Ok… it’s the time of year, when a lot of chilli growers are taking the last pods off their plants…and pulling them up for the compost heap, with thoughts already on next season’s growing list.
My advice is…why not over-winter a few plants ?
Now… you will find loads of information on the internet about this subject, and it will all pretty much say the same. I’m not going to tell you here, that this is the only way to do this…that would be arrogant and stupid of me ! Also… I’m not going to guarantee that this will work, it really is hit & miss.
However…I can explain to you what I do, and have had good results in the past…
First, why would we want to over-winter chilli plants ? Well, when it comes to Cap.Annum plants, there really is no need, as these are pretty reliable to germinate and grow. Over-wintering is more favourable to Cap.Chinense varieties, which are harder to germinate, and require a longer growing season. A plant that has been Over-Wintered, will also have a great head start for the next growing season, and most have proved to be more prolific in their second season.
How does it work ? Any plant’s mission in life, is to produce seed…. our aim for Over-Wintering, is to make the plant feel it has finished producing seed…by picking off all pods, trimming foliage…and then help it into a state of dormancy.
First choose your plant, this could be your favourite for the season, or a good cropper of certain pods you like, however…try to avoid any plants that are in very poor condition, or haven’t produced very well.
Here, I’ve chosen a Purple Bhut Jolokia that’s finished podding:
The next job, is to cut it down….there are a few different thoughts on this, some growers like to just give a little trim and leave the plant more or less as it is. Others will cut the plant down to just a six inch stick…. I cut mine down to a “Y” :
Now we need to re-pot the plant in fresh compost….you can put it back into the same pot, or as I prefer, a smaller pot….I feel a smaller pot helps restrict root growth and helps with dormancy:
The plant is then watered, and placed on a window sill where it will get plenty of light, this is important as the plant still requires warmth and light to survive. Watering should be kept to a minimum, I would suggest every 2 weeks, however…the compost must not be allowed to dry out !
Chillis require very little in the way of feeding over winter, but a small diluted solution of Tomato feed once a month will do no harm. You should notice some fresh growth within a couple of weeks.
When Spring arrives, just put the plant back into a larger pot and feed it…. and if everything has gone well, your plant will have a great head start for the growing season.