Tag Archives: devils rib

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.

Sweet and Spiced #gdnbloggers

You know, I haven’t sneezed so much this week. This may be down to the slightly wibbly wobbly weather. I am however now rather tired of seeing strawberries. As Wimbledon has drawn to a close, and the single handed champion-yes, that’s what the men’s winner is called-was told game, set and match; the crop has started to reduce.

With the strawberries waning, there are other things compensating.

We have blackcurrants and red currants; in an increased quantity to previous experience. In fact, when the rain abates, I will go double check the red currants that need harvesting. There are strings of the things, and the plants themselves are relatively new. I have yet to figure out what to do with the white Versailles currants. The red ones are most likely to be jammed or preserved in one way or another.  In harvesting black currants, I do quell and resist the urge to say  ‘this children, is where your ribena comes from’. And these are not diddly things, they are rather round and squishy berries, that really do evoke the memory of ribena.

As mentioned before, the strawberries are now dwindling. There are several pounds that have been frozen. As well as currants, raspberries are starting to come through. Having replaced the slightly dodgy canes, the newer ones are establishing. Donated by a friend and colleague,  this is a polka cane and this the pink fruit that you see. These are rather plump and juicy things that are being stored for jams and things. The yellow one that you see, is technically an autumn variety called ‘Fall Gold’. These do kick off rather early, and are just as good as the pink ones.

So there is a lots of sweet stuff.

Now the spicy

In the poly tunnel there are a number of different chilli varieties. What you see above are examples of purple haze cayenne and jalapeno. I have removed the purple haze as the poly is cooler than expected at this time of the year. It is now sat on the window sill next to unripe tomatoes, and hopefully it will turn to the bright red cayenne that is so familiar to chilli eaters. The jalapeno that you see, I found by fluke and you can see that it is actually a decent size. There are few other fruits forming on the plant, and I will keeping an eye on this one to see how it changes. Apparently, jalapeno crackle as they ripen and change colour. I have in the past, made jalepeno chilli jam. And I remember, the pain of having chopped them up. The moral being to wear gloves on handling. I have also spotted white flowers on the adopted apache, as well as the chillies such as prairie fire, patio sizzle, sparkler, orange habanero, coffee bean and devils rib. These are chillies that are smaller and a different shape to the familiar cayenne and jalapenos, with an altogether different flavour as well. Previously, there as been a good level of success with the patio sizzle. Small and pointy fruit, with one hell of a kick.

And no….I don’t paint my nails so that they match plot produce. Not really….honest.

Jubilant July #gdnbloggers

If it wasn’t for this lot; I would wholly miserable. There are no runner beans on the plot, the courgettes have all mostly been written off. I should at this stage in the growing season be starting to swim in courgettes. At the moment, I have the grand total of zero. All the plants have been subject to carnage by slugs and snails. I would be very surprised to get something, if anything, over the coming weeks from the courgettes and the rather spiny and spindly looking courgette and runner beans.

On the other hand, I am very close to throwing a small histrionic fit over strawberries. Every other day, I have been harvesting between 1-2lbs of strawberries. I say harvesting, it’s a case of picking the fruit before the slugs get to them. I would really like someone to invent a machine for hulling and chopping. Fruit has been stashed in the freezer; I am hoping that my jam making mojo returns so that the strawberries can be spiced with chilli and redcurrants maybe.

Tomatoes have filled out and up, with fruit forming after the bright yellow flowers. Mum had a lovely large marmande one, only for it to explode. I suspect that it might have become over ripe; a couple of money make have turned as has one single solitary tigerella. The surprise however, has to be the fleshy and fruity morello cherries. This is the first year on the plot and the tree has done very well to have survived frosts and inclement weather. There are less than a dozen cherries, but these are rather special in being the first ever crop. Have only pinched three ripe ones, so we shall see about the others. All being well, they will be harvested before the wildlife gets to them. I think I actually jumped to see that the cherries had turned, they were squishy to the touch, that’s the only way I can describe it. Though I have probably picked them a little early. I guess they could have done with a little more sunshine perhaps, and turned a little darker still. There are three sat on the kitchen window sill next to the tomatoes, so they may turn yet.

With the roses blooming on an almost daily basis, the gloom does lift a little. I have been waiting for William Shakespeare 2000 to bloom, and you can see the first three blooms that have developed this year.  The bouquet above also contains a raft of lost label roses, the yellow one is rather productive. No idea what it is called, but it’s a brown limbed creature that cascades outs. Might even be a climber, but it is rather nice to pick.

In the poly tunnel, the chillies are also getting going. There are lots of white flowers and also purple tinged purple haze flowers. Jalepenos are starting to form as are hungarian hot wax. You see the one purple haze chilli, that I am hoping will turn red. The jalaepeno, apache chilli, orange habanero and devil’s rib have formed large white flowers. In comparison, patio sizzle, prairie fire and sparkler are forming the most delicate, tiniest of white flowers. With all the plants in flower, this means feeding regularly and making sure that the plants don’t get too arid. They do dry out, but too little water and the flowers will drop off.

So there we have it, we can’t be too miserable, now can we?

Poly potting up, yet again

 

All of this years chillies are now in the poly tunnel and in their final pots. There are twenty six pots, some of which contain more than one chilli plant. This is by far the most ambitious number of chilli plants grow; I think previously I had only had half the number of plants. This is testament to the germination rates of the chillies. Whilst there are habanero chillies amongst the number, there are no super hot chillies this year. There are also a significant number of smaller habit, patio chillies rather than the taller, sprawling varieties.

In the above picture, the one’s on the left are the smaller varieties.  The patio varieties are distinctly different, with rather serrated edge leaves. The hope is that these will continue to flourish, and that ultimately, we will have some interesting chilli fruit.

Hello, Sunshine, where have you been?

tomato

If you ask my Mum, the tomatoes have been looking routinely quite sad. They needed watering, and they were cheered up with doses of haitch two oh as and when required. What was more important, was sunshine. Sunshine, which has been somewhat absent and has finally turned up. And very welcome it is too, as it has kick started and renewed feelings of optimism as far as the allotment is concerned. According to the weather people, the sunshine is going to be around for a while; a week at least. With that in mind, the tomatoes have been sent outside to the path in Dad’s garden to start the process of hardening off. Unlike last year, where the tomatoes were all grown under cover; these are going to be outdoors and in raised beds or open ground. Currently they are all having a strop in pots, and I am hoping that if the plants sun bathe for the next few days that I can then take them to the allotment and bury them a bit deeper. The appearance of yellow flashes, tomato flowers, suggests that these all need to get a wiggle on and fairly soon.

This year’s cohort of chillies are the current room mates of the tomatoes, and will also need to be removed to the poly tunnel and be potted up. There are chillies here that are supposed to be small and stumpy, as it were, and those who are supposed to grow tall and abundant. I did sort them out into two groups to make the sorting out easier. The taller chillies will be potted up into large flower buckets, whereas the smaller ones are going to put into pots as they are not expected to take up a huge amount of room. In the last few weeks, the chillies have rather had something of a grow spurt and on time. In the next four weeks they will grow further before being moved to the poly tunnel. Having been sown a little late doesn’t appear to  have to knocked them too much.

With the chillies hitting a stride, there are also emerging seedlings. Recently sown cucumbers and squashes have started to come through. With the frost window remaining open until the next May bank holiday, both of these have got four weeks to grow and become more robust.  In my experience, squashes grow very quickly; you sometimes have to re-pot them to key up. I am hoping that with the four week window they are suitably sized for planting out once that they have been hardened off. With the cucumbers, I do intend for these to be planted and grown outside. I have previously grown crystal lemon outside and harvested a crop.

Seedlings are sat on the sidelines, mean making crumble. Last year I was able to harvest trugs full of apples and these were then frozen alongside some plums. Today has been spent making a plum and apple crumble. The second in four days!

With the crop of a previous year being used up, we can look to the future crop. A walk to the plot meant finding cherry and apple Blossom. The two cherry trees, Sylvia and Morello, are new additions to the plot; so it was rather heartening to see white buds n the Morello, but a lovely white bloom-just the one!-on the Sylvia tree. I wasn’t expecting to see any blossom on them this year, so I am really quite surprised to see blossom. I did check on the Concorde pear, that appears to have taken the frost on the chin, and is still looking frilly. The darling peach tree does still have a couple of deep pink blooms, there had been half a dozen; I did fleece at one point only for the wind to disagree with the shrouding.

The otherwise heavy clay of the allotment has had a chance to dry out. This has been to the relief to the heritage garlic that Marshalls were kind enough to provide for the plot. Garlic is wonderfully resilient, and is actually doing quite well given how much rain it has suffered. There are no signs yet of any bolting, and the ground is weed free so the bulbs should be making the most of the nutrients available from the clay.  The foliage is still very green and leafy, and with another eight weeks to go there is still a lot of growing to be done.

heritagemarshall

I do like it when the post person delivers something that you’ve been hotly anticipating. Copies of ‘Sow Grow and Eat’ landed on our doormat and rather made my day. My thanks to the fabulous Howard-(the artist who once sunk spuds, remember him?) for having put the cover together. You will also spot that the Loldeantimber trug is now something of a cover star, it also appears in the book. Given how the trug is used so much on the plot, it was definitely going to end up in the book.

Checking in with the Chillies

As the Easter Weekend draws near, I thought I should check on the chillies.

chillieselection
Hungarian Hot wax, purple haze, devil’s rib and orange habanero

The weather over the last week has been somewhat up and down. There have been says of glorious sunshine and days that like today, have been grey and miserable. The chillies, along with the tomatoes, have been enjoying the sunnier days whilst sat in Dad’s sun trap. However, there have a few nights where frost has been scheduled and they have covered over with a layer of horticultural fleece to protect them from a premature demise.

There a number of different varieties that I am playing with this year:

  • Jalepeno
  • Purple Haze
  • Patio Sizzle
  • Prairie Fire
  • Devil’s Rib
  • Coffee Bean
  • Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Orange Habanero

As you can see, there is quite a spectrum in terms of heat. It is the first year of sowing for devil’s rib and coffee bean, but all the others have been experimented with before. The hope is that these will be just a fruitful as their predecessors.

Purple haze is the only cayenne variety on the plot, and at the moment has seed leaves that have a really nice purple tinge to them. There are a few habaneros, some which like the coffee bean variety are somewhat slower growing. I have found that the hotter the chilli, the more difficult it is to get it to germinate in the first instance and that these are slower growing compared to say a cayenne.

Coffee bean, like prairie fire and sparkler, is a variety that produces fairly small compact plants. This should help with organising the poly tunnel as smaller pots can used. I say small, but I am probably going to use morrisons flower pots as per usual. They are really quite useful for chillies.

One thing that I do hope for, is that these will all catch up to where they should be. Sown later than usual, the plants  are developmentally behind where they might be. I would have expected the milder varieties to be a little more leafier. The combination of later sowing and not enough heat and light is probably the reason why the plants are still not so leafy.

Chillies 2016: Emergent seedlings

The difference a heated propagator makes. It didn’t take long post transfer to have seedlings. Okay, so the jalapeños had started to crack already; but having the extra heat has certainly improved matters. Both rounds of chillies are sat in the heated propagator so all can be observed and germinators fished out.

Over the last two days, with one jalapeño being  welcomed into the world it was followed by three other pellets. They are very weak and baby like; very fragile looking. I have taken them out of the heated propagator now and positioned them on a window sill where it is relatively  warm and there is an acceptable amount of light. I will keep monitoring them as it is still rather cold and these could easily shrivel up and die because of that.

Not only have the jalapeños germinated, one single solitary devil’s rib has also cracked through its seed case to come alive. This is a new one for me, and I have high hopes for it. Then again, I have high hopes for all the chillies! These are the first come through, and I will be watching carefully to see what others start to germinate. And trust me, I might be watching them patiently; but I do get a bursts of commentary from Mum the minute anything green exists the seed case and unfurls itself from the white pocket.

Chillies 2016: Phase one

The festivities are over, the vast majority of people are going back to work. I have had an extra week, and some of it has been spent reflecting upon the start of the new growing season. In all honesty, I have been feeling a little behind and the allotment mojo has taken something of a nose dive. I usually have chillies sown after Boxing day, and this wasn’t the case.

Given last years rather disappointing crop, I am reviewing the seeds that I will  be sowing. This has resulted in more than one sowing of seeds. Today I have found some jiffy pellets, and sown the first batch of seeds. Cayennes are the notable absentee from the list, but these will hopefully be sown in the second phase.

If you can’t access the video above the you tube video cane be view here.

 

In the first phase we have:

  • Orange habanero
  • Devils rib
  • Trinity
  • Coffee bean
  • Scotch bonnet yellow
  • Hot patio Sizzle
  • Hungarian Hot Wax
  • Jalapeño

Some of these have been sown before, others are new experiments. Chillies are not entirely easy to grow. I have found that the hotter the chilli, the lower the chance of germination. Also, serious chilli heads will also use heat and light lamps to germinate. I don’t tend to use the heated propagator any more, as the seedlings that I ended up with were rather spindly and inclined to fall over. I have had greater levels of success with a cold propagator being placed upon a warm window sill.

Seeds were sown into moistened jiffy pellets which were sat in a gravel tray. I used warmish water, rather than cold; as this just make the for cold damp conditions that are not the best of seeds that are hard to crack open anyway. The gravel trays were then placed into a large foodbag, I would have done the same with pots, and then a transparent lid was placed firmly on top.

Hopefully there will be another sowing in a few weeks, and purple haze will feature.