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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 17 September, 2019
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How to get red hot chilli peppers to behave in your garden

Michael Kelly continues his Grow It Yourself series with chilli peppers

Michael Kelly Grower

PEPPERS ARE QUITE compact plants, so they don’t take up an enormous amount of space in your greenhouse or polytunnel. They produce a fine crop and can be grown well in containers and pots.

Both chilli and bell peppers are part of the capsicum family. Chilli peppers are small and have a hot flavour while bell peppers are larger and milder in flavour.

At this time of the year, peppers are starting to come into their own – usually the green bell peppers first, followed by the chilli peppers later in the autumn.

Sowing

Peppers need a long growing season so the earlier you get started, the better your chance of producing good, ripe fruit. Get the seeds sown in February on a heating mat if you can. They can take up to 2 weeks to germinate.

Sow the seeds at 20° Celsius in pots of compost or module trays. Transfer them into 9cm pots when the seedlings are large enough to handle. Pot the plants up again to a 30cm pot when it looks like they’ve outgrown the previous pot.

Growing

Harden off carefully before planting out in the greenhouse or polytunnel in May or June.

You can grow the peppers in the pots in a conservatory or sunny kitchen, but they will be demanding when grown this way and will need to be fed and watered regularly.

In the polytunnel or greenhouse, dig a deep hole and add plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Support the plants with small canes if required. Feed them regularly with a high-potash feed (comfrey tea works well) once they start to flower.

Source: Shutterstock/rattiya lamrod

Harvesting

Harvesting peppers is a balancing act. You will have to wait a long time for them to ripen from green to bright red (about a month), but leaving them to mature like this reduces the overall yield of the plant.

Do you want a small number of lovely red peppers or lots of lovely green ones? The choice is yours.

At the end of the growing season, dig up the plant and hang it upside down in the greenhouse – this will help the unripened peppers to mature.

Recommended Varieties

Chilli: Early Jalapeno, Habanero, Ring of Fire
Bell: Long Red Marconi, Fiesta

Problems

Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the greenhouse.

Red spider mite is a common pest – check the underside of leaves and spray with an organic pesticide if they appear.

GIY Tips

1. Peppers store well – they can be frozen, dried or stuffed into jars and filled with oil.
2. Greenfly can be an issue for peppers. A spray made from crushed garlic, oil and washing-up liquid, sprayed on to leaves, can deter them.

Recipe of the Week – Pickled Chilli Peppers

chilli peppers pickling Source: GIY

Chilli peppers will freeze and dry quite well, but pickling is an approach that retains their colour and flavour excellently. The vinegar in the pickle is also believed to reduce the heat in chillis – no harm if (like me) you’re trying to store the ultra hot Ring of Fire variety!

This excellent recipe is from Mark Diacono’s A Year at Otter Farm and takes just a few minutes to make. This recipe made three jam-jars of pickle, with the chillis standing upright in the jars.

Ingredients:

• 250g chilli peppers
• 500ml white wine vinegar
• a pinch of salt
• 100g caster sugar
• 3 bay leaves
• 12 peppercorns

Directions

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar in a pan over a medium heat. Add the bay leaf and the peppercorns and simmer for 10 minutes. Be careful that it doesn’t boil off.

Remove from the heat.

Put the chilli-peppers into sterilised jars and pour the hot vinegar over them to cover – then seal.

Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year. Keep in the fridge once opened.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

Click here for more tips on how to grow your own veg.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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