Chiles. Chilies. Chillies. Peppers. Capsicum.
Wherever you are, whatever you call them, chiles are a garden favorite the world over with good reason. While they add color and kick to nearly every ethnic flavor, chiles are versatile and lend well to a variety of environments – including the urban garden. Pair them with eggplant and tomatoes or grow smaller varieties on a windowsill. With well-draining soil, lots of sun, and heavy mulching to help maintain even moisture you can grow chilis in all but the coldest climates.
For cooler climates, start your seeds inside 6 weeks before your last frost date. Wait to plant until the temperatures at night maintain above 50 degrees F. When the seedlings are ready to transplant, harden them off by setting them outside during the day for a few hours in gradually increasing increments for about one week. I recommend planting your chiles in a pot or raised bed that will maintain a much higher temperature than a ground-level garden bed, simulating a warmer climate zone. If you have a space to overwinter your plants inside, they can be grown as perennials, or plants that produce for multiple years, and set back outside the following spring. Chiles will often produce more in their second year.
In tropical climates the seeds can be sown directly most anywhere and thinned to 6 inches between plants. Because they require even moisture, try to time planting with the rainy season to give the plants a strong start. Always provide a heavy mulch and rich compost to help retain the moisture. We added our chilis to one of the bag towers along with eggplant, tomatoes, and leeks. All 4 are considered companion plants.
Photo Credit: Green Chiles from Padval Agriculture. Click to see the development of chiles from seed to harvest.
What are your favorite varieties or chile dishes?