Campaign: Diary of a chilli grower

Diary of a chilli grower

Week 43-48: Oct. 24 - Dec. 4

Well, here we are, it's December 4th and almost the end of my chilli growing season. Soon there might be snow on the ground and little in the way of green stuff to look at. So, as a glance back to the last weeks of the project, here's a look at the chilli plants in Glasshouse No.2.

Glasshouse No.2 – Plants working hard under the weight of the pods

2016 has been a great year and I have been grateful that people have placed their faith in me as a chilli grower through their pre-orders of certain varieties. It's been quite a worry having these as you don't know what curve balls will be thrown at you throughout the growing season (e.g. weather, aphids etc and if the nutrients I have chosen to use will live up to their name). Well, I needn't have worried on the latter as the CANNA nutrients have by far surpassed my expectations. They are quite simply outstanding! So it's no suprise that over the last five to six weeks I have been busy harvesting chillies by the crate load!

UK Grown Carolina Reapers

'Many hands make light work of these Reapers'

Carolina Reapers of November 7th

I have now fulfilled all my pre-orders and have nearly worked my way through the ever growing list of requirements from new customers who have contacted me over the last few months.

This will be my last report for this diary and what better way to sign off than to share my extremely good news... CANNA have decided to extend their relationship with me and will be sponsoring all three of my glasshouses in 2017.

A big thank you to all who have supported me and hope I you've enjoyed reading my CANNA "Diary Of A Chilli Grower".

Week 36-42: Sept. 5 - Oct. 23

This has been my first year using CANNA nutrients and what can I say but 'wow', as these are my best plants ever!

On September 5th I had the pleasure of a visit from Peter at CANNA to see the CANNA glasshouses (No.2 and No.3) and he was equally impressed with what has been achieved this year.

Week 36: Glasshouse No.3 – Amazing Carolina Reapers!

Week 36: Glasshouse No.3 – Peter from CANNA

I have had quite a sterile environment in the glasshouses this year and started to notice the odd aphid infestation hotspot. I was reluctant to treat against the aphids as I feel that a certain balance is needed to attract the good predators. It's been quite nerve racking but the gamble paid off and I have started to notice a lot of parasitic wasps, bees and other insects setting up residence...phew!!!!

This has got me thinking about companion planting for 2017. In order to attract more of the good guys from the nearby allotments I will most likely plant Dwarf Marigolds and Borage.

Glasshouse No.3 is home to the Carolina Reapers but Glasshouse No.2 is where I grow a range of different chillies for use in my chilli sauces. I am also growing with CANNA in this glasshouse. These chillies crop a lot earlier than the Carolina Reapers that are in Glasshouse 3.

Week 36: Glasshouse No.2 – Pods starting to ripen

By week 37, the Carolina Reaper plants in glasshouse No.3 had become too large for the space I had planned for them. I knew I had to do something to thin them out to create better airflow in the glasshouse and also expose the large fruits to sunlight to aid the ripening process. So in week 39, out came the good old sack trolley that my father leant me. It's not until you see the plants on their own that you realise just how large they are and the huge load of chillies on them.

To further improve airflow in the glasshouse (i.e. to control relative humidity/prevent mould), I spoke with Harry Middleton from Highlight Horticulture about purchasing some 16" air circulators. Well blow me down as two days later I had a delivery of 4 x 16" air circulators for which I'm very grateful. Thanks Highlight!

Week 39: Truly spectacular Carolina Reaper Plant

Week 39: Glasshouse No.2 – 7-Pod Katie Chillies....How many Chillies?

By week 40 and I was starting to harvest properly and I have some truly stunning chillies this year. So much so I want to use CANNA nutrients again in 2017 as they really do produce!!!

CANNABOOST: Does it exactly what is promises to do!

Unfortunately, I occasionally knock some unripe Carolina Reapers off the plants but then I had an idea of how I could use them. I now have a new chilli sauce out which is called "Jalapeño Creaper". No, I did not misspell it, there's a reason for the spelling as it is a green sweet chilli sauce made with my own grown Jalapeños and a hint of 'Carolina Reaper'. I wanted to make something different to the normal "Sweet Chilli Sauce" that's available everywhere.

DevonChilliman's new 'Jalapeno Creaper'

All I need now is for the sun to continue shining down here in Devon to ripen up all those chillies!

Week 29-35: July 18 - September 4

In the previous update things were already starting to warm up in the CANNA Sponsored Glasshouse but from week 29 the plants really exploded in to growth. What can I say about the CANNA Sponsored Glasshouse other than the plants are outstanding! It's said that 'a picture is worth a thousand words’ and I have lots!

Week 30

The picture below shows just what I am using in my tanks and as you can see the Carolina Reaper plants have now outgrown the 4 foot canes that I placed in for support.

Week 31 – Nutrients & Additives being used

Yeah I had my feet up for a while in week 30 but with the plants growing so quickly there just isn't time to sit back and admire the plants, they need taking care of! This year CANNA were at the Great Dorset Chilli Festival but sadly I could not make it. They did however forward me one of their 'I Love Chillies' T-shirts that you would have seen the CANNA team members wearing.

Week 33

Week 35

When you sit back and look at the CANNA glasshouse in week 35 you could be forgiven for thinking that I am just growing bushy plants. However, underneath the canopy it is literally loaded with flowers and small developing pods. The picture below shows one of the first developing Carolina Reaper chillies. In the second picture below (taken in week 35) you can now see a beautiful Reaper beginning to ripen.

Week 31 – First Carolina Reaper

Week 35 – Reapers Ripening

As I said before, there has been no time for putting my feet up as at the moment the plants are consuming around 1000 L in just 24 hours. Given that my tank is 1000 L it's a daily job but where else would I want to be. In terms of nutrients I am running at an EC of 1.9 and am settling with a pH of 6.3 (ideal is 6.0-6.2 when in the flowering stage).

Week 25-28: June 20 - July 17

First the weather was quite poor for the time of year but it eventually got better around week 27/28 which was when the Carolina Reapers in the CANNA Sponsored Glasshouse really started to take off so to speak. The two pictures below show the difference in growth from Week 25-28.

Week 25

Week 28

Working with CANNA nutrients has been a learning curve for me but CANNA’s technical support has been first class. I am using their Chilli grow guide and so far so good. My attention to detail is really starting to pay off as the plants are looking really healthy and lush.

When preparing the 1000 L nutrient tanks that I am using, I prefer to keep notes of what I add. I don’t expect anything to go wrong but if it does, then in this way I can track what I did and when I did it.

I am currently aiming for my nutrient tank to have an:

  • EC of 1.8
  • pH of 5.8

For the entire grow when using coco, I have been advised by CANNA to keep the pH between 5.5 and 6.2. I will need to change the pH of my nutrient tank at different stages of the plants growth. The reason is to counter the changing pH in the coco as a result of what the plant is taking up in terms of nutrients. I have been told this is because in the vegetative phase the plant consumes a lot of nitrogen which causes the pH to increase. When the plant is producing fruit in the generative period it will consume more potassium and this will cause the pH to drop. The aim is to keep the pH in the range of 5.5-6.2 (when growing in coco).

Throughout the higher temperatures over the past few days of week 28 I have decided to hose the glasshouse gravel and concrete. I do this last thing in the day and then close all the windows to create some overnight humidity for the plants. This has worked a treat but the humidity first thing in the morning is unbearable!

Below is a photograph of my glass houses. Th CANNA Sponsored Glasshouse is the one at the far end of the picture.

Week 22-24: May 30 - June 19

Well... I have now finally completed the setting up of my CANNA sponsored glasshouse and am so happy to have all the plant in their final homes.

Each of the XL Autopots that I am using holds 25 Litres and I am filling them with CANNA Coco Professional Plus to which I have added Perlite at a ratio of 70:30.

I chose the strongest and healthiest of my Carolina Reapers and after they were potted up they were thoroughly watered through. For the last 10 days they have been hand fed/watered as this will make the plant work harder for the water and in turn create a stronger root system. I’m also using CANNA RHIZOTONIC to help stimulate root growth.

On the tenth day after transplanting it was time to let the 1000L Flexi Tank get some action. The water here in Devon is extremely soft and has an EC of 0.0 which means it practically has nothing in it. So, after filling the 1000L tank with water, I added 500 ml of CANNA CALMAG Agent (0.5 ml per Litre) to bring the EC up to 0.4. This ensures that there will be adequate amounts of Calcium and Magnesium.

The next job was to add the Coco A & B nutrient. I did this by adding 80% of the required amount. This ensures that I do not end up with a nutrient mixture with an EC too high for the plants to handle. So I estimated what 80% would be and added 3 Litres of Coco A to the 1000 L tank and stirred the mixture. Next I added 3 Litres of Coco B and stirred again. At this stage I rechecked the EC which was 1.6, exactly where I wanted it to be so I didn’t need the remaining 20%. I then added 2 L of RHIZOTONIC (2 ml per Litre).

Lastly I checked the pH and over the course of the next hour I added pH minus 10 ml per time until I had a reading of pH 6.2

Week 10-21: March 7 - May 29

My relationship with CANNA started late 2015 when we started to explore a chilli growing project for 2016. With CANNA's support I am delighted to be growing 450 of the world’s hottest Chillies (The Carolina Reaper) in one of my glasshouses and I will be using CANNA products throughout. It took a while to confirm what would be needed for the entire grow to make sure there would be no shortfalls but we got there in the end.

All 450 Reaper plants will be grown in 25L Autopots using CANNA Coco Professional Plus. It doesn't take a genius to work out that 450 plants is a lot of coco, 11,250 L to be precise (225 bags). So, on the 2nd March a rather large articulated lorry arrived directly from Holland and I was really pleased to receive the CANNA products. How the lorry got through our narrow Devonshire lanes is a mystery.

Because the water in my area is soft it contains little calcium and magnesium in it. CANNA advised me to add CALMAG agent to bring the EC up from 0.2 to a normal level of 0.4 so that is has enough calcium and magnesium in it for the plants. To bring the EC from 0.2 to 0.4 requires just 0.25 mL of CALMAG per litre of water.

The Carolina Reaper seeds were started in Rockwool cubes in three stages, the first batch on the 5th March and subsequent ones on the 13th and 24th March.

To date the seedlings/small chilli plants have been grown indoors in three grow tents and a propagator. Initially they were fed with CANNA Start which gave the seedlings a good start. I later moved onto feeding the plants with CANNA Coco A & B and RHIZOTONIC. After potting the plants on they were moved into my lean-to for the next fortnight.

On the 28 March I finally got around to setting up my CANNA glasshouse which is 30M long and as you can see, there was a ridiculous amount of coco to shift!

The 450 plants will be split over six runs and the transformation of the tunnel is a lot of work but it’s starting to take shape.

Below is a series of photographs showing the Carolina Reaper plants at various stages over the last two months.

17 April 2016

26 April 2016

2 May 2016

12 May 2016

The Grower:
As an event caterer with over 20 years in the food industry, Cliff Hyslop (AKA DevonChilliMan) took his seemingly obsessional pursuit of hot chillies to another level in 2013 when he acquired significant glasshouse space in Newton Abbot, Devon.

Since then Cliff has gone from strength to strength and is hugely popular throughout the chilli growing community not only for his chilli growing but also for the sauces he produces. Our favourite is ’Death at the Crimson Alter’ but you have been warned!

Cliff first came to our attention in 2015 through his involvement with a Chilli Growing Project at Channingswood Prison. Working with unskilled prisoners, Cliff took on seven enormous commercial polytunnels and grew over 2000 chilli plants.

The Project:
In 2016 Cliff is taking on an equally exciting project and we are proud to be supporting him through the CANNA Sponsored Carolina Reaper Chilli Project.

Cliff will be growing a staggering 450 Carolina Reapers chilli plants on CANNA Coco Professional Plus along with the corresponding CANNA Coco A/B nutrient.

To improve plant health and maximise growth and production, we are supplying Cliff with CANNA Additives RHIZOTONIC, PK 13/14, CANNAZYM and CANNABOOST Accelerator.

FACT: The Carolina Reaper Chilli has an average rating of 1,569,300 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) but can reach as high as 2,200,000+. Named as the world’s hottest chilli in November 2013 by the Guiness Book of Records, it was developed by Ed Currie through the cross-breeding of Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillies.