“It’s meaning is cold, but it’s spicy, this chilly
Words can mean nothing, and everything, silly”
Chillies are fruiting veggies that are mostly used as seasoning in Indian cooking. It’s great fun to grow chillies as there are so many varieties available in the market. Some are used in food preparation, others are ornamental, some are sweet and others are hot, and you get them in reds, oranges, greens, yellows and blacks!
SEASONS: This is a perennial plant in the tropics, and a seasonal in temperate zones. It prefers a humid climate at early growth and a dry climate at maturity (flower and fruit production). It grows in temperatures between 10 and 35 degrees Celsius only.
PROPAGATING: Chillies are easily propagated by seed. Buy chilly seeds from your garden shop, or prepare your chilly seeds from scratch. Take a fully ripened chilly and dry it thoroughly in the sun. This may take a few days. Alternatively, use dried chillies of your choice that are often available in the grocery store. Open carefully and collect the seeds, storing in a cool, dark place.
GERMINATING: Germinate your chilly seeds in January/February or July/August so it gets the benefit of the upcoming hot and dry summers for fruit production. Chilly seeds are best germinated in germination dishes/seeding baskets prepared with a mixture of compost and peat moss. Seeds can be shown in shallow, 1/4 inch deep holes or scattered on the surface with a sprinkling of soil above. Place in semi-shade and spray water evenly. Spray your sown seeds daily until seedlings emerge in 5-7 days.
PLANTING OUT: Your chilly saplings will be ready for transplanting after 2 weeks of growth when their stems are sturdy and the first true leaves appear. Transplant to well-drained, well-composted soil at a distance of at least 18 inches between saplings to allow space for growth. Chillies are not fussy about soil type and will grow in slightly acidic, neutral and slightly alkaline soils as long as drainage and aeration is good. Chillies are well suited to container growing but will also grow on open plots. If using containers, opt for a medium to large size container as chilly plants need plenty of root space.
NURTURING: Place mulch around the soil to reduce evaporation and water each day, preferably in the mornings. The chilly plant is prone to verticilium wilt, white fly disease and fungus from over exposure to water and humidity. For that reason, virgin soil was recommended for growing it, with a strong dose of organic supplements like wood ash powder and neem leaf powder in your soil mix, to prevent soil-borne diseases. It’s also a good idea to protect your chilly plants from the over-exuberant rains and flooding of our Mumbai monsoons to prevent fungus growth. If well-nurtured, your chilly plant will grow swiftly and start producing fruit after about 2 months. A chilly plant in flower is a thing of beauty, and chillies will grow out of every flower in a matter of days. Prune your plant regularly to encourage growth of new stems and more flowers. If your chilly plant should succumb to disease, and seem to do so overnight (usually because of verticilium wilt or white flies), then uproot entirely and destroy. Do not compost.
HARVESTING: Harvest your chillies as soon as they grow to fullness. This is a bountifully producing plant and each healthy plant will give you hundreds of chillies. It will produce season after season so take good care of it and you will never need to buy chillies from the market again!
Plump and pungent chillies, ready for harvest
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