SOAKING your chilli seeds overnight in warm water will increase your germination rate. The best way to do this is to tie each packet of seeds in a piece of muslin using wool or cotton.
Fill a pre-warmed flask with warm water and pop in the chilli bags overnight.
When it comes to planting your chilli seeds, the best way to do this is to plant them into small pots by filling one pot per seed about 2cm below the rim. Once you have done this, flatten down the compost and soak the compost and pots.
Place the seeds with a good space between them so that you do not harm the roots and cover them with a fine layer of compost.
It is best to use separate pots or trays for each variety of chilli that you are planting — so don’t forget to label them.
Once you have planted all your seeds, place the pots in a heated propagator or a seed tray with a clear lid in a warm place — ideally you should keep soil temperature at 26 to 32 degrees centigrade and the compost should be kept moist but not too wet or the seed will rot.
When the seedlings start to appear, then you should introduce some ventilation to your propagator or seed tray, but be careful not to let the temperature drop too much at night, as the plants can be very vulnerable to the cold weather at this stage. Once your plants have a few leaves, you should start to feed them on a weekly basis and then, four to six weeks after germination, the plants can be potted on. You will need to do this very carefully as you need to avoid disturbing the roots too much.
Chilli plants do well in warm, sunny places so a greenhouse or conservatory is the ideal place for them. They can also be placed outside on a sheltered spot or warm patio but you will need to acclimatise them slowly by bringing them in at night for the first week or whenever the temperature threatens to drop.
As the plants grow, use a cane to support the plants as they grow.
Carry on feeding the chilli plants with a dedicated chilli feed or seaweed extract at the suggested rate.
Be careful not to over feed the plants as this can actually have a detrimental effect on your plants and may even kill them.
Your chilli plants will produce flowers first of all and then chillies on each of its sidestems so the more sidestems you have, the more fruit your plant will produce.
If you want to increase the number of chillies your plant produces, then you you need to increase the number of sidestems.
One great tip is to tip your plant onto its side once it is a substantial size. The chilli plant will try to grow upright by throwing out a number of sidestems .Once it has done this, turn the pot around so that the new sidestems are facing down and it will throw out another series of sidestems, reaching for the light.
Give the pot a quarter turn and once another set of sidestems have been started, turn another half turn.
You can then return your plant to an upright position and wait for a bumper harvest of chillies.
Chillies can be pollinated by bees but it’s worth knowing that they are also selfpollinating so a gentle shake of the flowers will help ensure that they set.
Once your chillies start to flower, start to feed with a tomato feed to encourage fruit to set.
Don’t be too concerned if your plants start losing leaves as low light levels can cause chilli plants to go into dormancy.
The plant may look dead but come spring, they will burst back into life again.