Potting Up Chillies

Our pot luck chillies are starting to flower. We were recently told on a course by another gardener not to grow chillies in black pots as roots don't form on the side facing the sun. The heat literally sheers off the roots. We said nothing at the time because we couldn't remember if this has ever been the case for us but we are glad to say that we have never sheered anything off in the glasshouse, we have however driven nails into our hands in the orchard and sat on a gardening fork in the cottage garden. We grow chillies in black modules (these are cell trays, see image below) after pricking out into them and the results are normally, on a good year, strong plants.

chillies, gardening, life on pig row

With full root balls and no sign of the scorching off that the gardener on the course said had happened to them we're going to show you how to pot up these plug plants. You will occasionally finding scorching of plants under cover and that's more than likely down to forgetting to shade the greenhouse on a hot day, any root ball will scorch away if its cooked. So, keep your glasshouse covered on particularly hot days.

chillies, gardening, life on pig row

Let's get on with potting up our chillies, our plants are now around eight inches tall (that's roughly twenty centimetres in new money) and they are getting exhausted in their compost. Most compost is good for six weeks and after that they need a new pot, new compost or if in the final pot, a bloody good feed with comfrey juice or a tomato feed.

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You have that lovely root ball and that equally gorgeous plant, so move it on to the next pot. We use terracota pots at this point, there's no reason for this other than the fact we have them in abundance but there is an argument that the terracota draws away moisture and chillies don't like to be in wet soil. Now, the age old question, to crock or not to crock (crocks are broken up pots or grit used at the bottom of a pot to go over drainage holes to help with....well, drainage) and frankly it's a load of old crock either way. We gave up on using crocks at the bottom of our pots a few years ago, if you learn enough about plants you will discover if a plant requires plenty of drainage you add plenty of grit to the soil. A crock is just a frilly dance after the horse has bolted.

gardening, how to grow chillies, life on pig row

We use a good compost in the bottom of the pot so that the level of the plug plant is at the depth you need it. This simply means the surface of the plug plant root ball should be level with new soil level or just under it. You want to leave around an inch (around three centrimetres) between the final soil level and the top of the pot. Why? Because we say so, so do it and eat your greens if you want to grow up big and strong. Sorry. We have a child in the house and that is often the default setting after eight hours of 'why?' So, why? Well, chillies like a good drenching when watering and this means that each of your pots will have a one inch (around three centimetres) reservoir. When the water reaches the top of the pot move onto the next pot and so on and so on.

gardening, growing chillies, life on pig row

Now your plug plant is in the pot simply fill around the plug plant. Don't use your fingers to jam down the new compost, just gently push in, you do not want to compact the soil. You should be able to tap the side of the pot with the palm of your hand at the end of the potting on and the soil should move, shaking the surface level. You do not want to pat the side of the pot and watch the pot fly off like a cannonball because the soil has been compressed to a quantum singularity.

chillies, life on pig row

You should now have a pot that looks like this and you should know by now what to do next, water the buggers, yes. They are in shock, and the water will help to settle down the soil or any air pockets.

chillies, gardening, how to pot on, life on pig row.

Then put them back on your staging and admire them. Sell tickets to other gardeners who will admire how you have grown chillies in a country they don't normally grow naturally in. Feel smug, you've earned it. 

how to grow chillies, life on pig row


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