Showing posts with label Chilli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chilli. Show all posts

15 Aug 2016

Best seen from above (my chillies, I mean)

I'm such an noodlehead when it comes to gardening thoughts, being easily diverted from my path by the moment - a chance sighting of a spectacular plant or a conversation peppered with useful tips will send me veering off at a tangent.

As a result of this tendency to wiffle about, I tend to post about something and subsequently fail to return to the subject.  I was reminded of this as I heaved one of my chilli plants back onto the bench from the floor - it's put there when my son wants to create a space to sit in my plant stuffed balcony.

When I look out onto my tiny balcony, I see how beautifully the chilli plants are growing.  I last wrote about these chillies as tiny newly bought plants so it's time for an update.

Chilli 'Tangerine Dream'
~ Chilli 'Tangerine Dream' ~

Viewed from above, Tangerine Dream is a handsome beast of a plant. I am (usually) pants at growing chillies so, flushed with success, I'm sharing this update to show that anyone can have a go and achieve a beautiful plant, whether the fruit gets eaten or simply admired.

I'll confess that I have no idea how best to use these particular chillies (suggestions invited!) but they are undeniably fun and frivolous as chillies go.  I'm accustomed to the more generic red supermarket chillies for my cooking but was intrigued by the names and trying something a little unusual.

Chilli 'Fairy Lights'
~ Chilli 'Fairy Lights' ~

Tangerine Dream is a relatively mild vegetable chilli while Fairy Lights, being a spice chilli, is considerably hotter, although nowhere near the heat of superhot chillies.  When will they be ready to pick?  I have no idea!  I'm not sure that I want that day to come as these plants are a joy to behold at the moment.  Fairy Lights is currently gearing up to transform its fruit from purple through yellow into red - the colours during this change are sublime.

~ Chilli 'Thai Green Curry' ~

The chilli that I grew myself from seed this year is Thai Green Curry (also from Sea Spring Seeds); It's another mild vegetable chilli but has long slim pods.  I sowed the seeds just after I bought the other two plants so Thai Green is less developed than those. At the moment there's only one chilli pod but lots of flowers so I'm hoping for more.  This is not such a pretty plant but may well be more useful. It will be good to have a choice for once - surely the whole point of growing your own!

Growing notes: (What worked for me)
Buy small or sow early indoors (mid-February)
Pot on into 10 litre pot when plant is about 3 inches tall. Be careful not to handle the stem.
Use good multi purpose compost; mix in added fertilizer, eg chicken manure pellets
Water when top 2 inches of soil in the pot feels dry.
Give a boost by watering in additional plant food, eg, liquid seaweed.
Grow in a mild sheltered environment - next to a sunny house wall is ideal.

Both of the purchased chillies have been very sturdy healthy plants that have grown steadily.  I followed the advice given by Sea Spring Seeds at purchase and repotted the plants into their final 12 litre pots using good compost (Dalefoot peat free) with added chicken manure pellets.  They've been fed when I remember (but not more frequently than weekly) using either Tomorite, liquid seaweed or even orchid food added to the watering can; all promote flowering and fruiting. I watered when the soil felt dry at a couple of inches depth.  I didn't move them on from 12 litre pots because, with three chilli plants growing, that's all I have room for on the balcony.  Even so, the plants are a good chunky size.

19 Oct 2013

Sea Spring seeds

Before I move on from the London Harvest Festival show, I just wanted to thank Joy at Sea Spring seeds for the time that she took to chat to me about selecting and growing chillies. One advantage of going to shows like this is that the trade stands, often small businesses, are usually very generous with advice and Joy was no exception.

chilli display
Sea Spring Seeds marvellous display of chilli plants.

Joy (and her husband) are very experienced chilli growers and I, sadly, am not. I have managed to coax a chilli or two out of a plant in the past but the results have certainly been nothing to boast about. This year I didn't grow chillis at all as my windowsills were full of tomato seedlings and I don't use chillies that often in cooking. However, I do like the look of a flourishing plant - and Joy's were certainly that!

Joy, Sea Spring Seeds
In between serving other customers, Joy took the time to talk to me about the chillies (and tomatoes) that would work for me, i.e. grow well outdoors, without a greenhouse. Her advice emphasised the importance of choosing wisely to suit the growing conditions - Sea Spring have 50 varieties of chilli to choose from!

I was very taken with one of the display plants, an Apricot chilli with a mild heat, but was navigated away by Joy from certain grower's frustration as I was warned these definitely need the warmth of a polytunnel or greenhouse to thrive.

Leaflets about the differing heat values of the chilli seeds available were a useful reminder as I like a fairly mild heat. All I knew before was that Scotch Bonnet chillis are very hot as, I think, are the little Birds Eye chillis. Look at the heat factor of 'Apricot' compared with the Dorset Naga chilli!!

Joy explained that chilli seeds should be sown in February, need a minimum and steady temperature (27°C) to germinate (a heated propagator is best for this) and, once they have two true leaves, they can be pricked out, grown on in a mini-greenhouse (in my case) and then transferred outside. They can be quite hardy plants and, as ever, choosing the right plant for the growing conditions that you have is of paramount importance.

After lots of good advice, I chose a packet of Thai Green Curry seeds, a spice chilli (Capsicum annuum) where the long green pods can be harvested green or allowed to turn a beautiful deep red, still without excess heat. Mmm, I'm seeing strings of dried chillis hanging round my kitchen already!

Thai Green Curry
'Thai Green Curry' plant on Sea Spring display.
And this is the one that got away - 'Apricot' chilli - mild of heat and beautiful to behold. One to bookmark if I ever get a greenhouse!

Apricot chilli

In addition to chilli seeds, I also took advantage of Joy's good advice about tomatoes and other seeds on sale and bought 'Sungold' and 'Maskotka' tomatoes, 'Toma Verde' physalis (a sort of Mexican green tomato) and Scarlet Kale to sow as a cut and come again crop; with 200 seeds in the packet, I might try sowing a few under cover now, just to see what happens.

26 Sept 2012

What a week for a holiday at home!

Veg Patch view Sept 2012
Before the stormy weather, a view of my little veg patch garden taken ten days ago. 
Top left, under the tree, is one single Striped Pyjamas spaghetti squash plant. ~ 
I've taken a few days off work this week, mainly to give myself the time to have a tidy round the veg garden, clearing, pruning, sowing (broad beans, flowers) and planting bulbs (tulips, daffs, onions). I'd anticipated pottering in warm sunshine.  Well, that didn't happen, did it?  Not that I'm complaining: I've seen news reports of floods in the North and photos of the terrible damage all these storms have wreaked.  I hope that gardening friends across the UK have made it through without the trauma of having their homes and gardens damaged - the worst I've experienced here in London is the loss of tall sunflowers (literally snapped in half) and 48 hours of rain which started last Sunday.

Sept basket harvest
~ Rainbow veg:
Purple potatoes, green achocha, orange bell pepper (tiny), yellow cucumber, red chillies ~ 

Luckily, the day before the deluge, I decided to start digging up the spuds growing under the fruit trees. These potatoes prove that there is such a thing as a free lunch: I didn't plant even one of these, they're all left over from the first batch popped in the soil in 2010! It seems there will always be one little tuber left behind to grow on next year.

There were no markers but they're easy to identify: these are Blue Danube, a maincrop potato with good blight resistance, vigorous and with pretty purple flowers. Last year the potatoes were small and I boiled them.  Not good as they fell apart in cooking.  Apparently, they're best roasted! Or sautéed. Or baked, which is just as well because this year, having left them in the ground for a good while, I've had some whoppers.

Blue Danube spuds

I'm hoping for some better weather later in the week as I really want to get my bulbs in.  There's also a good post over at Garlic and Sapphire about which flower seeds can be sown now in order to get a head start on the flower cutting garden next spring.

But, if the weather doesn't cheer up, I can practise my plant sketching. My garden design course requires that I learn four plant idents by this Friday; the rest of the first day was all introductions, student handbooks, library visits, cups of tea and where are the toilets! So far, my heart is still in the kitchen garden and I was glad to get back to my veg patch for some thinking space at the end of the day.  

I think we were started off gently as the plants to remember are all fairly common: Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan), Echinacea purpurea (coneflower), Verbena bonariensis (Vervain; a favourite at Chelsea last year) and Penstemon 'Firebird'. The first task on Friday morning will be to collect a pre-cut sample flower and sketch it.  It's been a while since I wielded a pencil so I'm getting some practise in beforehand and the rainy weather is perfect for that!

Salvia Amistad

To end with an uplifting image:  this bed of salvia and lavender signposts the path between the graphics studio and the tea room in the Capel Manor gardens - no getting lost with this bright splash of colour! 

20 Apr 2012

Sunshine, Rain and Perennial Cauliflowers

Perennial cauliflower
~ Perennial Cauliflower, looking good (and tasty) ~
I've heard so many people bemoaning the "dreadful weather" this last week: wind, rain, sunshine, as well as thunderstorms today. Welcome to April in the UK.  (I think it's great.)  There's a hosepipe ban in the south so all this rain is sending deep reserves of water into the ground and the veg and fruit will be fully refreshed.  Luckily I was able to find time to go down to the veg garden on Monday where I got quite a lot done.  I stayed really focused as I thought it might rain at any moment!

I earthed up my bag grown potatoes for the first time as they'd put on a good 4 inches of growth.  I sowed Italian parsley, coriander and 3 types of carrot seeds: purple cosmic (for fun), Amsterdam 3 (my usual) and a new one (to me) called Little Fingers as it's supposed to be harvestable (is that a word?) in only 8 weeks!  I'm growing these in deep tubs to see if it makes a difference; previously I've interplanted carrots between the onions and garlic which seems to have thwarted any carrot fly.  Let's see how the tubs do. (The theory is to grow a few at a time and re-sow at monthly-ish intervals so that I don't end up overwhelmed with carrots.  Or anything else for that matter.)

The pink broad beans are all doing really well - I sowed them in a raised bed that had been manured last autumn and I've left a space to plant beans or peas (not sure which yet) at the north-east end of the bed where they'll get plenty of sun without shading the broad beans. The sacrificial nasturtiums planted at the same time have yet to make a showing; I want them there to tempt any aphids or blackfly away from the broad beans... )

Meanwhile, back upstairs in my flat-turned-greenhouse, the artichokes, dill, borage and melon seeds have all germinated and been potted on successfully. They'll stay upstairs for a few weeks until they're strong enough to fend for themselves in the veg garden. I sowed a tray of 12 Jiffy 7s with bell peppers (purple and orange), capsicums and chillis and the seed saved from my Yellow Banana chilli grown last year (the one still fruiting at Christmas). I reckon the son of that plant deserves a space on the windowsill this year if I can successfully nurture it to maturity. I suspect it's not really called Yellow Banana but the plant came from Homebase when the fungus gnats munched my own chillis into oblivion and that was the name conferred on it there. The seeds went into the modules at the beginning of April and are over an inch high already.  I hope this bodes well for raising mature plants as I may have left sowing them a bit late.

The best part of the week is that I've enjoyed the first of my perennial cauliflowers! The main cauli head was quite large so I cut just a few chunky stalks.  It was cooked with the sprouting stalks from the bolted Brussel Sprouts plants and both were utterly delicious. (Served up with just butter, salt and pepper. Yum.) I wondered in my previous post whether the sprout stalks would be edible and now I know that they are. They were not unlike PSB so it's good know that the sprout tops and stalks can still be eaten even after the plant has bolted.  Lesson learned: don't be hasty in chucking your bolted winter veg onto the compost heap.  I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful of that particular lunch.

Tomorrow I'm off early for a long drive to Bristol.  Jekka McVicar's herb farm hosts occasional Open Days with talks by Jekka and farm tours around the herbs.  I'm booked onto the workshop "How to Design a Herb Garden" which I treated myself to for my birthday last month.  I'm really excited to be going, even though the weather forecast is not good, and I'll hopefully be able to post all about it when I get back.

Have a good weekend everyone!

15 Oct 2011

Saturday Snap! Chilli re-growth

Here in London, we're experiencing what I can only describe as a glorious summer's day.  Although there was a distinct snap in the air at the beginning of the day, there's real warmth in the sunshine.  All this lovely warmth and mild weather is completely confusing my plants.  There's me trying to make ready for the winter (which I'm sure is due fairly soon!) and the plants are seemingly putting in one last effort before this year's growing season ends.  Look what I found this morning on my chilli plant:

Chilli regrowing
:: October Chilli plant, regrowing nicely ::
There's actually half a dozen pods like this on this plant (better than it did in the summer!) This is a plant which is not protected in any way but just sits on my balcony where it gets a few hours of sunshine, when available, and is buffeted by wind!  These new pods are a couple of inches long already and I suspect would pack quite a punch when cooked!  The pods should mature to about 3 inches long, changing through a banana yellow colour to deep red.  I wonder how far they'll get before the weather changes?

There's also a fair amount of colour lingering in the veg patch and it was interesting to watch Monty D on Gardeners World last night talking about how much colour there is in his garden at Long Meadow.  I'm intrigued that his sweet peas are still flowering energetically - obviously, next year, I should be picking mine more often.  And, although I've already ordered my sweet peas for next year, I really liked the one named after Monty, a glorious deep red.  Yumm!  (I suspect I could squeeze a few in!)
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