Tag Archives: cayenne

Soul revival: Hello, Spring

It’s half through the week off, and I’m pottering around, practising some much needed self care. I say I’m pottering, I’m pacing around til the new book goes live and have a distinct lack of writing mojo. Writing other than the blog, that is.

I find it really hard to wander around aimlessly; generally, I have lists and plans as to what to, when, and will be diligent in doing what I have to. What I need to do, sort of gets jettisoned out of the nearest air lock.

Until this week, that is and I’m making a conscious effort to stop.

Sowing of seeds was definitely on the agenda for this week. I’ve been keeping an eye on the chilli seeds; with two more little green babies fished out of the propagator. These were the recently re-sown batch of Cayennes. I do have a few slow growing habaneros in there, I think. I may well find myself rescuing chilli plant from garden centres at some point, by way of experimenting.  I wasn’t originally going to sow cucumbers, it’s been a while since I have. These are Marketmore, and we shall see if these germinate. I don’t tend to have much luck with home sown, home grown cucumbers. They are however wonderfully delicious to eat and do make a nice raita or a good side salad. I might have a a look at other varieties, with a few crystal lemon ones knocking about.

The first batch of tomatoes have been sown, I say first batch as I will probably end up sowing more. I’ve sown four different varieties. The ever present Roma and Marmande, with a sun-blush orange variety and another, which I think is called Indigo. The latter is a blue/black tomato, so we shall see. Roma and Marmand have proved to be reliable varieties. They are heavy croppers and tend to get used up really quickly.

There is a whole list of other things to sow. I will hanging fire yet, before sowing squashes, for example. These grow quickly and the frost window here in Birmingham doesn’t close til the end of May. I will have a think about Runner Beans and Climbing French Beans, The latter will definitely be used across different dishes.

My plan is to continue pottering for the rest of the working week. The weekend is reserved for the allotment, provided that the weather stays stable.

 

Today and yesterday, I decided to take a walk around Middle Earth. Within walking distance, there is Sarehole Mill. A place, said to be the childhood haunt of J.R.R Tolkien and something of a local heritage treasure.  This morning, I donned my walking boots, took a thermo-mug of tea and off I went. I wanted to do this as slowly and as serenely as I could. Yesterday, I thoroughly enjoyed just ambling along, listening to the birds, being a green space and feeling my heart rate slow down. This was about being, taking time, absorbing the universe and being at peace. I think I might do the same again, and make the most of my down time.

 

Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

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Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

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I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.

Chillies on the Sill #gdnbloggers

Bit of an update for you. I have just potted up four additional baby chillies.

You can also find the video here.

As you can see there are quite a few pots and not an awful lot of window sill space. These will no doubt find themselves shuffling around the house before settling into the poly tunnel sometime during June/July. There are three varieties of chilli that have been sown; jalepeno, cayenne and purple haze.

I will keeping an eye on these on the coming weeks as it is still rather cold and light levels are yet to increase. For now, the seedlings are growing slowly, and I don’t mind that. Taking their time, the seedlings can establish in their pots and gradually become stronger. Chillies need a long growing season and the early stages of development are important for the growing season to eventually be productive.

With the chillies now on the window sill, the next job is it sow aubergines and tomatoes. I am likely to sow the aubergines first and then tomatoes a few weeks later. They are part of the same family, and neither should be sown too early. I really don’t fancy gangly, leggy seedlings that keel over and another set have to be sown. Mama F did actually ask this morning if I had baby aubergine varieties, and pootled off to check the seed catalogues. I’ve not had much success with home sown and grown aubergines. I have got the odd flower, but not fruit. Every year, I debate as to whether or not I will sow them, this year was no different. I suspect Mama F and I will end up competing, trying to grow them in two different plots. With Mama F then competing with her sister-last year, my aunt managed to grow an aubergine, and there was excitement-so you can imagine the drama.

There is half a plan now as to how the growing season might start this year. Before long,  I will be thinking about beans, squashes and things. There are so many things that I need to double check before things kick off and properly.

In the meantime, I will be keeping an eye on the seedlings, and hoping that they don’t keel over!

Magic Squares and Chillies #gdnbloggers

The chillies have had something of a spurt; with the low light levels and lack of direct heat, they have become leggy. When leggy, seedlings stretch towards a source of heat and light, stretching upwards and being at risk of keeling over. This can be quite disheartening when you really want seedlings to grow.

Of the forty something seeds grown-scotch bonnet yellow, purple haze, cayenne, jalapeno and purple haze-we have approximately 15 seedlings that are some wiry, tall and gangly. I would rather they didn’t keel over. so I have decided to pot them up today. Using multi-purpose compost and some 7cm pots, chillies are being made a little more comfortable.

 

You can also find the video here

For me, this is the first transplanting. There may be another pot change, before they end up in their final pots in a at least three months time-ish. After that, any surviving plants will live-hopefully-in the poly tunnel. As you can imagine, this is something of a lengthy process, and we are only at the very start of the growing season.

Currently. the weather-in Britain, at least-is fairly hit and miss; it is cold outside. I, like many other Britons, scraped frost off the car windscreen this morning. This directly impacts upon all the tiny, dainty seedlings that might have already taken up space upon the window sill. I am keeping my chilli seedling away from the window pane. They will still get light, they-hopefully-will have some protection against the drop in night time temperatures.

With the heated prop empty, I have sown an emergency batch of about a dozen cayennes; it all felt a little thin on the ground. I shall monitor these over the next week to see what happens with them

So, seeds have been sown, they have germinated and grown. I like that feeling of new beginnings, as we look forward to the new growing season. I have written before, that allotmenteering and GYO both impact upon mental health; for me, that is really important. Least of all, because I teach about it, I am a trained listener and currently enrolled on a Diploma for Humanistic Counselling; the plot has a profound effect on me, my wholeness and the way I view the world. It all helps me to obtain mindfulness and improves my mental health.

You may have seen that I rather like colouring. I also knit.

Couldn’t be more different from gardening, could it?

For the last year, a knitting project has been on pause.

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With the chillies adjusting to their new pots, I quite fancy a couple of hours revisiting knit one, purl one.

 

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Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

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“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hope is a chilli seedling #gdnbloggers

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It is the very early days of January, and as I type snow is falling but landing as slush. In spite of this, seedcases are cracking and the unfurling of seed leaves is being observed as we have germination.

Possibly as I moved the heated prop from one side of the house to the other.

There had been some hand wringing as a week on from initial sowing, not a lot was happening. I double checked the prop, made wet those pellets that were drying out and moved the whole thing.

Expectantly, I have be checking the prop regularly to see results. It was only this morning that I saw the seedling above. I was aware that seedcases had cracked and in most cases; the heated prop is rather full. This is probably not helping things heat up quickly.

But there is a tiny, delicate looking cayenne seedling that has made it’s way into the world. What we do next, is to give it another day or so and then it will be fished out and kept somewhere warm and light. Else it will shrivel up and it really will be Goodnight, Vienna. In the absence of grow lights, I will be having a good think as to where this might be and hoping that I am able to protect this and any other seedling that might appear from cold temperatures. This occur even indoors, when seedlings are kept near a window. They get light and warmth during the day, but the windows still radiate cold when the night falls.

As delicate and dainty as this seedling might look, this seedling represents a new start. A new start on plot, with the hope that things will be productive this year with last year being something of a grey spell. I will keep an eye on the heated prop, hopefully there will be a few more to keep this one company.

 

Hello 2017! #Gdnbloggers

Hello, 2017, it is nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting for you to arrive with the hope that I might reclaim my allotmenteering mojo and once more feel the fresh dirt beneath my finger nails. With keen anticipation and lots of hope, I decided to sow chillies today. It is still far too early to sow other things, yet the sowing of chillies heralds a new start and a new growing season. Truth be told, I have very few plans beyond this session of sowing. My seedbox needs an overhaul, I don’t think I have bought seeds ‘properly’ and for a while. I will be looking through the seed box, to see what I can dispatch by way of being too old to be viable and what it is that I might bolster my seed box with. Naturally, this means searching through pages of seed catalogues. I do have a stash, Mum rather like to coo over the pictures and window shop. This years tomato and aubergines are the next to be considered, with Roma VF tomatoes like to fill out the line up in another thinned out parade.

But anyway, New Year!

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I had a rifle through the seed box, to see what chillies I might like to grow. I have grown lots of different varieties over the years; some have been really successful, others less so. This year, I have rather scaled back the varieties. There  are still five varieties being sown, but I am choosing not to go over board and complicate things when I want to keep things straightforward and productive.

You can also view the video here.

(Is that video any good? I did try to make myself look a little more presentable…)

The varieties sown are:

  • Jalapeno
  • Scotch bonnet yellow
  • Purple Haze
  • Cayenne Chilli
  • Nigel’s Outdoor chilli.

As you can see, the list is shorter-much-shorter than it has has been in previous years. However, I have sown at least nine of each variety, and there is always a bit of a steep incline as to which ones actually germinate. It is still very early, and I don’t use grow lights to accelerate plant growth. This lends itself to a fair bit of risk, and the possibility that the seeds will rot, germinate get leggy and then keel over. The seeds were sown into moist jiffy pellets, which in turn are now in the heated propagator. When the seedcase has cracked, the seedling germinated, I will then fish out and pamper the little darling with the aim that it doesn’t keel over and cease to exist. You’d be surprised how well looked after these things become.

Sowing chillies was only part of the plan today; the other thing on the to-do list involves racking and bottling home brew. Last year, much of the plot’s soft fruit found itself being fermented and shoved into demi-johns. Today, blackberry wine is to be racked, as well as another batch of blackberry being bottled (and likely stowed away to see if it does get better) and I think Rhubarb and gooseberry is to be bottled as well; in the case of the latter, we will see just how tart it is.

 

Incidentally, remember all those strawberries that we harvested last year? Don’t suppose you can spot them in this photo?

strawberry-wine

And the book got finished too….It is all handwritten, so that is the first phase.

Trussing up tomatoes and furtling for carrots #gdnbloggers

Eau De tomato. There is nothing quite like it. The spiced warm scent that nearly all tomatoes provide if you so much as touch their foliage. Then there is that yellow pollen that lingers on your fingers tips; staining them as though you’d smoked one too many.

 

Was a bit warm today, weren’t it, and tomorrow things gets warmer still.

I hid for most of today, doing school work and then watching ‘Henry VI part one’-Didn’t particularly rock my world that play-as it was rather warm. Once it had cooled down a little at tea time, I took to the plot with pair of scissors and some wool. I wanted to sort out the triffid like tomatoes that over the last few weeks have become wonderfully luscious and sending out cascades of yellow flowers.

My thoughts were that as the weather had been so erratic, that like the squashes, the tomatoes would be a little stroppy. However, for some daft reason, Blighty finds itself in the middle of a temporary heat wave. I add the caveat temporary, as it may well be our entire summer compressed into a few weeks.

Anyway, off I pootled, having forgotten to take a drink-I eventually got thirsty, came home and then returned with a bottle of squash-and spend a good three hours trussing up tomatoes. Unlike a more seasoned grower, I don’t defoliate very often, and I don’t arm pit the stems that turn up in the nook between the stem and branch. Primarily, as I can’t keep up, forget or find it some form of torture for a plant that I really want to do well and be happy. Result being, I end up with plants that have three or form long gangly arms that sprawl across the bed. Tomatoes take on an almost alien like quality and become monsters. The long extended limbs then need tying to canes and being raised aloft. It also helps prevent the foliage getting all tangled and promotes air flow.

It dawned on me, as I was trussing up the tomatoes, that this was an exercise in mindfulness.  I actually smiled as I thought it. There is the undeniable scent of the tomato plant. The feel of the fluffy leaves, as you try and detangle them and stretch out the tomato vine. The sound, of nothing but birds and the occasional “All right, Punam?!” from a passing allotment neighbour. You know it’s mum, when you hear ‘HAYYYYY PUNERRRRRM!”

Slowly but surely, I went around each of the 15 plants-mum’s got the same number, I just didn’t get so far as trussing hers up-and carefully tied up leafy limbs. This is the same concentration, that I use when colouring and knitting. The sort of concentration where you pause your mind, and take stock of the moment. Take stock of all that you see, hear and feel; take stock of your experience. A really profound effect of gardening, this is why I will always stand by it as a therapeutic intervention when it comes to mental health.

So that occupied me for a while. And I liked it. It was only later, that I remembered that tomorrow it’s meant to be a bit hot again. I should then perhaps open the vents in the poly.

poly chillies

That is my polytunnel. It’s not a huge great big thing; it’s two by three metres. And rather filled with chillies; I would adopt more tomorrow if I was so tempted to do so. There is quite a diverse range in here. On the left, you have Sparkler, coffee bean, devils rib, apache, red scotch bonnet and orange habanero on the staging. On the right hand side, we have patio sizzle-one plant-patio sizzle, jalapeno, purple haze and hungarian hot wax in the corner. You can just about make out the white flowers that have started to appear. I have opened the vents to offer some breeze to the plants. Otherwise, they may well cook to death in there; it is not fun trying to revive a chilli that whilst it needs warmth, might well have been cooked alive. I am aim to water them tomorrow evening anyway as it does get wonderfully hot in there. When we have a temperature of late teens to twenty something, the mercury sky rockets anyway.

Now what might I do with all of those chillies? Well, if they all crop, I have a plan to make chilli powders as well as use them in Mum’s kitchen. There are many flowers, so for now, we live in hope.

I also furtled for carrots. These were an experimental sowing direct into the raised beds. They are small, but they are straight and have a wonderful carrot smell. One of the crops that I haven’t sown very often, so might have again. And yes, there is a stray snow ball turnip in there.

Windowsill Wednesday #gdnbloggers

March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb. That is meant to the seasonal adage. There is most certainly roaring, as the weather displays it’s mood with rain, slush and sleet. You would not think that this was the start of Spring. With the inclement weather making it difficult to go play on the plot, all reflections are contained within four walls of home. In particular, reflecting on the window sills.

Despite being a little behind, the window sills are starting to fill up. Chillies and tomatoes now occupy the available space, and will need to be carefully observed as they start to grow. They all look very delicate and spindly. largely due the fact that it is still very cold and I don’t use grow lights. I never have, though the hardened chilli might do; grow lights have never been on my agenda. Maybe when I have my own castle and have won the lottery, I might invest in some.

There is still a lot to think about, so early on in the season. I have a long list of things to consider. I need to find some ‘orse poop so that I can sink all the seed potatoes that are currently waiting in the wings. With Easter being early, the planting of the seeds will scheduled in line with a break from school. Previously, I have spent the odd Good Friday and Easter Monday digging trenches for potatoes or building bean frames. No trenches on the plot, by way of learning and experiencing different things; and the beans go into wig-wam structures. All of the spuds are likely to go into raised beds that will be filled with ‘orse poop. ‘Orse poop that has decayed well, and isn’t steaming fresh as this can kill things dead and that’s not quite what we want.

This years Psychology Sunflower challenge will be kicked off as well. (You can find last years blog posts about that in the archive). As April swings in, one will need to consider squashes, runner beans and climbing French beans; and sow these into pellets. This will mean window sill shuffles and making sure that the four tier blowaway in the garden is in a fit state. It’s actually looking a bit battered and weather beaten, and the cover might have disintegrated in patches in addition to the zip on the one side having lost it’s teeth. Happens to all of the covers!  Sowing of the beans may take a while, even though in the past they have been sown around St.Patrick’s Day. We had a nice crop last year, though mum did pull faces at the Borlotti beans. I quite like them, and will probably sown a few seeds sneakily on the side. She won’t know til they vine!

Happy Wednesday folks!