Chillies on the allotment (or not as the case may be)

These are the chillies I am growing from seed this year – I will keep two plants (one of each) and the others will be distributed to students and through various plant swaps and so on. These darker leaved seedlings are Royal Black Chillies I also have some lighter leaved ones are an unnamed variety that has mauve thumb-sized fruit, and which have been grown from such a fruit that I found on the ground, under the plant, at a very famous garden that I would prefer not to identify by name! I don't know how they will taste, but as they came from the kitchen garden, I am keen to see if they are as tasty as they were pretty.

So, these two chilli plants will be greenhouse grown throughout the year and then brought into the house in late October and kept there until April. Then they will be planted out on the allotment when I confidently predict they will double the yield they gave in year one. This happens for two reasons. The first is that second year plants are fully grown, so they put more energy into fruit production than one year plants which are still trying to attain growth. The second is that once they are planted outside, they get insect pollinated which is highly effective. If you grow chilli or pepper plants in a greenhouse, you really need to hand-pollinate to get a good harvest, and insect pollination still seems to work better than me with my little paintbrush, moving the pollen around!

Once the plants are outdoors, I harvest all the chillies apart from a few that I leave on the plant to ‘cure’ so that they can be used for seed sowing and let the two-year-old plants die in the first frost. This way I always have a mature and highly productive chilli plant in the ground, and a vigorous but less productive one in the greenhouse or in the house, waiting to take its parent’s place.

As you can see, a mature chilli really is productive. This Royal Black has about twenty mature fruits, about a dozen immature ones (that’s the black fruit you can see forming) and about a dozen flowers, waiting to be pollinated – all in mid-March!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, March 22, 2012


Blogger Joanna said...

We found ours pollinated quite well in the greenhouse if we tapped the branches.

I am encouraged that they will fruit better this year as last year they did not do so well, but that was because we were delayed as our original greenhouse fell down in the snow. We rescued one to overwinter. The ones we have though grow to be 3ft bushes which makes things a little tricky for moving them about.

March 22, 2012 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

We move the bigger plants in a wheelbarrow - it's a little crazy but having fresh chillies pretty well all winter is a small price to pay for a bit of semi-complicated plant relocation!

March 27, 2012 at 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

We are growing chillies for the first time this year so thanks for the tips. How long do you expect them to keep fruiting and is there anything special that we should do whilst they over-winter indoors?

March 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Kevin - my chillies are super-small and medium hot and I expect them to fruit from around June to around October, and then I leave the rest of the chillies on the plant, keeping it on the dry side, and harvest them as I need them. They shrivel up on the plant but are still semi-soft through most of the winter. They start fruiting again, indoors, in February!

Don't overwater the plant through the winter and hand pollinate with a little paintbrush every time two flowers appear. You'll have fresh chillies most of the year.

April 3, 2012 at 5:00 AM  

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