Veg Patch

To read the story of my Veg Patch in chronological order use the links in the Blog Archive

Friday, 21 June 2013

Chilli Trial Update - Part One

I think you are now well aware that I am growing Chilli's and some of them, are part of a very non scientific trial being run by the Chief Vegetablist know to all on Twitter as @5olly. Well his blog is currently out of action so the next couple of updates will be on mine. 

I am currently gathering data (well having a bit of a chat) with the other participants, but recieved a very detailed email from Dan otherwise known as @MisterNW, so whilst I am waiting for loads of other to sort themselves out here is his story by way of a guest blog.

Dan's story so far

Aside from the actual growing business this trial has, for me anyway, been more a trial of managing hopes and expectations. 

When I initially planted the seeds it snowed, lots.  Our old cottage is cold at the best of times but even ensconced in the void below the boiler (which also broke for 3 days during the snow!) I thought germination would never happen. I was destined to be a gardening failure.

When I discovered two celery-coloured wispy spears emerging from one pot I was so happy I named them after the hit christmas toy in our house: Mario and Luigi, my little yellow wax Hungarian seedling brothers.  "Grow boys!" I urged them "this is a TRIAL and we're off!", transplanting them immediately from their boiler hideaway to the kitchen windowsill.

Mario and Luigi
Well, grow they did - to about 2 inches anyway.  Soon shoots started appearing in the Numex and chiltepin pots too although the last two trial types foiled me. 


Numex or maybe a Habanero!
Spurred on my my achievements and now utterly convinced I might even have true hidden pedigree as a champion chili grower (just like those footballing shows where a rough street kid turns out to be the raw, unfinished, undiscovered Ronaldo) I bought another packet of seeds, two infact,  JalapeƱo earlies  and habaneros.

My dreams were filled with visions of the buckets of fruits I would no doubt soon be harvesting.  Even supermarket trips were affected.  I would find myself glancing at glass jars, wondering which recipe to use to preserve the chilis that would soon be weighing heavy on those branches.  I once spent an hour reading a website about homemade lime pickle!!

Then came the bump.  They didn't grow.  In fact, some days it looked like they were shrinking.  Winter continued long into spring with sunny warm days  a distant dream.  The only thing of note was when the cat ate half of one of my four leaves.  He doesn't even like salad!

Fortunately the sun did eventually arrive and with it came a growth spurt.  Even the new ones.  I had so many seedlings I didn't know what to do with them.  So I watered them, watched them, guarding against cat attack.

To stake or not to stake?

By this stage all had experienced good growth, seedlings were becoming plants and once again my excitement took over.  Maybe I was wrong to doubt myself.  What else could I grow?  I was hooked!

 I even bought a book about seasonal allotment care (i dont have an allotment) and began mentally sketching out an area of the garden with which to build raised beds.  The proposed area later became a chicken house mind you but the intention was there.  Self sufficiency, if you like chili and rhubarb (for this was the first thing I could conjure in my mind for my new proposed beds) was only a few seasons away.   

Then I thought " I need to do something with these, train them like the shops do, get the fruit in."

I Googled it and ended up no further forward than tossing a coin.  

Don't get me wrong, I love google.  factual stuff like how old is Tom Hanks (it'll tell you to the day if you want it to) it's great at, but subjective stuff can be a nightmare.  Particularly where chilis are involved it would seem.

Give chilli plants lots of water
Chilli plants like it dry

Stake and train them upwards
Don't bother staking

Pinch them out
Don't pinch them out

Without 5olly's advice to cut through the crap they might not have made it.

Worried I wasn't watering them enough I watered then daily but they got droopy looking and rather dead.  I lost a few at this time too

Turns out I was over watering them.  "No, I don't water them daily, only when I can be arsed" was the sagely reply from our head trialist and it worked!!  They soon dried out and started growing again at a pace. 

We're back on the up curve of our graph it would seem but my expectations have been massively tempered.  I no longer puzzle about how to overwinter the plants after fruiting or whether I can grow next seasons plants from the seeds of the fruits from non F1 varieties (nothing to do with cars apparently!  I learned that from the trial too) nope, just one fruit and I'll be happy.  

I've got lots of jobs this weekend but I will hopefully be buying some big pots and putting them out into the big wide world.

Watch this space ...


(North Wiltshire)
(Non propagated windowsill trialist)


  1. Enjoyed your post ! I know exactly what you mean about Google, there is so much contradictory advice that it is difficult to know what to believe, and in the end you have to trust your instincts ! Is the last photo a recent one ? How tall are Mario and Luigi now ? I grow them every year and never know whether mine are very fine specimens or pathetic runty things ! I do get lots of chillies though, which is the ultimate goal !

    1. Dans pictures of Mario and Luigi were taken yesterday I believe so that is the current size

  2. Hi, I've come over from 5olly's blog. I'm not technically doing the chilli chalenge but do have some of my own growing.
    I look forward to reading your blog.