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
Getting rid of the gnats
I recently noticed an increase in the number of fungus gnats hovering around my Rocotos and other Chillies. While I have usually been able to keep fungus gnats under reasonable control by limiting my watering and using sticky fly paper, it just seems there are more of them around. Whether this is to do with me increasing the temperature in my grow tents, I am not sure. But one thing I do know is that I must take the bull by the horns. The time had come to get rid of these pests by using my new super weapon – hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen when mixed to the ratio of one part 3 % H202 to four parts, water is an effective way to get rid of fungus gnat larvae and eggs. I made up a solution to this ratio and used it to treat the seed starting mix that my seedlings are planted in. To do this, I poured the solution onto the surface of the mix. The hydrogen peroxide drained through the mix and in the process killed off most of the larvae. By doing this, I hope to have broken the life cycle of the fungus gnats. Adults only live for seven days. By killing off the larvae and eggs, I will have reduced their ability to continue multiplying. It is the first step in permanently getting rid of these pests.
One problem solved, but potentially another was created. I have observed that when I add the H202 to seedling pots, the seed starting mix seems to expand and become “fizzy”. I have read somewhere along the line that hydrogen peroxide provides oxygen to the roots, but I also thought I had read that the fizzing is a reaction to acidity. This got me thinking – was the H202 having an impact on my seed starting mix? Was the hydrogen peroxide perhaps affecting the PH? That wouldn’t have been good, because Chillies prefer slight acidity in the seed starting and potting mixes.
Third potting on of a Rocoto
Rocky, the tallest of my Rocotos, has been potted on again. This is his third repotting. His first was done in mid-December, when he was two inches tall. He was transplanted into 50 mm pots. A couple of weeks later, when he was three inches tall, he was potted on for the second time. He has now reached 4 inches tall, so has been potted into a 130 mm (one litre) pot. I followed the principles of my same size as pot rule to determine the correct time for potting on this Rocoto Chilli plant.
Rocco, another Rocoto, will also be potted on shortly. He is about three inches.The rest still have a while to go, but I can see these Rocotos being potted on in the next couple of weeks.
I have been impressed with how quickly my Rocotos have grown. They were planted in late November 2021. In addition to the ones mentioned above, all are at least two inches tall. When comparing them with other Chillies that were started at the same time or even earlier, they definitely stand out. They seem healthier and more robust than most of my other plants. This however is apparently not that uncommon. Rocotos are known to be cold weather resistant plants. They are also said to be exceptionally resistant to, resistant to diseases, infections, and pests. These are tough Chilli plants that can take a punch. There is no doubt about that!
With the biggest of my Rocotos already this big, it has got me thinking what will happen down the line. Come May, when I start hardening off, these plants will be far bigger. I don’t envisage these Rocotto Chilli plants being potted on again before then. However, once they are hardened off, I will have to decide on the size of the containers I will pot them on into. Once I have done the final potting on, I will place the Rocotos outside for the rest of the season.
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. Each 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
Finding the best way
To find the best way to grow Chillies, I decided to have a detailed look into every aspect of growing them. I explored all things Chilli in greater detail. This included seeds, potting mixes, and watering. I also touched on fertilisation. The exercise focuses on starting seeds and what happens after they have germinated. It then continues to when they are potted on for the first time. In time, the series will be expanded to include a detailed look at what needs to be done when the weather warms up.
This project is being run alongside my venture into growing Rocotos. These are Chillies I am growing for the first time. It made sense to do it in this way, because each step of the growing process is recorded. The Rocoto seeds were planted about a month ago and are currently young seedlings. Some have already been potted on for the first time. This makes these Chillies the ideal choice to use as the testing ground to implement my newly gained knowledge
While I believe my previously published posts on seeds, potting mixes and watering have covered many of the bases, there are still gaps. I am now looking to join the dots. To achieve this, I aim to explore answers to things I am still considering. I also want to verify the thinking behind decisions I have already made. It will also cover aspects like growing temperatures and other factors that I have not already dealt with. In this way, I aim to improve my Chilli growing technique and learn more about this fascinating subject
First potting on
Two of my Rocoto Chillies have been potted on. Not for the same reason, though. One was repotted because it is developing its first set of true leaves and has grown taller than its “pot” (see final note). The second, however, was potted on simply because it was in the same space as the first. Somehow I managed to plant two seeds into the eggshell I used to start these seeds. Doing his is usually a standard procedure for me when I start seeds. I typically sow more than one seed into the pod or pellet I use to start seeds, because it is insurance against failed germination. However, in the case of the Rocoto, the seeds‘ quality was exceptional, and I decided to use only one.
This potting-on was an interesting one for me. It is the first time I have repotted from eggshells. It was a bit finicky, and next time I will do things slightly differently. The finickiness came from breaking the shell to do the repotting. Where previously with peat pellets, I would have repotted the seedling still in the pellet. Here, I had to break the shell before I repotted the seedlings. I wet the soil in the eggshells before breaking them so that it would hold together. But obviously not enough. It broke up when I removed the shell, and I was left with two seedlings with not much soil around them. It made repotting somewhat more difficult. There was a silver lining to this, though. It certainly made separating the seedling easier. That both survived and have taken to their new containers quite happily.
The Rocotos have hatched
I was delighted a few days ago when I discovered that four of my Rocoto seeds had germinated. I was even more pleased this morning when I found that another had burst into life. Considering I expected germination for these seeds to take up to twenty days, it was a pleasant surprise indeed.
Instead of the time I had expected, the first seeds germinated in only ten days. What made the event even more pleasing was that the new peat-free seed starting medium had worked like a charm. To become peat free in my Chilli growing, where previously i would have used peat pellets, I tried something else.
To start these seeds, I used eggshells as seed starting containers. I filled the shells with John Innes seed starting compost that I had mixed with fifty percent vermiculite.
Okay, I have to admit that not everything was peat free. The John Innes compost contains a little . It was however, a bag of compost I already had on hand. It will have served no purpose to throw it out. When the bag is finished, I will look at other peat-free starting composts. I have already done some research, and I could possibly make my own seed starting compost by next season.
If you read my last post, you might recall that I also used the egg tray in which the eggs were packed to germinate the seeds. I filled the cavities in the egg trays with a little vermiculite to aid capillary action between the capillary mat in my self-watering propagator. The eggshells were placed on top of the vermiculite in these cavities
The seeds finally arrived
Last week, I received my Rocoto seeds. I was delighted, as this meant I could finally start my series on the life of a Chilli from seed from when it is planted right up to its use in cooking. I want to map out the journey of a single variety (Rocotos in this case) from the minute I start it, right through to harvest, and then finish with what I do with it in the kitchen.
When I opened the envelope, the seeds were sent in; I found a small bag containing ten black seeds. Black seeds are a characteristic of Rocoto Chillies. The seeds were quite big, about two to three millimetres wide and long. The seeds certainly looked healthy. So, while I might have paid a lot for them (the postage cost as much as the seeds), I was pleased with the quality
It didn’t take long before I was preparing the growing medium to plant these Chillies. As part of my drive to become peat-free in my Chilli growing, I decided to try something else instead of using peat pellets. The thought of using egg shells immediately came to mind. Somewhere along the line, I had seen an image of them being used for organic seed starting. The idea immediately appealed to me. Here was a way to achieve peat free growing, but also a way to use a sustainable resource. Read more
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.
The journey of a single Chilli
In a previous post, I mentioned I wanted to grow Rocoto Chillies. It is a variety that I have never grown before and thought they would be perfect for this post (and more to follow). The idea is to chart the progress of a Chilli variety from seed right through to maturity. In future posts, I will write about the Chillies progress from the minute it is planted until the plant produces fruit. Once the Chillies get harvested, I will describe how they are used in cooking.
So why did I choose Rocoto Chillies? The answer lies in the weather in the UK. This year I have problems with ripening. I have lots of Chillies, but many haven’t yet ripened. The season seems to be running out of time. It has become a race against time before the first frost.
When I learned that Rocoto Chillies have a tolerance for the cold, I was immediately interested. The Rocoto will have a longer growing season than some of the Chillies I planted in the 2021 season. I have already had to bring this year’s Chillies indoors or into heated enclosures so they can ripen. Hopefully, next year, I will be able to avoid doing this with the Rocoto because of its ability to handle cold weather.