2019 Growing: Chilli and Sweet Pepper Review

T’was a hot summer here in the south of England, and our first with the new polytunnel

We couldn’t wait to see how our chilli peppers would grow in comparison to previous years being grown in the ground in the old greenhouse.

This year we grew chillies in there, as well as in pots and in our new ‘hugelkultur’ raised bed inside the polytunnel, which gave us a really good selection! We posted a review of our chilli and Sweet pepper grows last year, but this year was a whole new level of heat!

This years Chilli line up

From left to right: Joe’s Long, Rocoto Loco, Fish, Carolina Reaper, Chocolate Habenero, Hungarian hot wax, Lemon drop, Nigels and Jalapeño

We’ve had Ripe chillies before but we knew they could perform better if given the right environment! The polytunnel lived up to our hopes and dreams in this aspect and in comparison to the vegetable garden, the plants were weeks ahead in development, and gave a good yield.

Varieties we grew

Favourite Chilli of the year goes to the Jalapenos. Most picked for dinners and made into amazing pickles that keep this going into Winter. We will always grow this as its Liams Favourite of All!

Hottest is the Carolina Reaper, by far too hot to eat really but we all know an idiot! We were however able to use sparingly in sauces and as an infused ingredient. Did you realise chilli spirits are a thing? We put Reaper in our last batch of home brew Gin and it gave it a bang!

Best Flavour goes to the Chocolate Habenero which has a super smoky, deep flavour as well as a massive kick! Love this for Tomato Based stews and as a BBQ style Marinade!

Most prolific is the Peruvian Lemon Drop which was of the first to ripen and the last standing in the garden! It really does taste lemony and packs real heat. We made these into Chilli Ristras which are dried and hanging up in the kitchen.

Most Interesting would have been the Beautiful, variegated Fish chilli but it doesn’t win because I loved the Mexican Rocoto Loco chilli more! The red apple of chillies are very unique. Black seeds, fluffy leaves and bold purple flowers! Bright red fleshy fruit is a sweet and very hot! We had so many we were able to make litres of its own hot sauce!

Sweet peppers

Red bell, Napia and Semorah

Which varieties we grew

The most prolific plant had to be the Napia Red Sweet Pepper, which was also my favourite! Really juicy flavour and a well organised looking plant that held itself well. They were the first ripe peppers we had starting in Early August and they kept on going until Early November!

We found the Semorah pepper to be prolific but fruits were quite skinny and not as fleshy as the others. Many of the fruits in the greenhouse were eaten by pests and birds, but those in the Polytunnel were much more successful! They were first to die off in Autumn.

Kaibi Round bell pepper ripens to a wonderful bright red and is a strong growing plant. The fruits taste amazing and have thick, fleshy walls, but took longer than others to ripen. In the polytunnel, the plants grew huge and produced a decent crop of fully ripened peppers, but none much bigger than a cricket ball. In the vegetable garden, the plants as a whole, grew smaller, and the fruits grew HUGE, but did not fully ripen! Fortunately, this is still a very tasty specimen to eat even unripe so we didn’t miss out too much! I didn’t keep any seeds from my harvest as I don’t think they were at their full potential, but i’ll be ordering some more seeds for next year!

Another favourite with us all was the Sweet Chocolate bell pepper which is a very nice variety and grew really well here, producing lots of fruit all summer long until early November. We found it to be wonderful in taste and interesting to look at with its red fleshy inside covered in a purple skin. It looks like sweet chocolate! We had ripe peppers in the vegetable garden too which is always a bonus. I would definitely grow this pepper again!

Growing in the old greenhouse

Chillies and Sweet Peppers grow surrounded by herb seeds in the Vegetable Garden in the old greenhouse.

These plots had been mulched with Manure and leaf mould in late winter and left covered until needed. Using dark material can help warm the soil before planting.

Napia Sweet Peppers ripening in July

Last year we didn’t manage to get any fully ripe sweet peppers from the vegetable garden, but this year we had so many from the new raised beds in the polytunnel!

Growing in Pots

We grew many plants in 10litre pots to see how differently they performed in comparison to those in our new raised beds. We fertilised these regularly with homemade comfrey tea and we thought they were quite impressive.

Hottest Chilli Pepper in the World, Carolina Reaper ripening in August

The more you pick, the more they will grow! It’s a great way to grow especially for those with little ground space. The soil dries out quickly when using small pots and that’s why they need to be watered regularly. Although they say, the more you stress the plant, the hotter the pepper!

Chillies grown in canvas pots that supposedly stop plants from getting rootbound
We grew sweet potato vine and chilli peppers in Large tubs which thrived for the whole season. The chillies yielded huge amounts but the sweet potatoes struggled, maybe 2 big ones and a few tiny ones that did reach all the way to the bottom of the tubs but were planted a bit late for slips, and didn’t fully develop! Next year I’ll be growing them by themselves so they’re not choking in chilli roots!

Growing in our raised ‘Hugelkultur’ Bed

Translating as ‘Hill Grown’, we have piled up logs at the base of our raised beds so that they can provide nutrients to the soil as it breaks down over the years.

If you’ve read our blog ‘Spring Inside the Polytunnel‘, you’ll see how we created the ‘Hugelkultur’ Beds, by piling up logs at the base of the bed so that it provides nutrients for plants as they break down over the years. It translates as ‘hill grown’ and this is a method that has proven to be very effective all over the world, especially in areas of very poor soil.

Peruvian Lemon Drop Chilli in November
We were so blessed with sweet peppers we were generous enough to take some to our summer plant sale with some other summer produce and we sold out!

Next Year

We are planning to taking our growing experience to the next level by growing more chillies than ever! As well as growing to feed the family, we grow will raise hundreds of plants from seed to sell to our neighbours at the Spring plant sale. We encourage everyone to grow chillies since there are so many types, you only need a small sunny space!

We plan to double up our raised beds inside the polytunnel and create another trellis so we can fit more sub-tropical climbers in besides our Chillies and Sweet Peppers! Many more will be grown in pots as we find them to be very successful if fed and watered regularly.

Plans for a new heated seed bed are undergo for Spring 2020!

The worm farm has been up and running for over a year now and there are a lot of of wonderful worm castings for us to use in next years soil!

What we learnt

When it comes to growing these plants from seed, it’s good to start them as early as possible, indoors by a window, with bottom heat for quickest results! A light can also be used if you have a space to fill!

Some chillies take longer than others to ripen so make sure those plants such as Carolina Reapers have the earliest start and the sunniest position in the garden if you want ripe fruit!

First Summer in the Polytunnel

2019 is our first summer having the Polytunnel and we’re sharing our successes and failures that came along with it. We have absolutely loved it and couldn’t have hoped for better results when it comes to our growing goals. We did come across some challenges including Managing the Environment. But we also learnt that we’re able … Continue reading First Summer in the Polytunnel

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