Where should you grow the chillies?
An important question that should be considered before you begin to cultivate your own chillies is:
How much space do I have for my chili plants?
Remember: In one pack there are usually 10 seeds, and if you want to cultivate several varieties, you can easily accumulate 50 or more plants.
Chilies need a sunny, sheltered place. The longer they spend in the sun, the faster they will grow and ripen. Additionally, a fully grown plant can have a diameter of 50 - 80 cm. If you want to grow your chillies in pots, it should be at least a 10 litre pot.
You should think about these conditions and dimensions at the beginning before your chili jungle becomes too large.
Furthermore, you have several options of where to grow your plants:
In the garden
All varieties which ripen in 50 to 80 days, such as the Jalapeño Early Chili, Serrano, Tabasco, Ciliegia Piccante, Purple Tiger Chili) are suitable for growing in the garden. The varieties with longer ripening times are better kept in pots so that they can be brought inside during the cooler weather in autumn and the fruits can continue to ripen. Large-growing varieties with large fruits (sweet peppers, Friggitello) do better when they are grown outdoors rather than in pots. The plants grow best in a sheltered, sunny spot on the south side. Plant your early plants outside at least 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost. Provide a nutrient-rich soil that you have prepared with compost or manure. The plants should then have a distance between them of 40 - 50 cm, some larger growing varieties will need even more space.
In a greenhouse
For all those who have sufficient space and finances available, a greenhouse is ideal for your chili plants. It facilitates the cultivation of seedlings, and all tropical and subtropical varieties with a long ripening period will find their ideal conditions in the greenhouse. However, for some chillies which have adapted to a desert climate (Anaheim, Numex) it is sometimes too moist in the greenhouse, and their peppers begin to rot.
In general, the greenhouse should be placed in a sheltered but sunny area. Ensure that there is good ventilation with (automatic) positioning windows and/or ventilators. In the case of strong sunlight in summer, you will need shading nets - especially for sensitive seedlings. An automatic irrigation system and temperature monitoring system are also useful for chili plants.
There are a large selection for greenhouses - inform yourself beforehand at specialist stores or trade fairs. Twin wall sheets (6 mm) have some advantages over glass: sufficient light with better insulation, break-proof and hail-proof. Additionally, no shading in the summer is usually necessary, since a large part of the UV and infrared radiation is absorbed.
On the balcony / terrace
Probably the most common method of chili cultivation in our part of the world is cultivation in pots/tubs on the balcony or terrace. This has the advantage that the plants can be brought inside or to the winter garden in the case of bad weather. Additionally, you can also extend the growing season for slow ripening plants in the autumn by bringing them indoors. In the case of cultivation on the terrace or balcony it’s the same: the sunniest and most sheltered place is best for the chillies.
For pots you can use clay pots, plastic tubs or plant pots. It’s important that the pot has a outlet, as chillies do not tolerate waterlogging. Nevertheless, you should always keep the plants sufficiently damp. Usually it’s enough to water them once or twice a week - more often in hotter summer temperatures. Just like tomatoes, chillies prefer it when they are watered from below.
Because chili plants need a lot of nutrients, you should use a rich compost or slow-release fertiliser granules from the outset. Otherwise, you should include a liquid fertiliser together with the irrigation water every 14 days. As soon as the first fruits form, you should increase the fertiliser to once a week. As you will want to eat the fruits later, an Organic Fertiliser is recommended.
In the house or apartment
If you don’t have a garden, balcony, terrace or greenhouse available, you can still cultivate your own chillies. For cultivation indoors, you should choose varieties which remain relatively small but still have sufficient levels of spiciness, such as the Apache Chili, Tabasco, Tennessee Teardrop, Purple Tiger, Ciliegia Piccante, Thai Orange, Orange Lantern.
Put your chillies in the sunniest place in the flat - a large south-facing window if possible. If the light is not sufficient (Chilies can tolerate more than 14 hours of sun daily), you will need to use artificial light. Suitable plant lamps can be purchased at garden centres or hardware stores. You should also ensure that your chillies do not become too moist, otherwise they will grow too quickly and form weak, twining branches. For suitable humidity you can use evaporation vessels or electric humidifiers. Plants grown inside can quickly become victim to pests such as scale insects, spider mites or white flies, so check regularly for unwanted residents, and remove them if necessary. As no wind blows inside, you will have to use a fine hair brush to help with the pollination process. Ensure that you use a different brush for each variety of chili, otherwise they will mix.