Now that it looks like winter is fast approaching, i thought it was about time i started preparing some of my plants for the winter. As mentioned in our over wintering chillies article most chillies are not annuals as most people think. By taking your chilli plants you can get a massive head start on next season meaning you get many more ripe chillies, much earlier in the season.
I selected nine of my strongest, healthiest looking chilli plants; 3 Chocolate Habanero, 2 Orange Habanero, 1 birds eye, 1 Apache, 1 Bulgarian Carrot and 1 Super Chilli F1. I expect the most benefit to come from the habanero plants as they have taken so long to produce ripe fruit this year. By having established plants in early spring next year I should hopefully get many more fruit from these slower growing varieties.
The first job was to remove all of the remaining fruit from the plants. Due to the cold weather the plants were barely ripening any more fruit so those harvested that are unripe will have to now ripen off the plant. The ripe chillies will either be eaten in the next couple of weeks or frozen for use throughout the winter.
As you can see from the picture below many of the habaneros (even some of the ripe ones) are still very small. Actually these small habs are a great size to throw in to a dish without making it too hot. In fact because i was late planting my chilli seeds this year these were the first pods I have taken off some of my plants!
In order to get the chilli plants to survive the winter i cut them back severly so that the plants won’t waste any energy in the winter trying to keep their foliage or ripen their fruit.
As you can see in the above photo I cut the stem back so that only about 10-15cm remained above the root ball. This seems incredibly harsh but is necessary to increase your chances of getting the plants through the winter.
In addition to trimming back the stem I also gently knock some of the old compost out of the root ball and in some cases trim back the root ball slightly. Next i simply put the plant back into the pot with some fresh compost (this will help the plants early season growth next spring).
I’ll now move the plants indoors and place them near a south facing windowsill to maximise the amount of light they get and ensure they receive a nice constant warm temperature throughout the winter.
The plants wont need a huge amount of water over the winter so i’ll just make sure they don’t dry out, watering maybe just once a week.
Remember to keep the labels with your plants so come next spring when the plants burst back into life you know which are which. I’ll post back with an update later in the winter!