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Chillies are easy and fun to grow and need minimal area and care. They do best under glass with a long growing season and can be kept over winter in the right conditions. Some varieties will make excellent pot plants and can be grown indoors as ornamentals but are still edible.

Really hot stuff!


location is. If you are using an electric seed propagation mat or tray, just plug it in and put the seed containers on it. If not, then anywhere in the house that's warm will do – airing cupboards are ideal. Compost should be kept moist, but not soggy. Over watering will damage seedlings and could stop the germination process altogether.

Check the seeds each day for signs of emergence. Be patient but most will start to sprout within two weeks. Just as soon as the seeds have begun to sprout and show above the soil line, the baby seedlings require bright light. Window sills are good, conservatories are also very good, but wherever you put seedlings ensure that night time temperatures don't plummet. Seedlings will not like the cold.

Plants that don't have enough light will grow up weak and pale, with long stems leaning toward the light. Seedlings can be grown on at a temperature somewhat lower than those for germination -a range of 65° to 80°F(18° to 26°C). When seedlings are up and growing, and have at least two sets of leaves, then it’s time to let the top of the soil dry out between waterings.

If there’s one thing you need to know about chillies is that they love the heat. The implications of that shouldn’t deter you from growing them as it’s a hugely rewarding experience and when you’ve done it once, you’ll go on growing them year after year.

The downside of their love for the heat is that in the UK we don’t get the weather to grow them outdoors successfully. It’s possible, yes ,but it is also a risky business and the crop is often disappointing.

The second point is chillies need a fairly long season to grow from seed to fruit. So chillies will grow much better indoors or in a greenhouse, and your harvests will be far bigger.

Aim to plant in late February, but the real goal is to have seedlings ready to transplant into larger pots once the spring weather warms up. You should use a good quality, general purpose compost, do not use garden soil.

Your chilli seeds need warmth, 80°F(26°C), to begin the germination process. Light is not critical at this stage, but bottom heat or a warm

24 Country Gardener

When seedlings have several sets of leaves, you need to move or ‘prick them out’ to deeper individual pots. Carefully remove the plant, trying not to disturb the roots as this may cause ‘root shock’. Push up from the bottom of the cell for best results. Then place the seedling into its new pot and gently firm the compost around it and water lightly. Peppers, unlike other plants, will make new roots along their buried stems,

The Scoville scale of capsaicin strength

In 1902, Wibur Scoville developed a way of measuring the strength of capsicum in a pepper. The fiery sensation of chillies comes from capsaicin, a potent chemical that survives both cooking and freezing.

The Scoville scale begins at zero with mild bell peppers and moves to the lower range of peppers measuring 1,500 to 2,500 such as cascabels, four out of ten. The Jalapeño chilli is mid-range at about 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. Cayenne, aji and pequin rate about 30,000 to 50,000 units, while the habernero, one of the hottest, comes somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 units.

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