Tag Archives: chillies

Chilli Sowing: The time is now

Hello, folks, how are we?

We’re currently in that funny window that is the twelve days of Christmas. As such, my heart and stomach are both full, and my brain at bit fuzzy.

Other than books, and writing, I’ve had another thought on my mind.

Chillies. The sowing, growing and cultivation thereof.

When seed sowing, I would traditionally start chillies from seeds around about Boxing Day. I am….two days over. I’ve yet to get fresh dirt under my fingernails, but you might. Thought I should share some ideas, and there’s a fair bit about chillies on the blog that you can look at to also support you.

So let me get this out of my system, before I forget or The Muse has a strop and walks off.

(The Muse has plans for the next for few days when it comes to writing, so we’re going to let him do his gardening thing whilst we have his attention. Every now and again, he goes into full bounce mode and I end up writing like a woman possessed. It’s an interesting experience.)

Chillies. What do you fancy?

There are what I call the standard ones, the cayennes, and there are super hots and habaneros. In my experience, the hotter, more potent that chillies are, the more difficult they are to grow. There are, therefore, things to keep in mind.

I’ve always sown chillies in pellets, in warm, moist compost. That is then put into heated propagator. This is the bottom heat that chilli seeds benefit from. However, what I have observed is that how long the seed case takes to crack will depend on the scoville rating of the chilli. That is to say, how hot they are. You can also, sow in a small pot, cover with a food bag and put some where hot, and light. Here in England, at this time of year, those two things are fairly thin on the grown. Hence using a heated prop. Don’t leave your compost outside. Bring in a bit, and keep it warm. You won’t need much. But that feeling of bare feet on cold kitchen tiles? If you don’t like it, what makes you think a seed will?

I have the impatience of a saint, when it comes germination. I wait, and I wait. But it annoys me, as its never quick enough. Alas, patience has to be germinated in the same way as a seedling. It takes time.

(Gardening has the most beautiful spiral curriculum; teaches you things other hobbies don’t. Gardening and mental health, for example, is a whole other blog post. Another time, maybe. The Muse is on one.)

Compost has to warm up, to reach the appropriate temperature. Also, don’t make the compost too damp. This will water log the seed, and it will rot.

Chilli seeds can either be as cheap as chips with a cayenne, or half a kidney with super hots, more specific. Being diligent, pays dividends. Or in our case, pays in chillies. Take a look at what interests you. I loved growing super hots and habaneros.

Tried -and failed-to grow the dorset naga. But why grow pointless stuff? Think about it. As much as I love experiments-I do, I love them, do them all the time; but think about the end, the equity at the end of it.

Grow the chilli that you are going to use, the chilli that is going to be meaningful and have the desired outcome.

Germination is going to take time, and not all your chilli seeds are going to germinate. Take the wins, learn from the losses. The hotter the chilli, the longer you are going to be pacing the floor.

Once you do have seedlings, remove them from a heated propagator (If you have used one) There is every danger now, that the seedlings are going to be thin, wiry and likely to keel over. They are ‘leggy; as they search for light, and are heliotropic. They are growing towards heat and light. This is both exhilarating and down right scary; you may end up with fewer seedlings still.

Proper chilli heads, would remove, possibly pot on-from pellet to pot-and place under heat lamps. I don’t do that, but I have coddled them. Placed a plastic food bag over the top of a pot, secured with an elastic band to do the window sill shuffle in the pursuit of the warmest place in the house.

Then, you wait. You watch. You observe the seedling do it’s thing. To send out a proper set of leaves, for the stem to thicken as it starts to anchor itself. Once that proper set of leaves appear, take away the cover. Be vigilant and mindful still. A passing breeze may fell the thing yet.

Hence the coddling.

Your chillies, if sown now, are going to be around for a while. Until at least May, and when the night temperature is 10 degrees or above. Between now and then, cultivation is the name of the game. A long growing period, if managed effectively will lead to a good fruiting period.

In May, the chances of frost-here in Birmingham, UK, disappear. I’ve taken my chances before and put chillies in the poly-when I had one-but they’ve lived mostly in a conservatory.

For now, sow the seeds. Keep your fingers crossed.

Oh, and step away from the tomatoes and aubergines for now.

Not yet, people. Not. Yet.

Yellow croppers!

 

 

I had a thought, about yellow croppers.

And the one thing, that snow-balled from that, was chutney. Hot yellow sun chutney actually.

To think that I first made this years ago, but let’s think about the core constituents. Most of which were sown and grown on the allotment.

And since lots of people are looking at growing food in their gardens and green spaces, I thought that this might be an interesting reflection.

First things first. The yellow tomatoes. You’ll be hard-pressed to find these in a supermarket, or even a local fruit and veg market. There are many different varieties of yellow tomatoes out there; many of which are heritage varieties. Varieties that have historically been grown at home, on allotments, but not necessarily commercially. I’ve grown sun gold and cream sausage and these have been really abundant croppers.

There are options beyond red tomatoes!

Yellow peppers, are fun to grow. I’ve always grown them so that they are green, but yellow ones are possible.

Courgettes. Yellow ones. They do exist before green ones. And generally one or two plants are enough. Don’t sow too many! Else you won’t be able to give them away for love nor money. These do make a change; everyone grows courgettes and particularly green ones. There are standard shaped courgettes, but you can also try the space-ship, patty pan one varieties that can also be used to get some variety.

Yellow ones are quirky, and will make your ratatouille more interesting. If you salt these, as you would with any courgette for chutney, these will add a bit of variety.

You can chutney all of this, or you can make a spiced Indian dish.

 

To get growing

At this moment in time, there is a lot of seed sowing. The current situation, has inspired, challenged, encouraged people to start gardening. This might be growing your own food, sorting out the dahlias, or just rejuvenating your green space.

Gardening, has certainly struck a cord with people.

As such, I’ve been thinking about this blog. About how I started just over a decade ago, with containers in Dad’s garden. I started gardening, growing food through a combination of sheer fluke and curiosity.  Everything was an experiment.

It was also to help mental health at the time. I’d just come to the end of my initial teacher training, and was unlikely to be employed by the end of Summer. There was sadness, anxiety and uncertainty that experimenting with seed sowing could be alleviating.

Ten and bit years later, the change in the universe is global.

I started with cherry tomatoes, chilli plants. I found runner beans and even a Butternut squash plant that I called Gladys. We have Kevin the aubergine too.

That was an interesting summer, in 2009. We had a heatwave, and this led to a bumper crop of cayenne chillies.

I remember going to Wilkos, to Poundland, to get my supplies.

At this moment in time, that is impossible. There are DIY stores, but I’m not for one moment, encouraging non-essential travel. There are also online outlets, who are doing their best to support customers. Again, I advise caution, as businesses do the best that they can.

For my part, I have an allotment, that I can access sparingly to tidy up. I’ve yet to sow anything.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t offer support; especially with all the content on the blog. I wrote it, for that very job! To help others, perhaps share my mistakes so others would avoid them.

(There are also two books on the side bar, but that is not an advert.)

Gardening has the potential to bring great joy, stability, focus and so many other things. I know that it means a great deal to me. All being well, you may find something on the blog that also helps.

Chilli abundance

 

Us humans might not have enjoyed the recent heatwave, but the chillies certainly have.

This year has been a big year for me, when it comes to my chilli plants. For one, I actually have some! After such a long time away from meaningful growing. I did sow and grow some plants. There are less than a dozen, but these are tall, bushy and as you can see abundant!

It would appear that this is the most successful season for chillies; far exceeding the six that I managed to grow in the hot, heady days of 2009. That was the year I started experimenting with seeds and started my GYO journey. I’ve not had much success since then when it comes to good cropping chillies.

With the warm weather, I’ve been picking chillies twice a week. The most that I’ve picked has been about a dozen. If you think about it, that many would cost you about a quid in the supermarket. These are the most complex variety; this are rather straight forward cayennnes. It’s a big deal for me, to have an abundant crop and to be able to enjoy the fruits. My sister’s been given some, her mother-in-law too; Mama F’s using them as they come for bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Above all, this experience has been rather revitalising. I’ve really enjoyed fussing over my chilli plants and making sure that they are looked after. Especially as there are only tomatoes and soft fruit on the plot. I need to develop a better routine for the plot, to get more of the soft fruit harvested.

There is a joy in having vibrant, happy chilli plants. I do hope they keep going for a while. I’ve never over-wintered them, and the latest I get a crop is September. I will continue to nurture them; they’ve certainly nurtured me.

 

Planting out and potting up

There has been a change in the universal energies! I’ve been getting my hands dirty on the plot as the month of May gives way to June. It’s all change on a few fronts, so I’ve made some attempt to return to my happy place. It really is a happy place, I feel different, so I’m trying to go with it. There are now nineteen tomato plants in situ on the allotment. Most of these are home sown and grown. Fourteen of them, are mine with a fair few shop bought. I’ve bought another six today, to fill things out a little more. If there is one thing that gets grown this year, its most likely going to be tomatoes.

From what I remember, I’ve sown red, yellow and black tomatoes. I didn’t label them, so it’s  all very tomato roulette when plugging them in. There are two shop varieties which are yellow, with no idea what the ones I’ve bought today are. All of the plants have been sunk into raised beds, each with its varying soil level. It has, after all, been nearly two years since I did any ‘meaningful’ growing on the allotment.  Over the course of two days, tomatoes have been transplanted, watered and fed. This week, the temperatures have increased and growing has accelerated. The crucial thing to maintain now is to make sure that these are watered regularly.

Tomatoes will grow quickly, given the right conditions. When nourished, they will crop abundantly. I’d quite like a few tomatoes, if I’m honest. Such a number, might actually yield some! Watering should keep me going to the allotment; should keep me focused and attentive in making the plot productive. The fact that I want to go there, do things and enjoy doing so, is incredibly important.

The allotment is gaining momentum, but there are still plants at home.  At home, there is a small but select group of chillies. All of these are now in their final pots, with the last few potted up. There are ten pots altogether, with Cayennes and habaneros to be looked after. I’m trying to decide, if like with the tomatoes, I want to find some more partially mature chilli plants. The are a little spindly and wiry looking; however, once they’ve been fed and watered properly. they will hopefully start to fill out a little and gain some height as well.

Cayenne chillies will hit a stride as they get comfortable. I’ve experienced Habaneros as being slower growing; nothing unusual given the heat difference between these and cayennes. There have been chocolate habaneros before, but not many. There may only be a three or four plants, so we shall  what these amount to.

Nurturing the return

For the last few weeks, I have been avoiding the allotment. I know why. It all feels rather overwhelming. There is still work to do, and the growing season should be off like a rocket. Today, I decided to take a walk; least of all because I needed to fish some pots and growing trays out of Mama F’s shed.

Going back to the allotment actually scares me. It’s a big space, all 200 square metres of it. Half of it is actually covered, and to all intents and purposes is on pause. That half really doesn’t worry me so much. The other half, has raised beds, fruit trees and is what I am trying to get back to what it was. Most of the raised beds are covered, there are three that need clearing before I can actually grow anything. There are three grapevines that need shoring up. They’ve started to lean because of the wind, and need to be propped up.

As it stands, a quarter has become a mass of raspberries. That’s not a problem. I like raspberries. These are however the autumn variety, with runners spreading around. I do have a pink variety; Polka, I think. I was going to look into getting some more pink ones, but I fear I am a little late to plant some. I hear that the Glen varieties are fairly good.

I’m glad that I went for the walk. I’m able to see that things are manageable. At the moment, I have a dozen or so tomato plants growing along at home. I would like to take these to the plot and plug them in. I would like to grow something this year, even if it is simply tomatoes. There are chillies; the cayennes and a couple of habaneros. These are likely to be cultivated at home. I might even rescue a few more chilli plants, I certainly plan to find additional tomatoes.

This might take time, and this year might not be overwhelming abundant. If the tomatoes come off, I would rather like to make some hot yellow sun chutney. Growing yellow tomatoes is rather interesting! There has been cherry blossom on the plot, these are starting to fruit. I also spotted some pears. Then there are the currants. These have strings and strings! Thing is, I always end up harvesting these during the height of the hay fever season. These are likely to be jammed or jellied, I think.

Tis the season! Growing your own Ebooks

 

The first week of Spring, and there is soil beneath my finger nails. Well, there was; I’ve cleaned up and sit here writing. I’ve enjoyed pottering around the plot today,  I remembered how much colour the plot brings to my life. I also remembered, just how much I’ve learned in the decade of growing my own.

Growing your own is not a new thing. It’s been happening since the middle ages, but the rise of allotments has really put it into a sharp focus. As has the spotlight on eating healthy, getting exercising and knowing where your food comes from. Three things that when you have an allotment really are part of the whole process of growing and eating.

You don’t even have to have an allotment. I started my gardening journey with plant pots in Dad’s garden. Container gardening was a really good foothold in learning and experimenting.

This blog has documented every inch of learning and experimenting. Much has been supplemented by talking to allotment neighbours, not to mention gardeners and allotmenteers across the universe. Documenting on the blog was certainly one aim. I also wanted to share my learning and experimenting. I’ve made a few mistakes, and I guess communicating these to others has some benefits.

As such, two ebooks have borne out of this blog and offer another avenue for encouragement and support. They are also available in paperback.

Plant pot tales.

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Canada: https://amzn.to/2Y9z982

Sow grow eat

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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.