Previous years growing techniques
2013 – First year of using the greenhouse, built several self watering buckets
2014 – Converted the greenhouse to a floating floor with guttering as irrigation system
2015 – Half the grow was Hydroponic (NFT technique) & Half Compost
2016 – NFT Hydroponic grow (SureGrow Gully’s and Nutriculture GT901)
2017 – Self Watering Pots called GoGro’s from Plant!t used to grow several hundred chilli plants
If you want to grow chillies and also worry about time constraints then worry not, the less you fuss with them the better you’ll grow. Over tentativeness leads to stress from the grower stressing the plants in my opinion. If you have a few minutes a couple of times per week, you’ll get on fantastically. I say this because after planting the chillies and getting them to a good size simply tap the stems or give them a light shake a couple of times a week. This will help with pollination as chillies are self-pollinating, we’ve all heard of people saying to get a paint brush and touch each flower blah blah blah… Don’t waste your time. Do the shaking thing and plant LOTS of marigolds or other orange flowered plants that are prolific and attract the good bugs such as hoverflies and ladybirds to your greenhouse whilst leaving a few small gaps for them to get in and out.
Aphids / Greenfly
Whether or not you think you can prevent them, you can’t… They’re around in your house even throughout winter when you wouldn’t be aware and hence overwintering chilli plants will demonstrate this no matter how many leaves you remove! It’s a matter of when you get them as opposed to if you get them. From past experience, there’s only one way to get rid of the little blighters and that’s a product called Pyrethrum 5 EC which is very expensive but works! Other sprays work too, again from previous experience don’t go over the top with them though, the leaves of your plants still need to breathe and smothering them with soapy solutions to kill the bugs will inadvertently kill the plants’ ability to photosynthesize…
So onto this years growlog… What are we growing:
- 7 Pot Brainstrain
- 7 Pot Primo
- 7 Pot Yellow
- Aji Limon
- Bhut Jolokia
- Bloody Riot
- Carolina Reaper
- Chocolate Habanero
- Devils Rib
- Dorset Naga
- Early Jalapeno
- Filius Blue
- Infinity Chilli
- Katie Habanero
- Naga Viper
- Purple Tiger
- Red Habanero
- Scotch Bonnet Big Sun
- Scotch Bonnet
- Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
- Trinidad Perfume
- Trinidad Scorpion Cardi
So that’s 32 varieties planned but as is the normal scenario, they’ll likely be another few added to the list!
The greenhouse and poly tunnels have been emptied, cleaned and sterilised with Jeyes fluid. Further plans are being put into action to enable us to upscale our grow even more than last year! We have now got around to putting a few things in place and www.warwickshirechillifarm.com is live (to some degree!)
We only use authentic genuine seed from the originators or trusted seed suppliers. Having learnt the hard way in previous years, you need to use your own instinct on what is good seed and what isn’t. We’ve had better quality seed from fellow growers than certain large seed companies or nurseries. We can certainly recommend:
Sea Spring Seeds – Joy & Michael Michaud
Simpsons Seeds – Matt Simpson
Puckerbutt Pepper Company – Ed Currie
As of the start of February we’re only 3 weeks post sowing and our propagation has gone well so far! Germination rate is very good and we have 68% of the required amount of plants showing growth. With only 3 varieties left to sow mid February (Aji Limon, Jalapeño & Red Habanero), we feel like we’re in a pretty good place at the moment. This time last year there was still ground to clear, tunnels to be built and so much more! Despite the farm looking like there’s so much left to do, it also feels like a partial victory.
As we add this final February update it is -2°C and snowing outside!!! The greenhouse is where we have not moved the better-established plants to. These generally have a minimum of 3 sets of grow leaves. We want to get them used to natural daylight to prevent any UV damage occurring when we plant them into the tunnels at the end of April. The mass changes in temperature will also help harden the plants too. If you are to leave your plants in a grow room at a steady 20°C and synthesized light you will definitely stress the plants when they then receive torturous temperatures and very strong sunshine. Starting early and allowing slow steady growth will hopefully be a winning strategy for us. Time will tell.
Here we have setup 5 AutoPot Easy2Propogate systems, these consist of a coir matt with some kind of lycra or stiffening agent to keep them a 1-inch thickness, this wicks the water to your plants. Some points to note when setting these systems up.
- Ensure you remove the film on the propagator lid that is for protection during transit.
- Soak the matting at pH 4.5 for at least 24 hours, we went for three days.
- Drain your coir matting thoroughly then add the nutrient solution within an hour to prevent the soaked coir from drying out. We also mixed our CANNA Start nutrients at pH 5.7 due to the matting potentially still having a lower pH.
- We placed a heat mat under the Garland tray. With a couple of spare trays, we actually sandwiched a large heat mat under one and a medium heat mat under another. During this cold spell, we are keeping the greenhouse at a constant minimum temperature of 6°C and the small heat mat managed to get the soil temperature to 12°C and the large heat mat to 15°C which gives an ambient temperature uplift of 6°C and 9°C respectively. So long as your plants stay above 6°C you shouldn’t have any issues.
Now at the end of February, all seeds have been sown and happy to say that everything is now germinated, well those that need to be. We still have some non-chilli related plants to get growing such as Perilla, Sweet Thai Basil and dare we announce a few varieties of plants you’d expect to find in the far east that was the origins of the spice trade… More on this in the coming months.
We’re now feeding the plants on the CANNA Coir A & B with added Rhizotonic with a pH of 5.6 and EC resulting at 1.9 m$. Our 225 FlexiTank Pro previously filled to 200L has also lasted a month. Would’ve likely lasted 6 weeks but had to empty and change to Coir nutrients due to plant size and a little yellowing of some of the leaves, basically the plants were requiring more of the main macronutrients than what the CANNA Start could offer. Upon checking it’s only recommended to use Start for the first few weeks so we should’ve changed sooner, to be honest. Noted for next year!
What a start to March! Snow, extreme cold, more snow, a side order of snow and even lower temperatures dipping to -8°C wasn’t great for the Prices Spices electricity bill! Never the less with the hear mats under the easy2propogate systems and the lids over the plants the temperature of the coir and plants roots were circa 16°C so the ambient temperature wasn’t quite as important as before.
The clocks have changed but the weather remains very wintery! Some of the country is still getting snow but thankfully we’ve dodged the 2nd April snows… Plants are developing slow yet steady. Despite the additional CDM lamp we’ve installed growth would likely have been more substantial under closer lighting and warmer surroundings such as in a grow tent! Perhaps next year we will do a full comparison and show the difference if there is one of course!
Despite what might appear to be slower growth this has been down to a hiccup on our end, for a couple of weeks, the pH was being measured in the FlexiTank Pro and from the end of the line. What we should have done was to take a water sample from actual Easy2Propogate systems. I say this because we had our pH at the lower end of the scale and with the soaking of the brown wicking material at a lower pH this has obviously reduced the pH to a point that certain varieties were getting a little nutrient lockout. I would advise that in the first few weeks following installation of the Easy2Propogate where you have soaked them at the required pH 4 to adjust your feeding nutrients to the upper end as it will likely drop. The varieties that this affected were the ones that have been bred to have chinense flavour but with minimal heat. These are Trinidad Perfume and Apricot. If that’s not a coincidence I don’t know what is. Since then we have kept the pH at 6.0 and the plants are looking great. With the addition of the CANNA Rhizotonic, we are seeing tremendous root growth. Not just single long tap roots but all root types including the fine root hairs that are required to take up the important nutrients. The last thing to note about the slower growth is perhaps that because we’re stood towering above them rather than them being head height as per previous years on dutch trolleys they just appear smaller…
Given the hardening off they have been subjected to they will be used to the night time temperatures they will likely experience in the tunnels when they get planted out in May. Also, the leaves are really thick and not wafer thin which seems to be due to the hardening off, the ones sat in the office under a T5 lamp does seem much flimsier in comparison. Also having been out in the greenhouse getting used to natural daylight they should not get UV damage like previous years either.
April 28th was a great day, we were joined by some of the CANNA UK team, (Rishi, Jean-Paul & Peter). With these extra hands we managed to get all of the White XL Autopot filled with the CANNA COCO Professional Plus growing media. We then moved these to the spare poly tunnel to allow the rest of the setup to occur. A BBQ lunch was enjoyed by all, just like plants feed and water with good quality food and you’ll see results! We like to think that our home made burgers and piri-piri chicken helped get more done!
The 4th saw the first wave of plants being moved to the farm in Stratford-upon-Avon. The 5th however was a surprise heatwave rising to 27°C and hitting circa 45°C in the polytunnels. Needless to say the transplantation shock hit a few plants as wilting and CRISPY leaves occurred, wilted leaves will bounce back, crispy leaves will need only one thing… A Flux capacitor in the words of Doc Brown!!!
May 7th thru 10th was potting on for all the plants where they sat waiting for the irrigation to be setup for all the Autopot XL’s.