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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Chillies and peppers

Richard Alker

Ask the gardener: Chillies and peppers

Top tips on how to look after your chillies and peppers...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Alex asks...

Is it possible to grow chillis from the seeds discarded from the fruit when using them in cooking (ie bought from a supermarket)?

Bill replies...

You should Alex be able to grow Chillis from the seeds which have been discarded from your Chilli Peppers used for cooking and I would sow approximately twelve seeds in a general seed and potting compost in small three to four inch plastic pot and the seeds need to be covered with approximately quarter of an inch of compost.  I would place the pot on a kitchen window sill as to germinate they need a temperature of approximately fifteen to twenty degrees centigrade and it will take approximately ten to fourteen days for germination.  The seedlings can then be pricked off into small three inch pots and later they can then be grown in the final containers.  If you do not have a greenhouse you can again grow these on a kitchen window sill providing there is good light intensity and, if we do have a good summer your pots can be placed outdoors in a sheltered sunny spot in your garden. 

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Jim Riley asks...

Can you grow peppers from seed taken from a pepper or would I be better buying plants. If you can grow them from seed what's the best way?

Bill replies...

You can grow Peppers from seed taken from a Pepper Jim but quite a number of the peppers which are now being grown are Fl hybrid plants and if you save the seeds from these plants the plants will not always be as vigorous and quite often they are not true to type.  When you take the seed from the pepper you will need to allow the seeds to dry out at normal room temperature and then the seed can be sown in a seed and potting compost in seed trays or small three and a half inch pots. 

When the seedlings are large enough to handle these can be pricked out and grown separately in three inch pots and then, when large enough, can be transplants into their final pots/containers. Peppers love to be grown in very light conditions, they are an ideal plant for a conservatory or cool greenhouse and can also be grown outside in a south facing sheltered aspect but, you will need to wait until June time before placing your pots outside. 

NB: There are two types of Peppers you can grow Jim - the straight peppers which if you save the seed they will grow true to type and there are the F1 hybrids.  An F1 hybrid is the first generation of plants from two pure varieties.  These F1 hybrids are generally more vigorous than an ordinary hybrid.

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Anthony Jones asks...

Have just bought a lot of different varieties of chilli plants, to make sure they breed true, can I take chilli cuttings? If so how?

Bill replies...

If the varieties of Chilli plants you have purchased are straight varieties and not F1 hybrids Anthony you can save the seeds from these plants and they will grow true to type, as they very rarely get cross pollinated.  If some of your varieties are Fl hybrids these will not grow true to type.  You will still get pepper plants but there is a chance that they could quite easily revert to one of the parent breeds that they have been crossed with.  With regard to taking cuttings the ease in which you can grow peppers from seed means that virtually nobody grows peppers from cuttings.  I personally have never taken pepper cuttings but, if you wish to try you will need to take small young shoots approximately two to three inches long from the parent plant and I would try rooting the cuttings in a mixture of peat/pearlite or peat/vermiculite and insert the cuttings either in a propagator or around the side of a three inch pot.  After watering the cuttings you will need to cover the cuttings with a clear polythene bag to cut down on transpiration loss.  I do feel however that it is going to be very difficult to root these cuttings unless you have a mist propagation unit or fogging unit. 

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David Neale asks...

I am growing a chilli plant (unknown variety) on the windowsill at work and it appears to be surviving the winter quite well, although it is getting a bit big and taking damage from people brushing past it.  If I prune it will it likely increase or reduce the size of crop in the summer?  If I do prune it, how drastic should it be?

Bill replies...

You will need to prune your Chilli plant back and this can be pruned back to approximately one third of half the size if it is a large plant and they need to be pruned just above a leaf.  It is important at this time of year (February) that your plant receives maximum light as this will avoid the shoots etiolating (becoming leggy) and, you will find over the summer months that your Chilli plant will produce new shoots. It is important that when your plant is actively growing you feed your plant at least once a week with a high potash fertiliser.

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John asks...

We recently bought some chilli seeds in Mexico. What info can you give a novice, on how to plant etc?

Bill replies...

I would sow your Chilli Seeds early March John but, if you require a succession of plants you can also sow another small batch towards the end of March. This will of course depend of how many Chilli Plants you require.  The seeds can be sown in a small seed tray or in a five inch pot in a general seed/potting compost and the seeds need to be covered with approximately a quarter inch of compost.  For germination to take place the seeds do require quite a warm temperature of approximately twenty degrees C and, it is also worthwhile after watering in your seeds to cover your seed/pot with a clear polythene bag which will help to keep the compost warm and reduce drying out.  When the seedlings have germinated they will need to be pricked out into three inch pots and, again, when large enough can be transplanted into larger containers.  It is important that your seeds are grown in very light conditions and they are an ideal plant for a cool greenhouse during the summer months.  If you do not have a greenhouse and we have a reasonable summer your Chillis can be placed outside in a sunny south facing position.  Chillis are a 'greedy' plant and when actively growing they will need feeding at least once a week with a high potash liquid fertiliser.

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Andre Francis asks...

I am trying to grow peppers and chillies without using any fertiliser, can you suggest any tips to use as organic feed?

Bill replies...

If you're growing your Peppers and Chillis in pots Andre you will need to feed your plants on a regular basis and when they are actively growing at least twice a week.  You ask about organic fertilisers and there are quite a wide range of these available at Garden Centres.  A popular feed is Liquid Seaweed extracts and Liquid Comfrey and you can also top dress your pots with an organic fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  I have discussed varieties and cultivation techniques with Margaret Robinson, the eminent vegetable grower and Margaret has suggested the following two varieties for Chillis - Piros F1 Chilli (medium hot) and Hungarian Hot Wax Chilli.  For the sweet Peppers - Marconi (which has long fruits and a mild sweet flavour) and Ringo Sweet Pepper (which has long green fruits ripening to yellow). Margaret also advised liquid feeding at least twice during the growing season and to pot your Peppers into a John Innes No 2 compost.  More information regarding varieties can be found on Robinson's web site www.mammothonion.co.uk

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Christine Pate asks...

I have a chilli plant which I have brought in from my unheated greenhouse to the kitchen.  There are lots of chillies on about 3/4 inch long but the leaves have now started to drop.  Will the fruit continue to grow or is it too late?  It took a long time for the seeds to germinate originally.

Bill replies...

We are coming to the end of the season for both Chilli Peppers and tomatoes Christine but if your Chilli Pepper is now situated in a warm and light position in your kitchen you will be able to keep it for quite a few more weeks.  And providing the light intensity remains high you could quite easily find more flowers and small peppers on your plant.  On the question of your three-four inch Chilli Peppers on your plants if you feed them once a week they should grow slightly larger - a lot depends on light and temperature conditions.

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Aileen asks...

I have been given pepper plants, and they seem to be growing well, but I don't know how to look after them. Do they need pinched out just like tomatoes?

Bill replies...

There are two types of Peppers you can grow Aileen - the Chilli Peppers which are very hot and used for cooking and the Salad Peppers which as the names suggest are used in salads but can also be used for cooking.  The Peppers belong to the same family as the Tomato but they do not need pinching out - just let them bush out - flower and produce Peppers but they will need plenty of feeding and watering.

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John asks...

When growing peppers is there a shoot to nip out to stop growth as you do with tomatoes?

Bill replies...

Although Peppers belong to the same family as the Tomato John you do not need to remove any shoots at all - just keep them well watered and feed with a high potash fertiliser.  There are two types of Peppers which you can grow - the salad varieties - which as the name suggests can be used in salads and also used in cooking - and there are hot chilli peppers solely used for cooking.

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Wendy Perry asks...

I have grown peppers for the first time and they appear green at the moment, they were planted as yellow peppers, do I pick them and leave them to go yellow or will they turn yellow if left?

Bill replies...

You will find in time Wendy that your green peppers will start to turn yellow but they are a greedy plant and for this to happen you will need to keep feeding your peppers at least once a week with a high potash fertiliser.  On the question of whether you can pick your peppers when they are green - the answer is yes - providing they have reached a reasonable size.

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 09:00
created: 20/10/2006

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Chillies and peppers



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