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I’d like to follow the theme set by Frank’s recent posts on sustainable gardening (like this, this, and this), but with the slight handicap of not having a garden.

Not having a garden probably seems like a large setback for a gardener. And truth be told, it is. But, testament to humans’ desire to innovate and adapt, ways of getting around this obstacle exist. A wealth of blogs are dedicated to gardening without a conventional garden; The 6×8 garden and Green Roof Growers are two examples of many, but all are maintained by more professional gardeners than I; this post aims to share with you the basic lessons learned in growing chillies in a gardenless student house this year.

Credit goes to my former housemate and internet-wary friend Paranoia Boy (PB) for these chilli growing tips. PB was in charge of ‘Harvey’ the chilli plant, who was grown from seeds, originally in a window box and later in a planter when ‘he’ outgrew the box. On choosing the healthiest seedlings, PB says after planting many seeds in very moist soil, select the biggest, strongest looking (and especially green) ones as they are more likely to grow into healthy plants. The plant was kept nourished through a mix of store-bought tomato feed, and working coffee grinds into the soil every now and then (though the latter technique should not be used too often).

Harvey fruited nicely around April after being planted in late autumn last year. Chilli plants thrive when kept consistently above 20°c, and frequently in the sun. Watering the plant every morning (around half a pint / 250ml) seemed to be the best time, and watering slightly less than the suggested amount seemed to make it flower better. Chilli plants flowering is a good sign, but in order to make them fruit, they need to be pollinated. PB’s policy was to leave the window open in the hope that a bee would fly in and pollinate, and it seemed to work. Manual pollination can be achieved though, through collecting pollen on a small brush and applying it to the center of the flowers you wish to fruit.

Where to go from here? I’m living in student housing again next year, and have every intention of continuing to grow what I can. I may branch out to something more adventurous if time allows; herbs and spices are a possible avenue of exploration as I’ve heard good things about growing basil, oregano and such. Tomatoes are another possibility, although it depends how easy they are to grow because I’m not a huge fan, and as a result the amount of effort I’m willing to spend in growing them is reduced.

Thanks for reading this guest post which Frank kindly allowed me to write. My name is Chris, and I keep a blog myself at http://p-latitudes.blogspot.com although it’s a bit disorganised at the moment. My layman’s interest in gardening / growing was inspired by some work I did on behalf of Tiger Sheds.