Growing chillies is fantastic fun but results often depend on the climate where you live. However, there are things you can do to grow excellent quality and quantities of chillies in most climates.
I live in an area where chillies do not grow very well outdoors so I grow them in a greenhouse but what I am going to talk about here can be used when growing outdoors.
The first thing to think about is seed. You can walk into a supermarket, buy a chilli and use the seeds from the chilli you cook with. Not after you have cooked them though. It is better to buy from a specialist seed company because as these seeds will be from chillies which have been particularly grown for their seeds. You can buy these from supermarkets, DIY stores or major seed supply companies. However, I like to buy my chilli seeds from specialist chilli growers. They are easy enough to find now that the internet has been developed but my Grandfather never had the internet yet he found a specialist company many years ago before chillies became a popular food in the UK.
So how do you grow them. Well you could just throw a few seeds in a pot and hope for the best but by taking some careful steps you can maximize your success.
If you live in a colder area start chillies off early in your house. There is no reason why you can not grow them on the windowsill of your kitchen, at least to begin with. I start mine off in February or sometimes even January as I like to give them a long growing season. Plant 3 or 4 seeds on the surface of a pot of compost which has been watered and then cover with a fine dusting of sieved compost. Keep the pot on a warm windowsill and in a week or so your plants will start to grow.
Once they reach about 1 inch high they need to be potted on into their own pots. Handle the seedling by its leaves and gently transfer this to a pot of its own. I simply make a hole with a pencil and then carefully push the soil round the root with this. Hi tech or what – it works though.
Grow the chilli plant on until it is big enough to be planted in its growing position. As I have mentioned as I live in the north of the UK, I grow these in a greenhouse but if my weather was warmer and drier I could just as easily grow these outside.
While your chilli plant is growing keep an eye out for slugs and deal with these how you see fit. My chillies are grown on a 3 foot tall wooden bench in a greenhouse but I still get slug problems .. Your plants may need a stake to help them grow and feed regularly. I use a specialist tomato feed and find that this works fine.
How to harvest your chillies. Well I just pull them off the plant when ready and do something with them. I usually wait until they turn red as this is how I prefer my chillies but you can eat them green. I grow a specialist thin walled chilli but have in the past grown Jalapeno chillies with great success. I started growing a thin walled variety as I preferred to dry the chillies to use in my cooking. To dry them I just lay them on a tray and leave them on a windowsill in my office until they become leathery. I keep turning them every few days and after a month or so they have become dry enough to store but not so dry that they become hard a brittle.
Although I grow my chillies in a greenhouse, they are also very suitable for growing in a High Density Gardening bed. You can find more about growing chillies by checking out www.highdensitygardening.com