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Best expert advice on growing chillies

Red and green Jalapeno chilli pepper seeds from Suttons

Planting and growing chilli seeds is pretty easy, and there’s a wealth of good advice available online if you need help. If you’ve never grown them before, or you’re looking for new and unusual varieties to try, here’s our pick of the best chilli-growing content from expert gardening bloggers.

Contents:

Best ways to grow chillies from seed

Brown Chocolate Habanero from Suttons
Growing from seeds allows you try varieties not available in shops
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds – Chocolate Habanero from Suttons

Chillies were one of the first crops ever grown by allotment guru Richard at Sharpen Your Spades. In his excellent article – Chillies I’m Growing – he explains how it’s important to sow your chillies indoors, and to start early enough to embrace their long growing season. He sows his seeds in February and uses a heated propagator to give them a real head start. 

Speed and simplicity is the style employed by Daniel at the Enduring Gardener in this short, but fact-packed video explaining how to sow your chilli seeds. If time is short, here’s everything you need to know in less than a minute. 

If you want to go into a little more detail about the best ways to germinate your chilli seeds, Clifton Chilli Club shares their hottest tips in this step-by-step video on growing chillies from seed – including soaking your seeds in weak tea before sowing. A really accessible and interesting watch, filled with clever little tricks.

Meanwhile, Punam at Horticultural ‘obbit documents her chilli growing journey in charming style in a series of enthusiastic posts, starting with Small Steps and Chillies. Not a fan of bright grow-lights, Punam pops her chilli seeds into grow pellets in a propagator, and reminds us not to let them dry out. 

The fieriest chilli peppers need the longest growing period, according to Adrienne at Wild About Gardening. In this article, packed with practical tips, she advises those who like the hottest varieties to sow them early – preferably in January and February. See which varieties she recommends for heat and flavour.

Best advice on chilli seedlings

Red Chilli Pepper Grafted Plant - F1 Medina from Suttons
Plug plants are ideal if you don’t have time to sow seeds
Image: Chilli Pepper Grafted Plant – F1 Medina from Suttons

Once your chilli seeds have germinated, you need to know what to do with your seedlings. Over at Claire’s Allotment, knowledgeable and hands-on gardener Claire has made an excellent video on how to prick out your chilli seedlings – just one of a terrific series of videos about growing chillies from her YouTube channel.

At the Chilli Workshop, this detailed, step-by-step guide to growing chillies includes clear and concise tips on when and how to transplant your chilli seedlings. Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes you can make at this stage, and can fatally damage seedlings early in their development. Read this article for watering advice, while taking inspiration from the team’s favourite varieties to try at home.

If you fancy experimenting with different growing methods, Andrew’s video provides a fascinating guide to using hydroponics to raise chilli seedlings. The gardener behind Life on Pig Row, Andrew’s lighthearted and informative blog documents family-focused ‘good life’ exploits in rural Yorkshire. Take a look – hydroponic chillies are easier than you might think.

Chilli plants are native to South America, as Jill, the respected garden designer and veg grower behind Growing Nicely reminds us. She suggests using tepid water on your seedlings to convince them that they’ve popped up on their native turf – just one of the tips she shares in her well-written chilli article.

Best place to grow chillies

Multi-coloured  Pepper Chilli Seeds - Prairie Fire from Suttons
‘Prairie Fire’ (above) is a great variety for growing in a pot or on a windowsill
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds – Prairie Fire from Suttons

Chillies need warmth and light to thrive, and there are lots of options to try in your quest for the winning combination. After starting off his seeds in a propagator, Nick from Two Thirsty Gardeners began a controlled trial of several indoor and outdoor locations for chillies – including his newly spruced-up conservatory. His enthusiastic results – the best place to grow chillies – makes for an entertaining and interesting read.

The folks at Birdhouse Chillies are wild about growing this fiery crop anywhere and everywhere they possibly can! Their article, The Pros and Cons of Where to Grow Chillies in the UK, is a really comprehensive study of all the options – in the house, in a greenhouse, in beds and in pots. There’s a brilliant graphic of the qualities and pitfalls of each location, a detailed but easy-to-read account of their chilli growing practice, and lots of explanatory photos.

You don’t need a garden or outside space to get a successful chilli harvest, according to horticulturist and TV presenter David Domoney. He suggests growing your own chilli plants on a kitchen windowsill and offers easy instructions on how to do it. If conditions are right, the plants can produce chillies all year round indoors, he says, although you can move them outdoors in summer.

Best ways to harvest, store, and use homegrown chillies

Pepper Chilli Seeds Padron from Suttons in pots after being grilled
Milder chillies are delicious simply grilled on the bbq as tapas
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds – Padron from Suttons

If all goes to plan, you’ll have a bumper chilli crop by late summer or early autumn. There are loads of ways to store or preserve them, although these bloggers have found some methods more successful than others. 

Most chillies will start off green, and gradually develop their final colour over a few weeks – usually turning to red, yellow or orange while still on the plant. When to harvest your chillies can be a tricky decision, explains urban farmer John at Allotment and Gardens. His very informative post also reminds us to always wear rubber gloves when preparing chillies to avoid the capsaicin burning your skin.

Alexandra of The Middle Sized Garden offers authentic advice on How to dry chillies, which she gleaned from family members in southern Italy and shares in this informative and beautifully illustrated article. She explains how to string your chillies up to hang in colourful bunches, spread them out to dry in the sun (rather easier in the Med than the UK!), or take a shortcut by drying in the oven.

Over at Hayley’s Lottie Haven (the beautiful setting for all kinds of fascinating gardening adventures with Hayley and ex-battery hen, Olive) a glut of long, fiery chillies from the greenhouse signals it’s time to cook up a big pot of chilli jam, teaming the fruits with autumn tomatoes. A delicious-looking solution!

Katrina, aka Homegrown Gardener, raises an abundance of chillies at her heritage allotment in Nottingham. Her enthusiasm for growing and preserving chillies really shines alongside a vibrant photo of a late December trug-full. She loves to pickle them, stuff them, freeze them and cook them up into jams or hot sauces. Don’t panic if you can’t sow your chilli seeds in January, says Katrina. February still gives you plenty of time.

Best advice on chilli varieties to try

Chilli pepper seeds - Longhorn F1
Brand new for 2021, Longhorn is a seriously productive variety
Image source: Chilli pepper seeds – Longhorn F1

Selecting chilli varieties to grow is a very personal choice and most gardeners have their favourites – super spicy, mild and fruity, long and skinny, short and dumpy, prolific, flavoursome or simply decorative. Here are some of the tried-and-tested varieties our bloggers recommend…

Hema, the keen grower and cook behind Grow with Hema, explains why she grows a choice of chilli varieties to provide the heat and flavour she wants for various recipes, as well as for drying. Encouraging and informative, she recommends ‘Ring of Fire’ as a good-looking classic to grow and use fresh in most family meals.

At her allotment in Wiltshire, Bryony Willis admits to being a novice hot chilli pepper grower, but she loves to experiment by growing different chilli varieties. She recommends ‘Lemon Drop’ for those new to growing chillies. Take a quick look at the gorgeous and colourful photos on her Instagram page for more inspiration.

The heat of a chilli is rated using the Scoville Scale – a measurement that indicates the quantity of capsaicin – hot stuff – present. The higher the number, the hotter the chilli!

For anyone with limited growing space, respected horticulturist Pumpkin Beth recommends ‘Ponky Pepper Spicy Jane’ which will live happily in a small container. She guides us beautifully through her routine for caring for this dwarf chilli variety to produce a good crop of medium sized, medium heat chillies.

Ten different varieties of chilli are rated by chilli fans, Daniel and Stephanie, at The Enduring Gardener according to their Scoville Units and ease of growing – ranging from the mildest to the most intense. If you want to blow your socks off, they suggest the ‘Naga’ – 150 times hotter than a jalapeno! See which types they’ve tried, and read their honest results.

Garden and nature writer Nic of Dogwood Days is a proper homegrown chilli enthusiast, opening up a chilli nursery on her Hertfordshire windowsill in early spring. With 39 chilli plants of 17 different varieties, her report on her chilli growing successes – including raising some Suttons chilli plug plants – is honest and refreshing. A good place to start if you want to try something new.

If you’re planning to grow your own chillies this year, we hope that this expert advice will help you decide which chilli varieties to grow, when to sow your selected chilli seeds, how to care for your seedlings, and, finally, what to do with the crop of bright and spicy chillies your mature plants yield. Good luck!

Lead image: Jalapeno chilli pepper seeds from Suttons

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