Showing posts with label Sea Spring Seeds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sea Spring Seeds. 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.

27 Apr 2016

How to successfully grow huge chilli plants

first chilli flower

I don't want to jinx myself by putting this in writing but ...  I'm now quietly hopeful of growing some chillies this year since this flower appeared on my kitchen windowsill plant yesterday.

I'm being tentative in this claim as it's well documented that I'm rubbish at growing plants indoors. Outside, no problem, but inside? Bleh. I wonder why that is? There are many more buds waiting to open and I'm certain that this vigorous little plant has a lot more growing to do.

I bought the sturdy but tiny plant in mid-February from Joy Michaud of Sea Spring Seeds. She is an amazing and passionate chilli grower and it's a testament to her skill in giving plants a good start in life that this chilli has continued to thrive in my dubious care.

I didn't do at all well with my chilli growing from seed last year so this year decided to treat myself to head start in the chilli department - and it looks as though it's paying off.  I've potted the plant on twice since purchase and it needs to go into its final pot this week as I can just see a few roots at the base of the current pot.  This is possibly where I'm getting it right this year; I watched a couple of excellent videos from the Sea Spring Seeds youtube channel with some top tips. (Link below.)

Sea Spring harvested 2,407 chillies from one enormous Dorset Naga plant two years ago!  Joy is generous with her advice on how it's done - here are a few of her tips:

  • Seedlings should be pricked out into a one litre pot and, when the roots are showing at the base, potted on into a 7.5 litre pot; they'll grow rapidly and can then be repotted into successively larger containers, as needed.  A plant will grow to the size of it's pot (depending on the variety of chilli you're growing) but a small pot will restrict its growth.  (Video explaining this here.) The giant champion Dorset Naga was in a 160 litre container! Possibly too big for my space - and for my cooking needs - but you take my point. 
  • Mix dried chicken manure pellets into the potting compost when transplanting into each successive pot from 7.5 litres upwards; these are slow release and will provide your plant with essential nutrients all season.
  • Water well and fertilise regularly throughout the season (in addition to the chicken manure pellets).
  • When the plants get large, support the branches. Push a couple of canes into the side of the pot and circle the plant with string, securing it to the canes. Add more layers of string as the plant grows.

So there we have it.  If I follow all this good advice, I might just have to book my slot at the local horticultural show this year!

For fellow chilli growing novices like myself, oceans of good advice can be found on the Sea Spring channel here:

By August, I had lovely large plants and chillies ready for harvest - all grown on my balcony.  Read that post here: A chilli update

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.

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