Most of my Carolina Reapers have fruited early – but some have fruits that are Lilliputian-small. Though these tiny balls of dynamite are still fearsomely hot, they are absurdly impractical from a sauce-making point of view. Yet the ghoulish Bhut Jolokias are performing well, as are golden Fataliis, the Thai Demons and Ring of Fire, the trusty Chocolate Habaneros, and the indispensible 7-Pots, most of which were planted later. So what has happened to the Reapers? There could be two reasons for their embarrassing fruits, and both testify to my impatient nature.
First, the Reapers were brought on too early, and flowered when conditions were still too cold for pollinators to flourish. A wonderful burst of heat in late February was followed by a dismal Spring that brought cool temperatures and rather a lot of rain. This meant few insects were out and about to do the business. Without enough pollinators, pollination was incomplete, and the resultant fruits are tiny, with few, if any, seeds.
The other reason could be an over-enthusiastic dosing of organic seaweed fertiliser. Seaweed fertiliser is a wonderful tonic for plants: it is packed with trace elements, including iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and boron. However, I use only a certified organic brand, which means it has no added nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium – and it is the potassium (K) that is the essential ingredient for promoting healthy flowers and fruit. In itself, this wouldn’t matter. But, using too much of it certainly does.
Deluging plants with any fertiliser has very much the opposite effect to the one intended. When the soil is too rich in nutrients, the roots have problems taking up water – it’s all to do with osmosis, but I’m not going into that here. Suffice to say, not only do the roots fail to absorb the good stuff, they fail to take up water and can end up actually leaching it out. One of the clues to this happening is that the leaves become dry and curl at the edges. It looks like the plant is failing to thrive (which it is), and the temptation is to pep it up with yet more feed – but don’t, that’d be killing with kindness. Either re-pot the plant, or, as I’m doing, carry on watering and wait for the excess nutrients to be washed out of the soil.
So, I’ve taken off the miniscule fruit, and will exercise a modicum of self control by simply waiting for summer to bring on the next phase of flowering – and keeping my fingers crossed the fruits will be normal in size.