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Grow your ownUrban Farming

Peppers and Chillis

2 January 2024

Like cucumbers, peppers were a crop I’d tried (and failed) several times! But I was determined to persevere as there is such a wonderful choice of pepper and chilli varieties! However, this endeavour was hampered by UK being in COVID lockdown in spring 2020. This made it difficult to get normal supplies (like compost), but I had the seeds and a brand new greenhouse! As they say – necessity is the mother of invention, so I started exploring other options.

Chilli Anaheim (2020)

I started these seeds (along with several others) in little blobs of recycled plastic insulation in a tray of water with foil over the top to prevent too much daylight. The light requirements for germination of seeds are rather intricate and the information published by Thompson & Morgan can be very helpful!

Chilli Anaheim seeds (among others) propagating in cubes of recycled plastic insulation in water

Anaheim chill was one of the first plants I tried in autopots! By July, 2 plants were establishing well despite my inexpert attentions (they should have received more watering while establishing – I misinterpreted the instructions!).

Chilli Anaheim plants June 2020

The plants began flowering in August.

Chilli Anaheim buds and flowers in August 2020

Then the fruit began to ripen in October.

Chilli Anaheim fruit ripening in October 2020

Luckily it was a mild autumn and the fruit ripened in December!

Chilli Anaheim fruit mostly ripened by December 2020

This was my first experience of the long warm and sunny season required by chillis and peppers!

2021 – 2nd attempt!

In 2021, I chose a few chilli varieties from my Heritage Seed Library (HSL) allowance – Long Green Buddha, Nardello and Trifetti. HSL aims to conserve seeds of varieties which are not widely available and is a great source for unusual varieties! I also picked up a few commercial varieties – Chilli Trinidad Perfume, Chilli Pearls and Pepper Sweetonia, Having realised the long season needed by these plants, I’d decided to see if it was possible to extend the season using heaters and LED lights in the greenhouse. I started with 2 * 55W electric greenhouse heaters, and finally a small propane heater. However, by early December, it was clear that the heating cost was far outweighing any potential harvest benefit and I switched them off.

Chilli – Long Green Buddha (2021)

The seedlings were planted up by late April

Long Green Buddha in autopot by late April 2021

Fruit were developing by early August

Long Green Buddha – unripe fruit developing in August 2021

The first fruit were ripe for harvesting in October and continued to ripen in to December

Long Green Buddha – ripe fruit harvested in November 2021

Chilli – Nardello (2021)

These little seedlings looked vigorous within days of emerging in April and were progressing well as plants by mid May.

Nardello in autopot by mid May 2021

Long green fruit were visible in August

Nardello – unripe fruit established in August 2021

The first ripe fruit were available in late September

Nardello – ripe fruit harvested in October 2021

I grew these again in 2022, but had to evict the plant from the greenhouse in September to prevent a caterpillar infestation spreading to other plants.  Unfortunately, this meant only a couple of fruit ripened before the bad weather destroyed the plant.

Chilli Trifetti (2021)

Grown from seed in April (the same time as for Long Green Buddha and Nardello), Trifetti was just about recognisable as a plant by June. However, the warmer weather encouraged it to start growing more strongly. I generally have two matching plants in an autopot, but this plant shared an autopot with Pepper Sweetonia (described below) as I was growing several varieties. This didn’t seem to affect the plants, which both grew well, but I only got a few small ripe chillis from Trifetti.

Trifetti in autopot June 2021

Trifetti is a particularly pretty pepper plant – it has variegated purple/green foliage and purple blossom!  The immature fruit are purple and they ripen to red.

Trifetti – a particularly pretty plant with variegated leaves, purple blossom and purple immature fruit!

Trifetti coped with cold weather better than some of the other pepper plants (eg sweetonia) – it kept its leaves until 5/12/21 despite the heater running out of gas.  However, at this point the weather had turned so cold that it was not worth trying to heat the greenhouse any longer.  I cut back the plant in hope that it could be overwintered, but this didn’t work out.

Chilli – Trinidad Perfume (2021)

As previously, the seed was started in April and the plants were established by end of May. Blossom started in mid-August and the first fruit were ripe in October. Unfortunately, this plant had to be evicted from the greenhouse because of a whitefly infestation in November.

Trinidad Perfume – harvest in November 2021

Chilli Pearls (2021/2022)

Having tasted some wonderfully sweet pickled pearl peppers, I went searching for seeds to grow the main ingredient myself!  Like Trifetti (above), the little plants were slow to establish but responded well to the warmer weather in June.

Despite the slow start, these became really robust plants and still had green fruit in November 2021!  Unfortunately they started to go black (presumably because of the cold). 

I tried again with new seedlings in 2022.  I kept one autopot in the new greenhouse (usually kept closed) and one autopot in old lean-to greenhouse (which often has the door open).  The plants in the old greenhouse were slower to ripen and suffered more damage from insects and birds.  However, I got a much better harvest than the previous year for the plant in the new greenhouse.  Since the general treatment was the same,  I think 2022 must have been a better summer for them.

A bonus for these as a crop, is that you don’t need to deseed them, so there’s very little waste once you’ve removed the stem!

Pepper Sweetonia (2021)

These dainty little bell peppers were sowed in late march of 2021, but were quite slow to emerge.  The seedlings were barely beyond 2 leaves by mid May.  I harvested most of the fruit when yellow in October, but did get one fully ripe red fruit in November!

Sweetonia – majority still unripe (green) or partially ripe (yellow) when harvested in November 2021
Sweetonia – fully ripe (red) when harvested in November 2021

2022 & 2023 – Focus on sweet peppers!

Buoyed by my success with chillis, I decided to tackle sweet peppers in 2022 and 2023! As I was nervous about the length of season required, I bought a selection of little plants each year with the hope that they would be ready for planting earlier than I could manage by sowing seed in the greenhouse.

Sweet Pepper Bendigo (2022, 2023)

Bendigo shared a pot with Snack Yellow (below) for summer 2022 but got a pot of its own in 2023. The peppers ripened well in 2022 but were harvested while still green in 2023 (due to a combination of bad weather and a blackfly infestation).

Bendigo ripe in September 2022
Bendigo – harvested unripe September 2023

Sweet Pepper Delirio (2022) and Tequila (2022, 2023)

Delirio and Tequila shared a pot for summer 2022. Delirio ripened to a lovely orange.

Delirio – ripe peppers harvested in September 2022

Tequila peppers were purple when unripe, then ripened to red

Tequila peppers – purple when unripe (July 2022)

Tequila turned up again in the pepper selection for 2023 and had a pot of its own, but didn’t manage to ripen due to the same blackfly and weather problems which affected Snack Yellow (below).  There was still a decent harvest of unripe peppers and the colour means that they look really interesting!

Pepper Redskin (2022)

This plant did really well until it suffered a caterpillar infestation and had to be evicted from the greenhouse in September. Although the fruit didn’t really ripen after that I was still able to use the green peppers.

Redskin Pepper harvest in early September 2022

Pepper Snack Yellow (2022, 2023)

Snack yellow shared a pot with Bendigo in 2022, but had an entire pot to itself in 2023. As this is a “mini” pepper, I had hoped it would ripen more quickly, but it was generally ripe at the same time as the bigger peppers. The fruit ripened well in 2022

Snack Yellow – ripe fruit harvested in October 2022

The hoped for benefit of purchasing seedlings which were further developed than I could grow myself was wiped out by a blackfly infestation right at the beginning of the 2023 season.  Attempts to remove the blackfly infested bits of plants resulted in the early buds being removed.  With the added handicap of poor weather during summer 2023, the peppers didn’t manage to ripen before being harvested at the end of September.

Pepper Soror Sarek (2022)

Another variety from the Heritage Seed Library! The picture below shows Soror Sarek peppers which were harvested in October when I cut back the plant as it was suffering from the cold.  It shows the lovely pale yellow when it’s partially ripe and you can see the blush of red on one side of a slightly riper fruit.  There was a good harvest of ripe red peppers in September.  Although some of these had been damaged by caterpillars.

Soror Sarek – harvested in October 2022


You may have noticed in the text that a few plants got evicted from the greenhouse due to infestations of one sort or another.  I tried handpicking caterpillars but they’re pretty good at hiding!  I also tried hosing the plants with water to deal with the blackfly when the plants were small.  However, this shows one of the dangers of stopping after the first few hits on the internet when looking for solutions.  It wasn’t until the blackfly returned and I was (once more) looking for a solution, that I found the instruction about preventing the water spray getting into the soil or the blackfly can start again.  Looking back, it was logical that I should do this! On my next attempt, I balanced the plants sideways on a table before spraying the foliage with a hose. Then I removed about 3cm depth of compost from the top of the pot and wiped all the pot surfaces with rubbing alcohol. This did stall the blackfly infestation but didn’t completely remove it.  I lost the first crop by cutting the plant down beyond the flower buds in another attempt to remove the blackfly, but they came back…  As the plants got bigger and I was trying to preserve the flower buds I tried soap spray with neem oil. To be honest, I couldn’t see a difference in the blackfly, but it sure made everything sticky!  By this time, it was August – all 3 peppers were infested but it didn’t seem to be spreading to the tomatoes or cucumbers, so I persevered until September.  By that time, it was obvious that summer was over and any hopes of ripening were past, so I took the fruit I could get. 


From the chilli/pepper plants I’ve grown, the earliest ripening were Sunsnack Yellow, Delirio, Tequila and Bendigo which had fruit ready for harvest in late August/early September. However, these were all grown in summer 2022 which was noticeably more productive than the other years I’ve recorded data from. So this is more likely due to the lovely summer than the varieties! Generally, September and October were the highest cropping months, but fruit continued to be harvested in November and December (weather/pests permitting)!

Yield Summary Table

Chilli – Long
green buddha
Chilli –
Chilli –
Chilli –
Chilli –
Pearls (old
Chilli –
Chilli – Trinidad
Pepper –
Pepper –
Pepper –
Pepper –
Pepper – Snack
Pepper – Snack
Pepper – Soror
Pepper –
Pepper –
Pepper –
* space required to supply annual nutrition for 1 adult

Initially, I had hoped that small fruit like chillis would form and ripen more quickly than large fruit like peppers, so I’d focused on growing chillis.  The reality has been that chillis and sweet peppers tend to ripen at similar times.

Focussing on the yield table – the larger fruiting sweet peppers outperform the the chilli varieties in terms of crop and space efficiency. 

The comparison is complicated by different performance in different summers.  Looking at the plants I had in multiple years, it is clear that 2022 was definitely a “chilli and pepper” friendly summer!  Even in that summer, the fruit were mainly ripening in September/October in my new greenhouse, so they definitely need a long growing season with enough heat in autumn to finish ripening.  Unfortunately, the combination of a black fly infestation and a cloudy summer made 2023 pretty disastrous for the pepper crop. 

If I’m hoping for good crops in future, I’ll be looking at varieties like Bendigo, Delirio and Redskin.  If I’m looking for a pretty plant – it’ll be Trifetti! I still can’t resist those sweet little pickled pearls, so I’m sure I’ll be planting them again too! But of course, there are loads more varieties to try – so curiosity about new varieties will likely triumph!

Even avid pepper lovers, would probably have difficulty consuming the 9kg of peppers I produced in Sep-Oct of 2022.  This is a great opportunity to explore recipes for jams, chutneys and jellies! If the pectin from early summer apple thinning runs out, a new batch can be made from the peels and cores of the later ripening varieties (but don’t waste the actual apples!).