Although here, in the middle of the Irish sea, we have a huge amount of yearly rainfall, Hot Cayenne Chilli plants themselves need very little water and lots of warmth from the sun. We also get a lot of wind so to successfully grow hot chillies outside we built some experimental structures to create micro climates to simulate the Mexican desert and protect the plants from the chilling effect of the wind (Wind-chill).
Will this idea be successful? Will the chillies flower and produce fruit? All will be revealed!
It would be tempting to close off the top of the structure, but previous experience has shown that when the sun does shine, the temperatures inside very quickly get extremely high and literally kills everything. Also, the roof was prone to get damaged by the wind and is a major psychological barrier to doing the weeding properly.
Other varieties of chillies could possibly be successful, but hot cayenne is undoubtedly the easiest to grow in my temperate maritime climate.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Heavy gauge pallet wrap on a roll
- Parcel tape or duct tape
- 2m long Fence posts
- Fence post tool
Step 2: Constructing the Structures
The ground here has firstly been ploughed and rotovated with a tractor. If you don't have a tractor - ask to borrow your neighbour's! The plot should be in full sun with no shading from trees etc.
The posts are knocked into a roughly lozenge shape about 3 metres by 2 metres in size to a depth of about 300mm with the narrow end facing into the direction of the prevailing wind. The posts do need to be in fairly deep, especially in soft ground, as when the pallet wrap is stretched over them there are considerable forces created that will try and bend the tops of the posts inwards.
Pallet wrap is firstly wrapped a few times around one post to fasten the first end and then, starting at the bottom, is wrapped as tight as possible around all the posts about 4 times in total. It's important to be able to physically step into the structure to do some weeding later on and not to create too much force on the tops of the posts so 750mm should be the maximum height of the wrap.
The wrap is then cut and the loose end secured against the wind with a strip of parcel tape.
Any gaps at the bottom can be made wind proof by banking soil up against the edges.
I also created a quick structure to protect my dog from the wind whilst I was at it.
Step 3: Plant Propagation
Seeds were saved from last year's glasshouse crop of cayenne peppers and were started off in an electric plant propagator in April and transferred into the pallet wrap structure after the last frost on the 1st June. Only transfer the seedlings when the root ball has completely filled the cell (see photo). If you transfer too early, the root ball will fall apart and the valuable black compost will be lost.
Chillies require very little water and so, living in a temperate zone with a high amount of rainfall, additional watering was unnecessary. It took the plants a few months until they started to flower, during which time a fair bit of weeding was necessary.
Step 4: Transplant the Chillies
After the structure was built, the chillies should be planted in a grid to a spacing of about 200mm. Never do the planting before building the structure like I did as I had to relocate most of the plants afterwards!
Step 5: Final
It's now August the 3rd and the Chillies are producing plenty of flowers and even some small chillies. We have successfully replicated the Mexican desert in the middle of the Irish Sea!
I wonder what else we can do with pallet wrap - Watch this space!
Please feel free to add suggestions for improving this technique in the comments section below. This instructable will be updated if I have missed anything ......
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