Sunday, 29 December 2013

A new season

It's that time of year again, time to start thinking about the new season and what to plant.
The hotter varieties, such as Habanneros can be quite slow growing and therefore benefit from a longer season. 

With the addition of the new grow room and a heated propagator it's the perfect excuse to make an early start to the season.  I've chosen a variety of sees this year to give me a crop for all occasions.

1. Chocolate Habanero - Very hot and full of flavour, I first grew these a few years back and although the plants flourished, they bore no fruit (except for the plants that I gave away). Determined not to be beaten, I'm given them a second try.

2. Yellow Seven Pot Habanero. This year's volcanic choice. Superhot and flavoursome, I'm looking forward to growing these gnarly pods.

3. Pimentos de Padron. I collected these seeds from our family that we visited in Galicia in northern Spain earlier this year, within just a few miles of the town of Padron itself. These randomly spicy tapas peppers are delicious when fried in olive oil and liberally scattered in salt.

4. Black Tongued Scorpion. A new one for me, these chillies resemble black scotch bonnets but with less heat. How could I possibly resist a chilli with a name like a death metal band.

5. Joe's Long Cayenne. This is our chilli challenge for this year so I felt it prudent to plant a few extra seeds for those who join the challenge late.

For planting I used a mixture of a sifted potting compost and plenty of vermiculite. Hopefully this light mix should promote good healthy roots and make the seedlings easy to pot on into a hydroponic system should I choose to do so. Here the planted seed trays are floated in water to dampen the compost. Using this technique rather than watering the compost is less likely to over-compact it.

Once soaked the trays were topped with vermiculite and placed in the heated propagator. This propagator isn't thermostat controlled I've added a thermometer so I can keep track on the temperature. For germination 25-28 C is ideal, once the seeds start sprouting then the temperature can be dropped a little. 

The heater in the chilli room is working well, rigged up to a thermostat it's keeping a steady temperature as shown by this maximum and minimum thermometer which has barely wavered in the month it's been running.

Despite the relatively low temperatures and the limited artificial light, the chillies that I've overwintered are not only coping but positively thriving. The Aji Lemon Drop that grew so prolifically during the summer has refused to stop and despite the severe haircut I gave it, is throwing out new growth already. I've cut back on the hours of light they're receiving to ensure that they're not too monstrous by the time spring comes.