Category Archives: chilli

module moments….

I always thought it was better to sow root vegetables direct rather than into modules to avoid root disturbance.  Which is why, until now, I’ve always sown beetroot and radish in situ.   However as I’m a bit pushed on space in the polytunnel, but want to get ahead, I’ve decided to try sowing in modules and then transplanting out, quite young, in about 2-3 weeks time. This way I’m hoping to minimise the root disturbance.  I’ll also direct sow at the tail end of March, weather dependent.  My go to guru, Charles Dowding has a video on module sowing here, (it’s excellent).

dsc_0329All the propagators have been moved to the piggery – the light is better there and I’ve started potting on the chillies and tomatoes – so far so good!


dsc_0328We have the odd day of sun, enough to encourage bud break…first up, the almond, peach and apricot…

dsc_0336Speaking of breaks, the lovely OH and I managed to catch the orchid festival at Kew.  Fun though the festival was, far more impressive are the collections and the glasshouses….

dsc_0119dsc_0054dsc_0166dsc_0146dsc_0327dsc_0198…simply the best!

Watching this week, (on iPlayer): Around the World in 80 Gardens

she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown



clearing the decks…

dsc_0609 We have started to remove the heat-loving fruit and vegetables from the polytunnel.  All the ripe chillies have been picked along with the tomatoes, (green and red), melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers.

dsc_0608So we have quite a lot of preserving activity ahead of us.  The lovely OH has made a start on the chillies.

dsc_0611dsc_0614He has found that putting a slit into the chilli before drying in the dehydrator helps to dry the chillies faster. Once dried we can use the chillies through next year.

Of course, we are eating as much fresh produce as possible, so our weekly supper menu has a definite lean towards vegetarian recipes.  Gathered together here…the vegetable ingredients for a sambhar, recipe courtesy of Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India‘.



bring on the heat….

If you are a dedicated GYO then it pays to have some decent vegetarian recipes up your sleeve.  We raided the polytunnel for chillies and tomatoes; the veg. plot supplied garlic and onion.  I did look at our aubergines but decided they needed to bulk up a tad so I picked one up with the groceries.

dsc_0545As our chillies range the scoville scale from mild to inferno, I substituted some Poblano for bell peppers added Joe’s Long for a bit of pep and the lovely OH made harrissa paste, adding in Super Chilli.

dsc_0552Once the vegetables had roasted for 45 minutes I added the harissa along with more of our tomatoes, (instead of canned) and returned to the oven whilst I baked couscous.  Finally all the ingredients were stirred together and served with a sprinkle of coriander.


Listening to this week: Plants: From Roots to Riches omnibus editions on Radio iPlayer.

king of the world…

I love wrens, Troglodytes troglodytes – they’re such punchy little birds, completely fearless – and so loud.  I got quite close to this one on my way to and from the polytunnel. He/she completely ignored me.

DSC_0006This post is a little bit of  a round up on progress in the tunnel.  The produce is coming along in leaps and bounds.  Without the tunnel, we would not be able to have such treats as:

DSC_0011Melons.  Both the cantaloupe and watermelon are setting fruit now.

DSC_0010Chillies.  These have done so well this year.  I planted out into 10L pots and the display is fabulous. This is a growing approach that I will definitely repeat next year.  All they need is a weekly high potash feed.

DSC_0014Grapes.  The vine survived its move from outdoors to in and we added another 2 dessert grapes for good measure.  We don’t expect any fruit this year, (well I might leave one bunch on), but we look forward to delicious crops in a few year’s time.

DSC_0013Tomatoes.  Nothing compares to a ripe tomato, freshly picked and warm from the heat of the tunnel.  I don’t grow tomatoes outdoors anymore because of blight.  Growing undercover means that we can reliably produce a decent crop of the heritage varieties we prefer.

We also have cucumbers, sweet peppers and aubergines to look forward to.

Outside, we have started to lift the garlic, the onions and shallots have bulked up nicely and we are picking peas, french beans, chard

DSC_0005and tiny courgettes; the latter destined for our favourite summer pasta dish.

DSC_0020And of course….lots and lots of sweet peas.





sugar baby love…

The lovely OH has set the strings for the melons and cucumbers in the polytunnel.  As we are pushed for space we grow the cucurbits in pots and train the vines up canes attached to the cross bars.

DSC_0016This year, alongside the honeydew and cantaloupe melon varieties, I’m trying out a dwarf watermelon, a ‘Sugar Baby’ type.

DSC_0017The fruits are small, around 8inches in diameter, handy for a single serving.  Even better, Sugar Baby are, reputedly, one of the sweetest watermelons.

I’ve cleared away the early peas and have thinned out the leaves on the cordon tomatoes to ensure good ventilation around the vine.  Along with not getting water on the plant, I think leaf thinning helps to keep blight at bay.

DSC_0018The lettuces, Little Gem, are plumping up, the chillies are setting fruit; Loco is looking a treat ….

DSC_0022DSC_0023and the lovely OH has finished topdressing an old shed brick base, next to the house, with gravel. This side gets the late afternoon sunshine – a perfect place to have a glass of chilled rose and watch the sun go down.


hot stuff…

1-IMG_20160105_134857043 I’ve started the sowing – how good that feels!

Though it could all end in tears of course.  I have started with the chillies – 26, yep, twenty six varieties.  3 seeds to each cell sown at a depth of 5mm.   As some chillies take an age to germinate I’ve done the early sow to free up the propagator in February for tomatoes, aubergines and sweet pepper.

At this time of year low light levels can play havoc with producing overly etiolated seedlings so I have a cunning plan.  I’ve positioned a floor lamp over the top of the propagator. I have no idea whether this will help but I’ll give it a go.

1-IMG_20160105_134938889_HDRThere are 5 common species of chilli: Capsicum annuum; C. chinense; C. pubescens; C. baccatum and C. frutescens.  All the plants I grow are C. annuum varieties. Whilst I’ve sown many of the same from last year, (see here), I’ve acquired some real stunners:

Pot Black: This is described by T&M as an ‘edible ornamental’ and is  so striking the Telegraph recommended a planting combining it with amaranth, black scabious, coleus, diascias and ‘lipstick-pink zinnias’! It is a british bred variety with dark leaves, purple flowers and black fruit which turn red when ripe. The chillies are medium hot at 45,000 SHU.

Loco: Another british bred chilli. Moderate heat at 24,000 SHU.  But see how pretty it is:

chilli locoEven prettier is Razzmatazz.

chilli razzmatazz

Super Chilli.  This is a thai style chilli, with lime green fruit turning red and a  compact habit. Hot at 40-50,000 SHU.  The variety holds the RHS AGM.  Another thai style chilli is Demon Red. Also a compact habit with small, slender chillies held in upright groups; 30-50,000 SHU.

Joe’s Long is a cayenne style chilli with lovely long slender fruits.  Moderate heat at 15-20,000 SHU.  Krakatoa, another cayenne style chilli, compact and very hot when fully ripe.

On the mild side are Cayennetta, coming in at 10-20,000 SHU, and very mild at 1000-1500 SHU, Poblana Ancho which has large fruits that are good for stuffing.

Now the real hotties:

Paper Lantern is a habanero style pepper and hot, hot at 250,000 SHU.

Finally, (drum roll here), Naga Jolokia.   Back in 2007 was the world’s hottest chilli, though it has now been surpassed by others. It comes in at over a whopping 1 million SHU.

I better make sure I label this one!