Dan’s Garden (Part 3) – My Sad Chilli Peppers

Dans Garden - Chilli Blog

Hi Everyone

I wanted to do a very short update on our garden and what has been happening as we get ready for spring. It’s been very strange in Melbourne during the lockdown over the last 2 months, it’s like the entire city has gone into hibernation and you can just feel the collective mood has lowered and people are desperate for the current situation to finish. 

We have been very busy selling seeds as a result of the lockdown, but add homeschooling kids, cooler weather, and the garden has ended up being a lower priority over the last few months. Saying that, we did get to 20 degrees today and I know you northerners will laugh, but when it’s been 13 and 14 for 3 months, a 20 degree day does lift your spirits and makes you want to get outside and get dirty.

My Sad Peppers

I like growing veggies outside and, as Melbourne is cold in the winter, I always try to get a head start by starting plants inside. Last year I started a lot of seedlings inside and I must admit that I had great success with my tomatoes and limited success with the chillies which grew very slowly. I thought I knew what the problem was and this year I brought new lights and fans and was motivated to get my chillies firing early. Alas, two months after sowing, my chillies were looking even more pathetic than last year. They turned out very long and thin, very pale and not developing true leaves, which they should have done a month ago at least. 

In the end I cut my losses, dumped the plants and will start again. In my experience, if the plants start off very poorly, they never truly come back, and it won’t matter what you do to try and care for the plants, they will never grow into strong plants and they won’t bear many fruit. 

What Went Wrong?

 In terms of what went wrong, I am still not entirely sure, and I’m happy to take advice from anyone who reads this blog. My suspicion is that there was a combination of factors working against me. Primarily, I think that the air inside was much too dry due to our central heating. Unlike last year, the family was home during the day and so the heater stayed on almost 16 hours a day. 

Watering was also an issue.  I planted several seeds into larger pots this year with the plan of splitting them when they were ready to be potted up. Unfortunately, having tiny plants in larger pots makes it very hard to keep them consistently moist. When the plants are small they dry out quickly and this is compounded inside under lights. I bottom watered the plants to avoid fungal problems, but in the end I think the plants probably lacked being consistently moist. They were ever very wet for a short time and then very dry.

Lighting was the next problem. This year I relied entirely on manufactured light as the kids were using the area next to our north facing windows for their home schooling.  I used fluorescent lights which produced enough light at a close range, but also a lot of heat which just added to the stress caused by the warm dry air in the house. In the end I just don’t think they got enough light because I couldn’t keep the fluorescent tubes close enough to the plants without burning them or drying them out, and they were a poor substitute for real sunlight.

What now?

I don’t give up easily, so I will try again. ?

But There’s Good News Too

Well, the good news is that we have some healthy tomatoes that I started inside. They were also slower to develop, but they seem to have come good once I put them outside. I am going to start some more chillies and capsicum outside on heat mats. Whilst the later start means they won’t go in the ground until late November, we should still get a good harvest by winter. Stay tuned to hear how the chillies get on.

The planter bags will be making a comeback this year with some fresh soil being barrowed in with much effort. My hope is that we will get about 25 varieties of chillies and tomatoes going this year in the bags and raised beds. Again, I will focus on dwarf tomatoes and some of the black tomatoes. The chillies will be a mix of hot ones and some more popular Asian varieties. All things going well, they should be available next year. 

And Dwarf Tomatoes – While Stocks Last

A quick update in relation to our seed harvest from last year. We had about 40 varieties of tomatoes which we harvested. The amount of seed we got is limited by our current space and as such the packets which we will be selling have smaller amounts of seed than some of our other tomato varieties. Having said that, we know for sure that they’re organically grown, fresh, and properly primed through fermentation.

These should be available in our store in the next two weeks. (Mid September 2020) Most of them are not available at any other seed suppliers in Australia so get in quick as stocks are limited.   

What’s Your Experience?

That is basically it for now. I would be keen to hear how others get on starting their chillies inside. Also, if you have any other gardening mishaps or stuff ups I always like to hear them so please leave a comment below. 

Happy Gardening everyone and thanks for your continued support. 

Dan Ross

5 thoughts on “Dan’s Garden (Part 3) – My Sad Chilli Peppers

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Hi Catherine

      We put all the dwarfs under their own category. We have about 10 up now and will be putting more up over time. The seed counts are a bit smaller due to the small amounts of seed we have. As a result we hand count each packet which is very time consuming. We are aiming to get one to two new ones up per week until we get to about 25 varieties.

  1. Dan Ross
    . says:

    Just my take on using lighting for starting/growing seeds. I have used red/blue LED grow lights. Because of their wavelength I have found they seem to mimic similar properties to partial/weak sunlight without the heat problem., so you don’t get spindly growth They are not the magic bullet, but are far superior to florescent tubes. They are also low powered (12v dc) so are cheaper to run 24/7.

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Hi Ian

      Thanks for the advise. I had a couple of cheap LED ones which I must admit worked well. I went for the fleuro lights because they were a bit cheaper and I wanted the white light rather than the pink inside. I don’t want to disclose our power bill but needless to say our bill was quite large. I am pleased to say that after giving up on the first lot I have made some changes and have now got really healthy looking chillies growing under the fleuro lights. I think I cooked the plants and baked the soil the first time. I moved the lights back a bit, changed the soil and started them in the garage which is a bit cooler. All going well I will get some better LED next year.

      i’m hoping to do another blog on them soon.

  2. Dan Ross
    . says:

    The weather has been up and down in Adelaide, too. Out of five chili varieties, only one wouldn’t germinate for a long time, then about a third of the seeds sprouted. I’ve had them at home on a garden table that gets afternoon sun (and taken them inside on cold nights), and on a sunny windowsill at work. The strongest seedlings have been rocoto/canario (Capsicum pubescens), and the most surprising success from a Bishop’s Crown fruit that was two years old. In our garden they tend to fruit towards the end of summer, so I’m hoping the plants will get big enough to bear fruit in the meantime. At least most of them are looking strong and green. Good luck and let us know how they go.

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