Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The great chilli give-away

With the chilli plants rapidly overrunning the house it was time to thin their numbers. So friends, family, colleagues and even random passer-bys have had chilli plants of varying pungency thrust upon them.  All in all, within this last fortnight I’ve given away over 50 plants in an attempt to free up some space at home.

So why the need for more space? Well, other than wanting to actually see out of the windows once in a while, I’ve had other veg seeds on the go.  Whilst growing chillies may be the current obsession, it’s difficult to survive on a diet of them alone.  So with the windowsills now cleared I’ve been able to get the tomatoes, sweetcorn and sweet peppers on the go.

The inevitable sunflower race is under way. Needless to say, I'm currently losing. 
Carrots and peas are already sprouting in the raised beds, safely protected from the frosts by a cloche and French and Borlotti beans are just about to join them.

Along with a colleague of mine we’ve take ownership of a small allotment patch close to work in which we’ve already planted red onion sets, a vital ingredient in all the chutneys I’m planning to make. With more peas and beans soon to go in we can look forward to a summer of fresh veg.

Meanwhile, not wishing to neglect the chillies at home, I’ve been potting on some of the more vigorous growers and moving them outside into the heated cold-frame/mini-greenhouse.  The 135w heater is performing well, heating up the small space very quickly and efficiently. Even on the coldest nights it’s not dropped below 15 degrees and with the weather getting milder it will be needed less and less.

No longer a cold-frame, more of a hot house.
Meanwhile the various chillies at work have been flowering and tiny fruit have already appeared on the Orozco plant that I overwintered from last year.  As soon as there's a few more I'll get some photos taken.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Potting on

It's been a busy weekend and with the chillies growing rapidly there have been a large number that needed potting on.  With space on the windowsills at a premium it was time to move some of the plants to the mini-greenhouse outside.  However, nothing is ever that easy. Despite some days of fabulous sunshine it's still too cold to put the plants into the greenhouse without some form of heating.

The heater wired up to a thermostat.
So after a quick browse of the internet I tracked down a 3ft long greenhouse heater.  After some Heath Robinson wiring to a thermostat I've now got it up and running, always keeping the greenhouse above 15 Celsius.  This should protect the plants at night from the worst of the late spring frosts but without the running costs being high enough to bankrupt me.
The Padron Peppers in their new home.
As spring moves on then the greenhouse will probably reach much higher temperatures without the aid of the heater so the thermostat will ensure that electricity is not being wasted when mother nature can so the heating for free. The Pimientos de Padron have now been rehoused outside and the spaces left rapidly filled by the newly potted on plants.
A Superchilli grown in a plastic cup showing its healthy root system.
The plants grown in the plastic cups have done exceptionally well, developing plenty of healthy roots right the way to the bottom of the deep cups.  These have been potted on into 5" pots, large enough to provide space to grow, without taking up too much space or compost.

I've also been planting other veg, so the garden is completely filled with chillies.  The peas and carrots have been planted straight into the raised beds under cloches whilst the tomatoes have replaced the chillies in the propagators on top of the fish tank. With more veg due to be planted over the next few weeks, hopefully I should be able to cook up my salsas, chutneys and sauces with as much of my own ingredients as possible.