January Column: Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

Published on: 04 Jan 2013

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January Column: Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

2012 was a cruel year for the handful of chilli farmers in the UK. There are not many of us, although we all suffered from the same terrible overcast and wet weather that affected so many other types of farming. Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

As if the lack of any sunshine was not bad enough, the early frosts and prolonged freezing evenings in early December resulted in most of the remaining pods on the plants being frost damaged before we could harvest them. In 2011 we were still picking pods into late December, so it is with great joy that we put 2012 behind us and look forward to a warm, sunny and bustling 2013!

This will be our fifth season growing chillies. In our first year we germinated in a conservatory, relying on the central heating to protect the seedlings. As we have grown, we now use a number of heated propagators and mats from GreenHouse Sensations to kick-start our pods. Using Jiffy pellets we start by germinating the hotter types such as habanero and naga.

We germinate the hotter pods first as they take the longest to reach maturity. A general rule of thumb for a habanero is that full pod maturity will be reached 140 days after potting on. Potting on usually takes place in April/May, meaning maturity should be achieved by the time of the chilli festival in September.  This does, however, assume the sun shines!

We go through four waves of propagation, which, assuming our germination rate is 75 per cent or more, will provide us with approximately 2,000 seedlings. This is enough to fill the three commercial tunnels and part of the show tunnel. It will also provide plants for sale.

In February’s blog we should have our first seedlings popping up, and the nerves will be starting to kick in as the frosty nights always have the potential to damage our little ones! We will reveal how we keep them safe then!

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