My chilli seedlings have been ticking along nicely in the conservatory, and until the weekend I’d paid them little attention other than keeping them watered. Daytime temperatures in my south-facing sun trap have suited them well, even if cooler night temperatures have kept them in check. Increased sunshine and warmer temperatures in the past week or so have evened out the fluctuations, meaning growth rates have really stepped up.
The plants have been in their root trainers for around 6-7 weeks now, meaning there will be little goodness left in the compost to support continued growth. With roots showing through the drainage holes, and the compost drying out quickly in the increased heat of the conservatory, Saturday morning was spent getting my sturdy seedlings potted on for the next stage of growth.
Root trainers make for really easy potting on – the plastic strips open like a book to reveal perfectly formed root balls that are easily handled will little risk of damage. I transferred each plant to its own 15cm pot, loosely filled with multi-purpose compost. It’s a simple process but there are some tips to follow to get the best results:
Top tips for potting on chillies:
- Water seedlings before potting on. I actually go one further and add a little liquid feed, as it will be a while before new roots stretch out to make use of the new pot compost.
- Spend time breaking up the lumps and bumps in the compost to encourage unhindered root development and good drainage.
- Use new or clean pots – re-using unwashed pots can allow pests and diseases to carry over.
- Fill all your pots before working with your seedlings makes for an efficient process.
- Write all your labels before you start – if you do this after potting on, the chances are you’ll get your varieties mixed up.
- Set chilli plants deep in their pots, burying the stems up to the first leaves. Like tomato plants they will generate new roots on the buried stem, bring better stability and nutrient uptake. Just make sure the lowest leaves are not sitting on the compost surface.
- Despite watering your seedlings before potting on, give them a complete drenching in their new pots too, to help settle them in.
- Plants may droop slightly after potting, but they should be back to full health within 24 hours.
Now my plants have space to breath, and a good amount of fresh compost around them, I swear they have noticeably come on in the few days since I potted them on. By the time I come to set them into their final containers in late May I should have some cracking plants to show off to you. Already I’m impressed with their shapes and habit – early winners for me include the habeneros and scotch bonnets in the Tropical Heat mix and the purple tinged foliage of Pot Black – I can’t wait to see the black fruits on this one!
I have to admit a slight hiccup with my chilli growing this year! On sowing day I was short on plant labels. Rather than label each Root Trainer, I thought it easier to list them on pieces of paper – one list for each tray. Yes you’ve guessed it – one of the lists has gone missing! While I can confidently label all the plants from tray 1, the same can’t be said of tray 2. I know the eight varieties in the mix, I just don’t know which is which. I was really annoyed at myself for this silly mistake, but I’m actually looking forward to growing the plants ‘blind’ and identifying them once they start to produce identifiable fruits later in the season.
Between now and the final potting up I’m going to research all the T&M varieties to place them on the Schoville heat rating scale. I’ll let you know my findings as soon as I have them.
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.