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How to Grow and Care for Jalapenos

Jalapeno is a type of hot pepper that comes from the same family of plants as cayenne and cherry. This popular pepper originally comes from a place called Xalapa, in the capital of Velacruz, in Mexico. It is often served stuffed with seafood, and cheese and also used as a spice for tacos in Mexican dishes. Jalapeno has a rating in between 2,500 – 8000 Scoville heat units, which is a medium range of chili intensity. Jalapeno looks like a hard plant to grow but you can actually grow it easily by providing adequate sunlight and water.

Planting and Germinating the Seeds

Firstly, you must decide how many jalapenos plants you want to grow. Then, you can prepare the containers for sowing the seeds accordingly. The container should have holes at the bottom so that the water can drain away when you water it. You can use seedling pots or soda bottle as the container. In each container, you can plant 2 – 3 seeds. The seeds are to be sowed at a depth of 1/4 inch. Not all seeds will sprout so you may want to sow extra seeds.

Jalapenos don’t like cold temperatures so you must wait for the temperature to warm up to 75 – 85 before sowing the seeds. It takes 2 – 3 weeks for jalapenos seeds to sprout. After 3 weeks, you can move each seedling that has sprouted to a 3 inch diameter pot. It is to be placed on a sunny spot indoor, for example, the window sill or under the grow lights.

The potting mix of the sprouted seedlings must be kept moist but not too wet so as to damage the roots. You only need to water the seedlings 1 – 2 times per week to maintain the moisture level. You will have to gradually move the seedlings to a few more bigger pots until it grow a young plant. This should take about 8 – 12 weeks. The final container size will be about 2 gallons. Terra cotta container is the best option for the final container. They offer better result compared to plastic containers.

 

 

Transplanting the Young Chili Plant Outside

The young chillie plant cannot be moved outside immediately. Instead, you will need to slowly expose it to outdoor conditions to allow it to adapt to the new environment. When it is time to move the plant outside, be sure to plant it in a place that get at least 8 – 10 hours of direct sunlight. The transplanted plants should be about 14 – 16 inches apart to ensure that there is enough air circulation.

 

 

Caring for the Jalapeno Plant

The best potting soil for jalapenos is organic, rich in nutrition with good drainage quality. Fertilizer should be added about 1 month after you have transplanted the young plant outdoor. You will want to choose a fertilizer with a NPK of 10-10-10. The addition of fertilizer ensures that the chili plant will receive an adequate amount of nutrition after all the existing nutrients in the soil has been used up. New fertilizer can be added on the third watering. There is no need to add any fertilizer if you are using a high quality potting soil. Diluted fertilizer is easier for the plant to absorb compared to solid fertilizer.

Jalapenos are night shade plants just like tomatoes and potatoes so make sure you don’t plant them close to each other. This is because the pests from your tomato and potato plant can go to the jalapeno plant. Some of the common pests are cutworms, aphids, and flea beetles. You can spray neem oil keep it away from these pests. Additionally, you should hand pick the caterpillar, snails, and worms on your jalapeno plant.

 

Harvesting the Peppers

It takes at least 90 – 120 days for you to see the first crop of your pepper plant. When the pepper plant is mature, it will grow to 2 – 3 feet tall. You may see 30 – 40 pepper pods hanging from the plant. The pods will grow to 2 – 3 inches long before it is ready for harvesting. If it yield too much peppers, you can use a plant cage as support. You can harvest pods from a jalapeno plant for a few times. You can harvest the jalapenos green or red. Or, you can wait until the full time at the end of 120 days to pick the jalapenos when it is ripened to red color.

Picking the peppers early can force more new blossoms. Green jalapenos are not yet ripened so they have milder taste. When it is red, it will have a medium intensity heat flavor. Some people have also picked jalapenos with a mix of red and green color. They make a nice presentation for their dishes. To harvest, you simply pinch the pepper off the vine gently. You can store the pepper fresh in your refrigerator for up to 2 – 3 weeks.

 

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Expert Guide to Growing Chillies

Growing chillies is a very rewarding process, but often it’s the simplest things that get in the way of a great chili harvest, follow the advice below, and with a little care and attention you could be enjoying juicy, great tasting chillies in no time.

Germinating your chilli seeds

Many of us struggle with germinating chilli seeds and getting them out of the ground! First of all, make sure that you select a good compost or seed mix, and gently work out any hard lumps from the soil. Then place your chili seeds on top of the soil, planting them roughly 1-2 inches apart if planting multiple chile seeds. Then loosely sprinkle some soil over the seeds, but do not compact.

There are 2 main points that you will need to keep in mind to maximise your chances of germination. The first one is moisture – you can soak your pot(s) from the bottom using a tray filled with water the first time you water them to saturate the soil and activate your chilli seeds. For maintaining the moisture in the soil it is best to use a fine mist plant sprayer to water from the top. Aim to keep the soil moist but not soggy as this may cause your seeds to rot before them come up – just use your finger to test the surface of the soil. Watering your seed trays or pots with a plant sprayer causes less disturbance to your germinating seeds.

The second important point to note is temperature. Chilli seeds require a constant temperature range of between 27-32 degrees C (80-90 degrees F). This is easily achieved using a heated propagator, however an airing cupboard works extremely well for this purpose also.

Remember to keep checking your pots to see if any seedlings have emerged, as you will then need to move them to a well lit area such as a sunny window sill, otherwise you will end up with thin and wispy plants.

Re-potting your chilli plants into larger pots

When your seedlings get 3 sets of leaves and are strong enough to handle, now is the time to pot them on into a bigger pot. Chillies need to be potted on as they grow, otherwise their growth will slow and you may well miss the fruiting season because of this. Be careful not to damage the delicate roots when moving your seedlings and make sure you take as much soil as you can from the original pot to protect the root ball.

When potting on your chilli plant seedlings, it is better to increase the pot size gradually to allow the plant to adapt to the increased space and grow strong roots.

A good way to tell if your chilli plant needs replanting into a larger pot is by checking the drainage holes on the bottom of your pot – if you can see any root tips emerging from these holes, then now is a good time to transplant to a bigger pot. In addition, if your chilli plant suddenly droops for no reason and it has enough water, then this could also be a sign that it requires more space.

You can also plant your chilli plant outdoors once the danger of last frost has gone, although chilli plants usually grow quicker in warmer areas such as a sunny window sill or greenhouse.

When to water your chilli plants and how much

Often overlooked is the importance of watering. One of the most common situations is over-watering. Chilli plants like their soil to dry out before watering them again – they don’t like wet feet!

You can tell if your chilli plant needs water by its leaves – if they are drooping, give it a drink. The best way is to use your finger to test the top of the soil. Again, moist but not soggy is the goal here and if your plant looks well, then it probably is.

What to do when your chilli plant flowers

Once your chilli plant starts to produce flowers, you are doing well! Soon you will be enjoying the fruits of your labour, but now is a good time to highlight the importance of plant nutrition.

A lot is going when your chilli plant is in the flowering and fruiting stage and you will need to make sure that your plant has the correct nutrients it requires in order to produce big juicy chillies. You can feed your chilli plant with a general tomato fertiliser as chilli and tomato plants are very similar, however it is much better to feed your chili plants with a special chilli fertiliser, as they do have specific nutritional requirements – Chilli Focus fertiliser produces very tasty and juicy chillies and is organic based.

Remember to feed your chilli plant twice a week when it is fruiting and once a week at all other times to make sure it has all the nutrients it needs throughout the different stages of growth. This also makes your plants strong when it comes to “overwinter” them for next season.

Pollinating the flowers on your chilli plant

Unless your plants are outside where they are naturally pollinated by insects and the wind, then you will need to pollinate the flowers yourself as they open on your plant. You can do this with a small soft brush by gently dusting each flower. You will then notice over the next week or so that the flowers start to fall off and the fruits will begin to grow.

Chilli plants can also easily cross-pollinate with one another by insects or by air if the plants are close to each other, so if you are growing several different varieties, you may want to keep them apart as you will probably end up with some hybrids chillies.

Finally, make sure your plant gets lots of sunlight during this period and you will have some great tasting chillies at the end of the season!

Overwintering your chilli plants for next season’s crop

A common misconception is that chillies are annuals, but they can and will come back year after year, producing more and more chillies each season. Overwintering, as it is called, is the process of making sure your plant is ready to “sleep” for the winter. Feeding your plant well throughout the year can help make it’s roots and stem strong enough for the cold months ahead.

With a little care, a properly over-wintered chilli plant can bring a larger harvest, which will also arrive a little earlier in the season compared to growing again from seed. This is because when your plant “wakes up” in the spring, it already has an established root ball, so has a head start in the growing cycle.

The first thing to do when overwintering your chile plants is to pick all of the chillies from the plant when the growing season is over – this tells the plant to produce more in future.

Next you can prune back the plant to approximately 1/3 of its original height. This may sound harsh, but it allows the plant to conserve its energy for the next growing season by not having to maintain all that extra foliage, a bit like when you prune back a rose.

You will also need to keep your plants somewhere with a warm average temperature, where it doesn’t get too chilly in the night. Remember that you plant will also require a lot less water while it is dormant – once every 2 weeks is enough. Again, you can use your finger to test this.

Your plant will slow its growth as it goes into hibernation, so don’t worry if you don’t see any new shoots for a while. Come spring time, give it a few weeks and your plant will start to shoot and burst into life, read for the new years growing season with more chillies than you ever imagined! So, what are you waiting for, plant your chili seeds now and soon you could be enjoying plentiful fresh chillies that you can cook and entertain with.

 

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