Given how this year has been a fairly dismal year for chillies, I thought I should reflect on what went well in the past and see if there are lessons to be learned.
I’ve have not always had the polytunnel, and did rely heavily on the small wendy house. Before that, I had sown and planted chillies in pots in dad’s garden. These had little or no protection, except when they were cloaked with a transparent gardening bag.
The first success came in 2009, and it was more or less sheer fluke in my first year of growing. The variety that I grew was cayenne, I didn’t at that point give too much thought as to what variety. I even had a baby jalapeno plant from the local garden cafe. In that case, I had cheated, I really wanted a jalapeno plant. Seeds were planted very late, but we did have a very good summer that year. I bit into one, and legged it, pops had the rest and wondered why I was flapping.
The plants were pampered, watered regularly. Kept in pots, as I had no where at that time to plant them. They soon got leafy, very leafy. Most plants were about a metre high and about that wide. Plus, they were cramped. Four plants to a pot. Watered and fed from the top, I didn’t faff with the drainage. They were watered and fed with normal every day tomato feed. A fairly bountiful crop, and I didn’t even tickle the flowers. More or less left them to it. It was only as Septemeber turned to October, that they were brought inside.
The came the allotment, and the small wendy house. Now I was putting more thought into it, and I even had different varieties. Sown on time, and these were really pampered from the cradle. When it came to potting, there were bigger pots, before they had a final destination of morrisons flower buckets (get them, 99 pence of a batch of 6. You’ll never buy huge pots again, and they are good for tomatoes too) . Dad had kindly drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. So once in their final pots, they were left to their own devices. Again, I only tickled when I remembered. I did at this point get the poly tunnel, and the plants were in there just as winter arrived. It is when you get to September October, you start to think. These plants are either going to die of their own accord, or you might have to put them out of their misery. It is nearly half way through November, I still have the plants in the poly for now. They are under a fleece, but who knows what might happen to them.
I have even tried to sow seeds on the day after boxing day. Both in a heated propogator, and on the window sil. To this day, I am convinced I have more success with germination on the window sill. Seedlings don’t grow thin and wiry, only to keel over with a lack of light. Seeds are sown into damp compost in a yogurt pot. This yogurt pot is in then put into a foodbag, knotted the top and into a gravel tray. I did try and line the tray with foil, and then put a lid on the whole thing. Checking from time to time, to see if a baby chilli had germinated. I have since delayed, and staggered the timings. Starting to sow in late January, onto late feb. But when you want to sow chillies, you want to sow chillies. That or tomatoes.
Sadly, I have never been able to replicate the success of 2009. I had hoped that the poly tunnel would have increased the the chances of having a successful crop. There are lots of different chilli seeds in the seed stasher that I would like to try, and I might just put them in pots next year, rather than in the ground of the poly. Scale back the experiment a little, rather than risking it into the poly.