A Cook's Plot

In my Garden

Growing Chillies

Last week I had a very civilised breakfast meeting with Liz Ridgway, a fellow blogger (thank you, Jackie B, for putting us in touch with each other!). We met in a brilliant new French cafe near here and one of the great things that came out of the meeting was the opportunity to ‘guest blog’ on each other’s websites. So this week, I’ve invited her to share her chilli-growing tips on A Cook’s Plot - and in return, I’ll be writing about cooking with rhubarb on her site in a few weeks’ time. Liz’s company, Denys and Fielding, makes deckchairs, furniture and gifts using gorgeous fabrics and patterns, as well as offering a deckchair hire service for weddings and parties - a brilliant idea. She’s a passionate gardener and writes her gardening blog at denysandfielding.co.uk. So, over to Liz:

‘While the weather may be starting to warm up, it is still pretty unpredictable. Many tender varieties of veg need a little heat to get them underway - and that includes chillies. The next week or so is really the end of the chilli seed sowing season. Hot, spicy varieties need a long time to heat up and sowing these varieties normally starts at the beginning of the year. So, if you are buying seeds, make sure you opt for a late variety that is a little less fiery and happy to be sown this month. However, if you are more ‘jalfrezi’ than ‘korma’, you can simply buy little pots of your favourite chilli plants from your local nursery and enjoy the low maintenance approach that comes with buying established plants.

Whether you are sowing seeds or purchasing a young plant, you’ll need to provide a nice warm home. Seeds can be sown into trays with a light covering of soil and left somewhere warm and dark, such as a nice toasty shed or even an airing cupboard, if space is tight. Once germinated, you’ll need to move them into a light, warm spot to continue to grow.

In my case, the ‘light, warm spot’ is a little glass cupboard, put together by my long suffering Dad with the remnants of an old school loo block (see photo below)! The project has kept us quiet over the winter and I’m thrilled to now be stocking it up with chillies and pepper plants that have been potted on, and on (and on!), waiting to move in.

It is important to keep chilli plants both warm and watered. Just like us, plants need to drink more when basking in warmer climes. So, aim to keep the soil moist, but not wet, as they develop - but little and often is better than nothing at all. With warmer, lighter evenings, there is really nothing more relaxing than pottering about, watering your crops, so I’m trying to get into the habit now. Once your plants are established, you can ‘underplant’ or sow seed around them. I’m planning on basil and coriander - two herbs that I really love to cook with – as they also enjoy a nice hot spot in which to germinate and grow.

And that’s it. Dead simple. No pinching out required. Just simply let them get on with it and enjoy the harvest in a few months’ time.’

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