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OUT IN THE GARDEN: Growing chillis

Relieved of educational duties this week, I switch the television on and stumbled across an episode of the A Team.

A crack team of soldiers imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit who promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade you have to agree is telly gold.

As I watched them defeat the bad guys with guns made from potatoes and rocket launchers constructed from empty toilet roll tubes and double sided sticky tape, I couldn’t help wonder how they would have coped with Covid-19 and lockdown. When BA Baracus says: “I ain’t getting on no damn plane,” he doesn’t quite realise how true that statement is.


Everyone has coped with lockdown in different ways and now that there is a little light at the end of the tunnel we are all starting to look forwards to some kind of normal-ish life and the email I received from Mrs Julie Anderson perfectly illustrated that point.

Later in the year Julie would like to invite her closest friends around for a dinner party and at this dinner party she’d love to serve food that she had grown in her garden during lockdown. The centre piece to this meal would be a big pot of homemade chilli con veggie. The recipe would contain tomatoes, onions and a selection of root vegetables.

However, you can’t really make a chilli without chillies and that’s why Julie had emailed me she wanted to know how easy they would be to grow.

To begin with, fill a 9cm pot with seed compost and sow three or four chilli seeds on top of this compost... cover with a fine layer of vermiculite.

If you have a propagator, pop them in there. If not, cover the pot with a plastic bag and secure in place with an elastic band. Place them on a warm and sunny windowsill to germinate... this will normally only take a week or two.

Once you can see the young shoots appear, remove them from their mini greenhouses. Not all of your seeds will germinate but when the ones that have reach about 2.5cm tall it will then be time to transfer them into their own pot filled with good quality multi-purpose compost. Water them and put them back in their sunny indoor spot.

When the roots start to appear out of the bottom of your pots it will then be time to move them into a larger 13cm pot. You’ll find that as they grow they will need a small stake inserted into the pot to help support the growing plant. To encourage more fruit, pinch out any new shoot tips when the plant is about 30cm tall. You’ll create a bushier plant that way.

In late May when any danger of frost has passed you can plant them out into a 22cm pot or grow bag to mature They will need a hot, sunny and sheltered spot. Cover them at night with fleece for the first few weeks as they harden off. Keep watering them regularly and every couple of weeks feed them with a general purpose liquid plant feed once the flowers have appeared.

I hope later in the year Julie will have a wonderful dinner party with her friends and that the veggie chilli is a hit.

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