containers.

However, now that these plants are in one-litre pots, it is essential that they get more fertilisation. So I feed them with a liquid fertiliser with an NPK of 7: 1.3: 4.2. It is a fertiliser with a high nitrogen content. I specifically use it to develop these plants’ foliage and general health until they get hardened off. After that, fertilisation will be changed again to achieve other objectives, like improved flower setting  and fruiting.

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Fast growing Chillies

Planning the season

One of the most important considerations when growing Chillies is how much time you have to grow them. By that, I don’t mean how much time you have to care for your Chillies, but rather, the amount of time that is left in the Chilli growing season once seeds have been started.  After germination, the plants will need to mature, set fruit, and for the pods to ripen before harvest. With a short growing season (particularly in countries like the United Kingdom), this can be challenging

After all, you can spend as much time as you like looking after your Chillies, but if they have been planted too late, that is another issue. It can create complications.

Nothing is more disheartening in growing Chillies than spending months caring for plants and then not being able to make a harvest. Last year, that happened to me. I left it too late to start my seeds, and before I knew it, I was facing a ripening problem. My plants had produced plenty of chillies, only I hadn’t allowed enough time for the fruit to ripen. The season was drawing to a close  and I had a lot of unripe fruit on my hands. If I had been more careful with the varieties I planted, I wouldn’t have needed to face this problem. Planting faster growing varieties would have meant they would have matured more quickly, set fruit earlier, and I would have had ample time for them to ripen and  make a harvest.

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Overwintering for 2022

What I am overwintering

While we regard Chillies as annuals in the UK, they are perennials in their natural environments. In these environments, it rarely reaches freezing the way it does here during winter. As a result, most Chillies subjected to the freezing conditions during winter in the United Kingdom will die. Full stop. A few varieties are cold weather resistant (to a certain extent), but none can cope with frost.

So, if we want them (or a selected few at least) to survive wintry conditions, the plants need to be brought indoors or kept in a protected environment outdoors. This process is called overwintering.

This year, I am overwintering twelve plants. Two of these (yellow Scotch bonnets) are in their second overwintering. I overwintered them for the first time last year. The remaining plants are four Satans kisses, an Aji Crystal, an Apache, three Barak Chillies and two unknowns (somehow, I managed to lose their markers). In time, once they flower again, I will attempt to identify them

Usually, I cut plants back for overwintering. I also always keep them in the warmest room in our house, out of direct sunlight. Under most circumstances, this means placing the plants in an area next to our fireplace in our lounge.

While I keep them in the lounge as I usually do, I didn’t prune any of these plants this year, as I might have done in previous years. I took the view that except for the Aji Crystal, my Scotch bonnets, and one bigger Satan’s kiss, my smaller plants could be considered to be ornamentals. They are, on average, only about twelve inches tall. They were also exceptionally pretty Chillies and had aesthetic appeal. With this in mind, I resolved to treat the smaller plants as house plants. For the larger plants, I decided to wait for them to lose their leaves before I pruned them back.

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Chilli seed starting. Using a fridge?

To freeze or to chill?

My last post was about starting Chilli seeds. In it, I mentioned that before starting seeds, you should use a fridge to refrigerate them, for three days.  This is something I recently started doing. It is something recommended by no less than the creator of the Carolina reaper in his seed starting guide. The idea behind placing the seeds in the fridge is to trick them into thinking it’s winter. Some schools of thought even recommend placing the seeds in the deep freeze to achieve this reaction.  I thought I would do some research on the subject. What is best; to cool or to freeze?

While it is likely that some seeds will germinate faster if placed in the deep freeze, particularly plants that grow naturally in cold weather climates.  But does this apply to Chillies?  They originated in the Amazon basin (in Peru and Bolivia), after all, and certainly don’t like the cold!

My understanding is that the Amazon basin is a part of the world that doesn’t get very cold. If that’s the case, why should I need to put my seeds in a deep freeze? I am sure the Amazon basin never gets to – 20 degrees Celsius as our deep freeze does?

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The Chillies I am growing in 2022

The Chilli types I am growing

Types of Chillies

I am going to town this year. I am growing over thirty-five types of Chillies. Some are overwintered plants, but I have also started thirty new varieties I have never grown before. These  range from the mild Bellaforma (700 SHU) to the superhot Carolina reaper (which has an average Scoville heat rating of 1.64 million SHU).

There are many other Scoville ratings for the other Chilli varieties  I am trying put between these two extremes.  These range from medium to very hot.   They cover most domesticated Chilli species, including C annuum, C pubescens, C baccatum, C chinense and C frutescens.

I am growing more superhots this season than I usually do. It’s not that I am a fan of the superhots heat levels; it’s more because these Chillies are so interesting. They certainly seem more challenging to grow than the milder types of Chilllies, but that just adds to the fun. I also want to experiment more with using superhots in cooking. Growing these extra superhot varieties will make this possible

The Rocotos that I am growing deserve a special mention. It is the first time I have grown C pubescens, and I must say I am impressed. In the short time these Chillies have been growing, they have done exceptionally well. They have done far better than any of the other Chillies. I can only put this down to the cold weather resistance of C pubescens. My other Chillies are now between one and two inches tall after four months of growing. The Rocotos are that height (and even taller at about 3 to 4 inches, after only ten weeks). No wonder Rocotos are so popular among British Chilli growers. They are certainly a robust species.

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The latest on the Rocotos

An update on the Rocotos

It has now been about seven weeks since my Rocoto seedlings  were planted. The tallest, named “Rocky” and “Rocco”, are about two to three inches tall.  They both have been potted on into 3-inch fibre pots. The rest (still to be named ?) are only about one inch tall. They are still in the eggshells they were started in.  The smaller seedlings still only have cotyledons. Once they develop their first set of true leaves, they too be potted on.

I have been pleased with these Chillies progress. Rocky and Rocco obviously like the new potting on mixture I developed last year. They are looking very healthy indeed. They are also definitely responding well to the current fertilization. I feed them with half strength Chilli Focus.  I am making sure they get the right amount of moisture with my newly acquired aquameters. These are little devices that allow you to gauge how wet potting soil is. Rocoto seedlingsEach of my larger Roccoto plants has one. When the indictor starts changing from blue to white, I know the time has come to give them water.

Since December, I am now only giving my seedlings rainwater. My wife bought me a rainwater barrel, and what a gift it was. I no longer have to use tap water. Watering Chillies with tap water can lead to nutrient lock out. I certainly don’t want that to happen with my Rocotos. They are, after all, my special plants

The general maintenance of these seedlings has been so far, so good. I am however still having to watch the aphids. As always, they always find a way of reappearing. This morning, I aim to wash the seedlings in a soap water solution that I make up. I use one tablespoon of a mild liquid soap like Castille, and add that to a quart of room temperature water. I then mix everything well. Once mixed, I turn the seedlings upside down (still in their pots) and submerge them in the solution. Normally this is enough to kill off any aphids, but to make sure I take it a step further. I allow the seedlings to dry, and then use my fingers to rub their leaves and stems. This wipes off any remaining aphids, whether dead or alive

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More on Rocoto Chillies

Getting to know the Rocoto Chilli

As mentioned in a previous post . I will be writing a series of posts on growing Rocoto Chillies. These posts will cover everything that happens from the moment I plant the seeds  until the plants mature. I will then write about how I use the Chillies in cooking. In other words, rocotos from start to finish. As part a of this I will be learning as much about Rocotos as possible. I want to explore where they are from, what’s the best way of growing them, and anything else interesting that I can find on this amazing Chilli.

The reason I chose the Rocoto for this series is mainly by chance. While researching something else, I stumbled across the fact that Rocotos are widely grown in the United Kingdom. This Chilli is apparently really popular amongst Chilli growers in this country.  I did’nt know that. Who would have thought that a Chilli one would associate more with South America, and perhaps Mexico would be so popular here?  My curiosity got the better of me ,so before long I was digging deeper into all things Rocoto.  What I have learned has been very interesting indeed. Now I am just waiting for my seeds to arrive.

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Another Chilli identified

Another one bites the dust

In a previous post, I discussed identifying the species of unknown Chillies by their flowers. After writing the post, I decided to try and identify the unknown Chilli that I have ripening under grow lights.  I believe I have succeeded in doing just that, but it was not that easy. I think this time I just got lucky. It certainly wasn’t through any great skill on my part. Read more