I thought I would share this as it is time to get your Chilli plants ready for overwintering. (I confess this is not my article – I found it on “chilli king” website when I was looking to over winter a few plants of mine.)
It is much easier to bring them out after over-wintering as plants rather than bringing them up again from seed. You can choose the best plants in Autumn / Winter that you have to keep for the following season. You are basically going to put them in hibernation and bring them out in the Spring to flourish once more..
1. Not all your plants will make it though the winter. Assuming you are like most people available space (away from frosts) such as in the greenhouse or conservatory or a sunny windowsill will be limited so only choose your best looking, healthiest chilli plants to overwinter.
Of the 5 main species of chilli pubescens tend to fare better however all will work if you treat them well and have a bit of luck. As a rule it is best to over winter plants that take longer to fruit such as habaneros.
2. As summer is coming to an end give each plant a careful check over looking out for any signs of disease or pests. If you find either seperate out the good plants from the bad to avoid any further infestations. Only attempt to overwinter your strongest looking plants as weaker plants will have a much lower survival rate. When night time temperatures fall (to around 10 degrees) you should start thinking about preparing your plants for the winter. In the UK this tends to be about the end of October.
3. Be sure to remove any chillies from your plants as you do not want to waste any! If the plants have unripe fruit then you can try and ripen them off the plant.
4. Pruning. Having just spent a year looking after and nurturing your chillie plants it can seem particularly cruel to cut them back so severley. However to increase the chance of survival it is best to give your plants a sever pruning back as winter closes in. Prune back each plant so you only leave about 10-15cm of the main stem. This seems extremely harsh however it ensures your chilli plant will not waste any energy trying to maintain foliage or fruit instead saving it for it’s battle for survival over the winter.
5. Repotting. After trimming back your chilli plants it can be a good idea to remove them from the pot, shake off the root ball slightly and repot using some fresh compost. This will help the plant grow back healthier in the spring. If your plants are in large pots (bigger than 30cm) you can also trim back the roots slightly and pot into a smaller pot to help concentrate the energy.
6. As you will have learned already chillie plants like heat. You will increase their chances of survival massively if you move the plants inside a greenhouse (if they are not in one already). This will help keep the roots warm and protect them from frost. In fact if you can move them inside the house as the average temperature will be much higher. A sunny windowsill is ideal.
7. As is the case during the summer it is best to avoid over watering your chillie plants in winter. Remember that because of the lower temperatures it will take much longer for them to use the water you give them. As a result water much less frequently than in the summer to avoid mold building up. Check them once a week and only water if necessary, maybe as little as every 2-3 weeks.
8. Be patient. When spring come round it can take a few weeks before the plants spring back into life and new growth forms. However when they do they will already have a nice big strong root structure formed that will enable them to fruit long before any plants you are starting from seed.