How to Grow and Harvest Chillies
Chillies and Peppers are extremely rewarding to grow. There is a huge selection from Glen Seeds for South Africa gardeners to suit every palette and occasion as well as the sections of your Garden. In our opinion almost all chiilies are ornamental; however some are just more suitable as ornamentals in your flower beds than others.
There are various types and sub types of chillies and peppers for the South African home gardener. Growing these are pretty much the same across all types. With two exceptions.
- Larger Plants with big fruits such as Bell Peppers do better when staked.
- Certain types are perennial and can be overwintered with the correct care.
Soil Preparation and feeding
Chillies and Peppers thrive in rich well composted soil. Chillies have a remarkable tolerance to overwatering; therefore, if you have a particular wet spot in your garden you can well use the space for your Chilli and Pepper plants.
Nitrogen and calcium is crucial to this family. Properly broken down compost contains a lot of nitrogen however this on its own will probably not be enough. Kraal or chicken manure and an added helping of anything high in calcium in your soil will do wonders for your Chillies and Peppers.
We observed at Glen Seeds that Chillies and Peppers thrive in manure that was still way too fresh for other plants.
At Glen Seeds we do not recommend using chemical fertilisers but if this is something you use, choose types with a high nitrogen content. During growing spraying with a high nitrogen content natural foliar spray three to four times will do wonders. Many good marine based products are available commonly at garden centers that is not just full of nitrogen but also excellent sources of trace elements.
Planting times for chillis in South Africa
Aug to Dec
When planting early start of in seedtrays indoors or in a greenhouse and transplant only after last frost.
Please note: Planting times supplied is in a general South African sense and is based on typical South African Highveld conditions. Your particular area of South Africa might vary, there are many parts of South Africa where Chillies and Peppers can be grown all year round!
Seed Planting and Germination
The only part of growing Chillies and Peppers that some gardeners have issues with is initial germination. We are going to give you a very easy foolproof way of germinating the seeds below, so don’t despair. As far as vegetable seeds goes chillies and pepper seeds have a comparably low germination rate, which you should take into consideration.
There is a general rule that states the hotter the Chilli the more difficult it is to germinate. This is however not always the case, as an example the very hot Orange Habanero chilli is remarkably easy when it comes to germination.
So now for the foolproof method to germinate Chilli Seeds.
You will need:
- Chilli Seeds
- A zip seel bag (use the one your seeds from Glen Seeds is packed in)
- Sheet of kitchen towel ( do not use serviettes or similar, they fall apart to easily)
Method for germinating Chilli seeds
- Moisten the kitchen towel, you want it wet/moist not soggy. A spray bottle with water works well.
- Fold the towel once or twice and spread the seeds evenly on half or a quarter of your folded kitchen towel.
- Fold again once or twice to cover the seeds and press down gently. Fold in such a manner that your final folded towel will fit in the zip seal bag.
- Place in Zip Seal bag and keep in a warm area. At glen Seeds we place sealed bags first in a plastic container that we place on top of a heat mat*. Many gardeners will place their seeds on top of and to the back of a fridge or freezer where it is warm.
- Start to check your seeds from 5 days onwards.
- Transplant seeds that started to germinate in seeds trays or pots covering lightly. Remember that the roots appear first, so try to get the roots to face downwards in your seed trays and pots. Not all your seeds will germinate at the same time. Merely put back in the bag seeds that did not germinate and place these in the warm spot again and check every second day or so.
- Keep transplanted seeds moist, they will after all die within an hour if they don’t have water. Transplant when there are at least two true leaves on the seedlings.
Chilli seed germination takes anything from 5 days and upwards, some chilli seeds might take as much as three weeks!
*Heat mats are commonly available from most pet shops. These are like electric blankets for reptiles. Heat mats emit heat of approximately 28 degrees Celsius, the ideal temperature for germination chillis and peppers.
Chilli Plant Spacing
As a general rule chilli plants should be spaced 75 cm apart, however smaller types can be spaced much closer.
Days to harvest
The majority of chillies and peppers will start to produce around 85 days after transplant, there are however a few earlier types.
- Days to harvest is based on typical good growing conditions and can sometimes vary dependent on climate, state of soil, in some instances day length as well as the climate for the area in South Africa where you reside.
- The specific plant might have characteristic that falls out of the typical type norm.
- Days to harvest is counted from germination or seedling transplant date whichever is the latest.
To get the most out of your chilli plants harvest fruits regularly and the plants will reward you generously by producing more.
Saving of Crop
There are numerous uses for chillies and peppers and you will most probably have a crop that is more than you can handle right away.
- Most Chillies can be frozen
- Chillies can be pickled
- You can make amazing chilli sauces in all forms and levels of heat.
- Thin walled chillies can be dried, even some of the thicker walled ones like parika!
- Dried chillies can be ground down to make seasoning powder.
Click to view which Chilli Seeds Are available to you now