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
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 in development making them quicker to ripen, and gave us amazing yields!
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!
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 however, the 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. We will 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.
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 Chillies in Containers
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.
The more you pick, the more they will grow!
It’s a great way to grow especially for those with limited ground space. The soil dries out much quicker than those growing in the ground. Although they do say, the more you stress the plant, the hotter the pepper!
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 our raised beds by piling up logs at the base of so that they provide nutrients to 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.
We are taking our chilli growing experience to the next level by growing more than ever before! As well as growing plants for our Spring Plant sale, our passion for chillies is ever expanding and the demand for hot sauce is higher than ever. With our second polytunnel we will be growing plants dedicated for preserving! Chillies, Sweet Peppers and Tomatoes are the base of our recipes and will enter Polytunnel 2 for its first growing project. Our experiment will test which varieties perform best in this new enrivornment which has been known to exceed 55C in the heat of summer!
As well as growing to for the kitchen, 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!
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!
Plans for a new heated seed bed are undergo for Spring 2020!
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 dont have window space! High humidy is helpful until the seedlings pop through.
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!
Going into 2020 we decided that a heated seed bed inside the polytunnel would be amazing for starting seeds early in the year without having to sacrifice our indoor space! There are many plants that do not require such early start but we will be focusing on those such as Chilli Peppers and Sweet peppers … Continue reading Polytunnel Progress: Building a Heated Seed Bed
One of our latest plant obsessions is the Dahlia, since growing them from seed and realising just how easy it is to get many years out of these lovely plants. I first attempted these many years ago, with a tray of seed under my living room radiator. It was so successful it led me to … Continue reading Growing Dahlias from Seed and overwintering tubers
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