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2020 Rocoto Grow Blog (November 2019)

2020 Grow Grow Log Rocoto

As you know, we have a penchant for all things capsicum pubescens. These incredible chillies, known in Peru and Ecuador as Rocoto, Bolivia and Argentina as Locoto and Mexico as Manzano.

Each year we plant some of our favourites and some new varieties to try.  This year we wanted to document elements of the grow.  These chillies are no more difficult than other more frequently grown domestic chillies, they just have slightly different requirements and in the main, require a longer season.


  • 4 x 4ft T5 CFL tube light.
  • Heated Propagator.  In this case the English made Vitopod.
  • Seed trays
  • Compost (John Innes mixed with Perlite 80:20)
  • Plant Labels
  • Good quality seeds.
  • Water.  Tap water, left to off gas and warm to room temperature.

1 November 2019 (day 1)

All of the trays and labels have been washed and re-used.  The first tray of c.pubescens were sown in a mix of compost and perlite.  Two seeds per cell, two cells per variety.  If all four seeds grow, we select the strongest two plants, leaving one seedling per cell.  You can leave two per cell, it's a matter of preference and space.

Seeds were sown around 5-10mm deep and covered over.

The compost was tamped down to allow good contact between the compost and the seed, but not so much it eliminates all the air in the medium.

Labels were added and the compost given a good water.  The seed tray was placed in a heated propagator at 26 degrees C, with all the vents nearly closed, so the humidity would raise.

And we wait....

 6 November 2019 (day 6)

The patience is just starting to pay off.  The very first few seedlings have just started to break the surface of the compost and ‘loop’.  This is where a good fresh seed source makes a difference.  Remember that right now in Lima, Peru its 22 degrees C and getting over nearly 13 hours of sunlight a day.  The same can't be said for the UK.  We are having a high of 7 degree C and near freezing at night.  Daylight is down to 8 hours 45 minutes.



12 November 2019 (day 11)

Most of the pubescens varieties are now up and running, with the exception of a few older varieties.  This is to be expected, and I am quite happy to give them another 10 days or so.  It is at that stage I will reconsider a re-sow of the same variety and or a new variety.

All of the new additions, now have the seed leaves showing.  These are called cotyledons and are the first embryonic leaves to appear from the seed.  In chillies, these are nearly always the same shape and remain tiny.  The next leaves are referred to as the first set of real or true leaves, as they are much more what you would expect from a chilli plant.  Eventually the cotyledons will fall from the plant.

Watering continues, as I try not to allow the compost to dry out too much.  There is sufficient feed in the compost, so nothing needs to be added at this stage.

Light and temperature are now the big factors.  Humidity can remain high, but reduced from that required for germination. Light is required 12-14 hours a day.  Temperature remains around 25-26 degrees C, but could be lower if your situation required.

Grow lights are now in use.  I am using CFL T5 grow lights.  Each tube is 4 foot long and is 54 watts in power.  The light spectrum is 6400k or kelvins.  Sometimes this is referred to as a blue light.  Try not to worry about this as chillies are pretty much colour blind.  More importantly it is quite close to daylight colour.  That is what matters the most.  These are reasonably cheap, easy to find and replace and provide good results.

The lights are a good distance from the young seedlings, so as not to dry them out. Around 15-20 cm, at the moment.  

19 November 2019 (day 19)

Now 18 days into this Rocoto grow, and all appears to be going very well.  At least one seedling, of each variety, has emerged from its slumber and all appear healthy.

My thoughts are now beginning to focus on ‘potting on’. Consideration being given pots, compost mixes, nutrients, irrigation requirements and the forecast minimum temperatures. 

Overnight temperatures dropped to -2C. The first minus figure of the season, in this part of the UK and the first substantial, hard frost.  The Vitopod propagator will be working harder to maintain the desired 26C.

 21 November 2019 (day 21)

A quick check of the seedlings showed a couple of weaklings!  Not content with that we have re-sown two varieties, while there is still time.  Both are older seed varieties and no surprises there.  one suffered from what is referred to as 'helmet heat' where the seed casing gets stuck to the seedling.

25 November 2019 (day 25)

Today we started the task of potting on.  This is basically taking seedlings with two or more real leaves and removing them from the seed starter tray and transplanting them into larger, individual pots.  Our pots are cleaned and reused each year, preventing additional plastics going to landfill.  For us the next size up is 10cm, heavy duty, pots with a capacity of around 0.7L.

We use a spare plastic plant label, to tease the seedling and its rootball, out of the small seed tray.  For plants of this age they have a significant set of roots, already, which is great news.

The new, larger pots are filled with a quality compost mix.  In this case we used BioBizz Light-Mix Soil.  This comes already mixed with Perlite and as the name would suggest is really light.  We have had fantastic results with this as a growing medium, so consider it a good investment.  Later on we will be using an automatic irrigation method, which makes this medium a perfect match.  It's also organic, which we love! 

Any light, free draining compost will be fine.  Consider a John Innes No 1 or 2 based compost.

We insert the new seedlings into the mix, and gently tamp the surface of the compost, around the stem.  Don't apply too much pressure to the compost or you will damage delicate roots and reduce the amount of air in the root zone.

The new pots are gently watered in and then left alone, back in the heated Vitopod, with the additional overhead lighting.  If you haven't got a large heated propagator, ensure your seedlings are somewhere warm and light, without cold breezes and not touching cold window glass.

Feel free to leave a comment or question.  Continue to December 2019 here.

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