Tag Archives: prairie fire

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.

Polytunnel potting up

Finally, I am moving the chillies from their warm sitting place to the poly tunnel. I have potted up twelve pots into larger flower buckets. This is half of this years chilli cohort, with another two dozen pots to be positioned in the poly tunnel. Potted up today were Purple Haze cayennes-two plants, with a third waiting at home-jalepenos, hungarian hot wax, prairie fire, patio sizzle and sparkler. These are plants that have had something of a growth surge recently, and one of the purple haze plants has even started to form flowers. I have taken this as an indicator that these are now ready to move home and head to the poly tunnel. These are the final pots for the plants, and I don’t anticipate potting them on again.

You can see the you tube version here.

Squashes also need to be potted on, and I didn’t realise quite how many I had. I counted just over two dozen plants; luckily for me, I can share these with Mum. There are four marrows in there, which she will no doubt have designs on. Marrows are really not my thing, but Ma can work magic with them.  I have yet to sow pumpkins and butter nut squashes; to be honest, I might cheat in those cases. I can never get pumpkins or butter nut squashes to actually germinate. Seedlings tend to be okay and I can look after them from that stage onwards. There are a few patty pans and yellow scallops, these become the coolest of space ship courgettes. There are the standard green courgettes as well as other yellow ones.

The poly tunnel is now occupied with a number of different seedlings. Tomatoes and Sweetcorn  have been basking in sunshine for the last few days, and I have taken the decision to move them to the poly tunnel by way of a half way house. The Latah variety and a few others have already started to flower, so moving might be useful. The tomato cohort as a whole are probably not as tall as they could be-they were sown later than usual-and are starting to look a bit weary of their pots. The aim is to plug these into raised beds in the coming week if the weather remains fair. I just need to keep an eye on them in the poly tunnel, as I remember having a small panic last year in nearly cooking plants as the poly got rather too hot. There should be enough water in the gravel trays though, for the next couple of days if the temperatures remain; the vents are also open.

You can see the youtube version here.

It was world naked gardening day today, apparently. I can assure you that I fully clothed all the time.

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.

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!

 

Chillies 2016: Phase two potting up

As well as cooking, the second batch of chillies have been potted up having waited for a good week or so.

 

These are still very delicate looking, and all being well will start to bulk up in the coming weeks.

There is an alternative link here.

Will be keep an eye on these, there is no plans to sow any more. There are over twenty small pots now sat on the window sill; so that will mean a rather busy poly tunnel if all of the plants stay in there.

Chillies 20016 in the heated prop

The window sills are cold; which is not unusual at this time of year. However this does make them a little less conducive for chilli germination. In the past, this method hasn’t really been an issue. It has in fact been more successful than germinating seeds using a heated propogator. However, I have relented; least of all because I am impatient.

 

The youtube video is also available here.

 

I have also taken the opportunity to sow the second batch of seeds. These are prairie fire, sparkler and the much anticipated purple haze. Last year, I bought a plant of purple haze and was rather happy with it. The fruit are a lovely shade of purple which ripen to a bright red. There are quite a number of pellets in the heated prop; simply because there is no guarantee that they will all germinate. Fingers crossed though.

 

And another thing.

 

wahaccaseeds

I was handed these by my sister. As if I didn’t have enough chillies to play with. A very kind thought nonetheless, and I somewhat intrigued. There is still room in the heated prop to try them. So in theory I could try them as an experiment. Inside the matchstick book, are indeed little matches: attached to which are seeds. No idea what they are exactly, I don’t know what a Wahaca is. Other than them being Mexican, I don’t have an awful lot more to go on.