Looking to spice things up in the kitchen? Chillies are the best way to introduce a little heat to your cooking and whether you like it mild or tongue-numbingly hot, there are varieties to suit all tastes. Growing your own is a great way to try the diverse assortment of heat this small (but mighty) fruit has to offer. Add them straight to your dishes, use them to flavour dipping sauces or turn them into delicious chilli jams or oils. However you choose to use them, you’ll be delighted to know they are easy to grow in pots and small spaces.
Choose a spot with at least six to eight hours of sunlight and protection from strong winds.
Sow seeds in jiffy pots filled with seed raising mix and position in a warm, protected spot. Chilli seeds can take weeks to germinate, so don’t give up and stop watering while waiting. The soil needs to be kept moist at all times for germination to be successful. Once seedlings are between 5-7cm tall, transplant them (keep them in the jiffy pot) into a larger pot fill with premium-quality potting mix.
For those of you who prefer a faster result, purchase seedlings from your local nursery or garden centre and plant into a 300mm pot filled with premium-quality potting mix.
Once flower buds form, feed regularly with a liquid fertiliser specially formulated for fruiting plants. My preference is for liquid as it’s fast-acting, but if you prefer a less-is-more approach, look for a controlled release fertiliser that only needs to be applied at the beginning of the season.
Water plants regularly, especially during hot and dry conditions. This may mean a couple of times a week or once every couple of days. To help reduce watering, spread a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants and this will help retain moisture and keep the soil cool.
“However you choose to use them, you’ll be delighted to know they are easy to grow in pots and small spaces.”
Aphids love chillies. And yes, I’m speaking from experience. Due to the size and colour of aphids – often green or translucent – they can easily be missed. If you see ants, it’s a good sign aphids or other sap-sucking insects are around. Find them and spray thoroughly with a suitable organic insecticide.
Chillies can also suffer from a variety of plant nutrient deficiencies (iron, zinc, copper, magnesium or manganese). Correct them by applying a health tonic solution found at your local nursery. I’ve found that manganese seems to be an issue in both pot and in-ground plants. Here, the younger leaves yellow while the veins remain green. If this or other nutrient issues are not corrected, plant growth may be slowed and stunted.
Feeling hot, hot, hot
Here are some varieties you may like to try growing. Chilli heat intensity is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and ranges from 0 (zero spice) to over 2 million (a serious burning sensation)!
#Carolina Reaper (2.2million SHU)
#Ghost pepper (>1 million SHU)
#Cayenne (30,000-50,000 SHU)
#Thai Chilli (50,000-100,000 SHU)
#Poblano (1000-2000 SHU)
#Banana peppers (<500 SHU)
Filipino-style spiced vinegar dipping sauce (sawsawan)
Here’s a quick dipping sauce that pairs well with pork or lamb. There are many variations to this sauce, but I personally love this simplified version my partner makes. It’s tangy, a little sweet but super spicy (we like it with ghost peppers). Simply combine 2-parts balsamic vinegar to 1-part soy sauce. Peel and roughly crush 1 clove of garlic and add raw chilli to taste.