Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comFollowing my first ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ post last week, I’m pleased to say that I’ve had a question from a Mrs.Trellis of North Wales, who asks,

‘Is it possible to grow peppers and aubergines outdoors in the UK?’

Well, Mrs. Trellis, even though global warming is raising the overall average temperature in the UK, this is very gradual and is unlikely to make it possible for you to grow these exotics outside where you live – unless of course you have a very sheltered, sunny and warm spot (in a courtyard perhaps). However, even there in North Wales its unlikely to  be warm enough, long enough during the summer. Having said that, you could of course have a scorching summer and I’ll be proved wrong!

If you do want to have a go and have a greenhouse and/or cold frame you could try to start the plants off inside with seed sowing in late February or early March with some added heat from a propagator (minimum 21 degrees C). Then pot them up into small pots and gradually harden them off, first in an unheated greenhouse, then perhaps a cold frame. Then, ‘if the weather is with you’ plant them out/pot them on into larger pots once all risk of frost has passed – I guess that might be well into June for you? If you are planting into open ground then it’s advisable to give some temporary protection in the form of a cloche or fleece covering for a couple of weeks into June.

Once they are growing well, pinch out the growing tips of both peppers and aubergines when they reach about 37 cms high, to make them grow bushy. And you might also need to stake and support them if they get top-heavy with foliage and fruit.

Aubergines have great health benefits

Aubergines have great health benefits

To give you some ability to respond to the weather, if you grow the plants in containers you can bring them into the greenhouse/inside if the temperatures don’t reach the sorts of levels they need (they will grow only slowly at about 12 degrees C for peppers and 16-18 degrees C for Aubergines – but ideally they both need it hotter). However, if there is a lack of sunshine you can’t do much about that – unless you invest in some expensive lighting perhaps! Also, Aubergines don’t do well in humid conditions – they need heat and well-drained soil to thrive. So, that moist North Wales climate might also be a problem!

For those living further south/east in the UK, where the climate is perhaps more likely to be both warmer and drier, outdoor peppers and aubergines are a real possibility, especially in a greenhouse – but again they need consistent heat, sun and shelter to do really well outside.

Chilli peppers have their own hotness rating scale

Chilli peppers have their own hotness rating scale

Oh, and by the way, yes, both peppers and aubergines are fruit (botanically speaking) though we tend to refer to them as vegetables in the kitchen! If you have any experiences or tips on growing peppers or aubergines outside I’d love to hear from you!

Further information:

Growing aubergines

Aubergine recipes and the health benefits

Growing sweet peppers

Growing Chilli peppers

Pepper recipes

Old School Gardener

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