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.
I have a batch of chilli seedlings that are not thriving as well as the others I planted at the same time. They are small and exhibit stunted growth, showing signs of various nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies include yellowing at the leaf edges (leaf margin chlorosis) and browning at the tips of the leaves. To address this issue, I have decided to conduct an experiment using a multi-pronged approach.
Considering that the stunted growth could be attributed to various factors such as seed viability, watering, lighting, pests (like aphids), and the mentioned nutrient deficiencies, I will systematically tackle each potential obstacle to promote healthier growth in these plants.
While there is not a lot I can do if the initial problem was seed viability I will do everything I can to see if it is possible to address the other potential causes
Firstly, I will ensure that the plants are free of aphids. I plan to wash them thoroughly and apply an aphid treatment to keep them aphid-free for a while.
Next, I will change the potting soil, making sure the pH falls between 5 and 6, as Chilli plants prefer slightly acidic soil. Alongside this, I will treat the seedlings’ roots with an inoculant of mycorrhizal fungi, which can enhance nutrient uptake by establishing a beneficial relationship with the plant roots. In this way, I hope that the plants will rapidly absorb the nutrients I will be feeding them and go on to recover and become healthy plants
Benefits of topping
Towards the end of May in the UK your Chilli plants should be between 8 and ten inches tall. If you want them to grow big and produce lots of Chillies, there’s a helpful technique called “topping.” It involves cutting off the main growing tip of the plant to encourage more side branches and more Chillies.
Topping means cutting off the very top of your Chilli plant. By doing this, you’re telling the plant to focus its energy on growing more branches and producing more Chillies. It helps make the plant bushier and more productive as upward growth is curtailed in favour of growth outwards.
In addition to the above, you may want to trim away some of the bigger leaves that prevent sunlight from reaching the inner leaves of your Chilli plant. This will stimulate growth and make the plant even more bushy. It is also advisable when doing this to cut away any unhealthy-looking leaves and thus place your plant in a position for steady and healthy growth.
Having performed topping all you need to do is continue with routine care, including proper watering, fertilization, and pest management and you are virtually guaranteed of a bumper crop
In this blog post, we’ll explain why topping is beneficial when to do it, and give you a step-by-step guide to try it yourself. It is essential that if you are going to perform topping off that you don’t leave it too late. That may even reduce your harvest! So let’s roll up our sleeves, get out the secateurs, put on our gardening gloves and let’s start topping Chillies.
The perfect recipe
Embarking on the exciting journey of growing Chillies allows us to delve into the art of horticulture and savour the delicious rewards of homegrown peppers. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just beginning to explore the world of plants, cultivating your own Chilli plants opens a gateway to a world of flavours, colours, and aromatic sensations.
However, to truly unlock the full potential of your Chilli plants and witness them thrive, one crucial aspect must not be overlooked: the perfect potting mix.
In this blog post, we’re thrilled to introduce you to an extraordinary potting mix recipe specifically formulated to provide your Chilli plants with the ultimate nurturing environment. By expertly combining the optimal proportions of coir, compost, vermiculite, and worm castings, this mix will propel your chilli plants towards explosive growth, abundant yields, and an unmatched flavour palette.
This potting mix aims to provide a growing medium for Chillies which is slightly on the acidic side (which Chillies love), but also one that is nutrient-rich and is able to provide good water retention and aeration properties. In total it aims to be the perfect potting mix that will provide healthy plants that will provide a bountiful harvest of Chillies
So roll up your sleeves, put on your gardening gloves and let’s make a perfect potting mix for Chillies.
A well rounded program
When growing Chillies from seed to fruit in one season, it’s important to establish a well-rounded fertilisation program to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy plant growth and fruit production.
In the initial stage, when planting chilli seeds, no additional fertilization is required. The seeds contain sufficient nutrients for successful germination. Plant them in seed starting pellets, such as coco coir or a fertilizer-free seed starting potting mix.
Sow your Chilli the seeds into your seed starting medium and add water. that is all that is required.Once the seedlings have germinated and developed their first true leaves (dicotyledons), they may require additional nutrients (albeit at very low levels). However, it is important to note that the seedlings can still sustain themselves from the stored nutrition in the seed endosperm. Fertilisation during this stage is not necessary, but if desired, use a diluted fertilizer solution at reduced concentrations to provide a gentle nutrient boost.
If you decide to go this route use a liquid fertiliser with an extremely low NPK. It should be in the region of 1-1-2. Fertilisers like this can be bought ready mixed or made by diluting products like Chilli Focus . Another alternative is to dilute liquid tomato feed.
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