This year’s trio of peppers

We’ve tried growing three types of peppers this year: Padrons, Macchu Picchu and Snackbite. As an experiment, we have been growing some of each at our respective houses.

A month or so back, the peppers needed potting up from their 3″ pots. We potted them up at this point into 4″ pots in multipurpose compost. Although it doesn’t sound like much of a step up in terms of pot size, whenever potting up you don’t want to re-pot at a pot size that’s wildly different to the previous pot as otherwise sometimes the plant can feel a bit lost. Instead, you want to try and make sure the plant is properly established before potting it up into a larger pot.

Up until this point, our peppers had been growing in a cold greenhouse. Chris’ on the other hand had been growing in the conservatory, and were looking much better, until…

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Although the conservatory was a great growing environment and had kept the plants warm and in the sun for most of the day, we made the mistake of not hardening them off before leaving them to grow on to maturity outside. Therefore, they got wind burn which knocked them back A LOT, and after a few weeks it was clear that they weren’t coming back from this. Again, you learn from your mistakes!

The other week, the peppers were potted up again, this time into their final pots. Again, these were just potted up into multipurpose compost.

Chris did the same with the Padron peppers that he is growing at his house. And each pepper has now got a cane in its pot that the pepper plant is tied to for support.

 

We learnt last year that peppers are quite a slow growing crop compared to some others. But, we have peppers on their way! Chris’ Padrons are just starting to flower, and the Padrons and Snack bite peppers at home now have peppers on them. The Macchu Picchu aren’t fruiting yet, but have flowers so we’re still hopeful!

When it got too hot for our Romanesco cauliflowers

We asked a gardener friend of ours that has experience of growing Romanesco cauliflowers to recommend a variety for us to try when we decided we wanted to give them a go this season.

At the time, we were advised that Romanesco cauliflowers are an “autum” cauliflower, i.e. they grow best when maturing during the autumn months, like September onwards, rather than a “summer” cauliflower. This is usually because different varieties are better/worse suited to the warmer temperatures and drier conditions we typically experience in the UK in June, July and August.

However, we were so excited to give them a try that we sowed them anyway, with an estimated harvest date of July.

And now we know why we were given the advice…although the best way to learn is always by your mistakes I suppose!

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Don’t get me wrong, the plants produced cauliflowers. However, the purple cauliflowers were on the small side and the Romanesco plants started to “blow”, i.e. go past their best, before they’d reached full size. You can see from the photo below how they’d started to go slightly purple where they were going over the top, but they hadn’t reached their full potential in terms of size.IMG_4489

Both were still very tasty to eat though! And Dad’s done another sowing that should be ready to harvest once the weather is a bit cooler, so we’ll see how they compare in a couple of months time.

Potting on a peck of Machu Picchu peppers

The Machu Picchu peppers had already gotten too big for their initial pots, so a week or so ago we moved them on!

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Carefully holding only the leaf, we gently lifted them out of their trays – keeping all of the roots in tact.

Using a dibber we made enough of a hole in the new pots and gently pushed them into position, pressing them down a little. Then it’s just a case of covering the compost up around them up again so that only the leaves were showing.

They immediately looked a lot happier!

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However, the above photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, and they’re doing really well now. Here’s a photo of how two of the plants look about 10 days later: –

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Although we know from last year that any pepper plants are going to take a long time until they’re ready to harvest, so there’s a good few months to go yet!

Growing our own…tapas!

We are both quite into our food. Any excuse and we spend hours rustling up something for dinner. One of our favourite easy starters/meals is antipasti. And then last year, we discovered Padrons! They are best fried in a little oil until they blister and then sprinkled with some sea salt – delicious!!

So this year, we wanted to grow our own. What could taste better than one of our favourite foods, but homegrown?!

Like with most of the seeds we sow, they were sown in slightly moistened and gently compressed Seed and Modular compost and then covered with vermiculite. The peppers need a bit of heat to germinate, so they were popped on the propagator until they started poking their heads out.

Peppers take slightly longer to germinate than some of the other seeds we’ve been growing. Sometimes up to 2-3 weeks, so patience is a virtue!

Once they were large enough to handle, we pricked them out into 3″ pots in multipurpose compost. They should stay in these pots until they are planted out in a few weeks’ time.

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Not only are peppers quite slow to germinate, but they generally grow much more slowly than most other vegetables we’re used to growing. Therefore, you just have to be patient, as it can be several months from sowing until you see any signs of a pepper. But it’s all worth it in the end!

April update

We haven’t had a chance to write a post for a couple of weeks, but there’s been lots going in!

Potatoes

These were planted in late January, but have been kept indoors as we are still getting a few sharp frosts here in Essex.

Firstly, they were growing in the lean to greenhouse with a little heat, but now they’ve been moved to the polytunnel. The first photo was two weeks ago, and the second today. It’s amazing how much they’ve grown! We’ve also put some cane supports in for each one now, as their haulms were getting a bit unruly. And we didn’t want them to break off!

 

Kohl rabi

We sowed our Purple Delicacy kohl rabi last week. These were sown into Seed and Modular compost in a quarter seed tray and covered with vermiculite. As kohl rabi is part of the brassica family, and therefore quite a hardy plant, they didn’t need to be germinated on the propagator. Instead, we covered them with a sheet of glass and some newspaper.

They had already germinated by this weekend!

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So we pricked them out into 3″ pots into multipurpose compost.

 

Pricking out the chilli peppers and colourful cauliflowers

Just a week after sowing, the Machu Picchu, Navona and Graffiti were ready to prick out. Unfortunately, we haven’t got round to writing this post until now though, so they’ve moved on a bit from now (see updated photos at the bottom of the post!)

The cauliflowers were pricked out into 3 inch pots which we filled with multipurpose compost, and the peppers were pricked out into cell trays (60 cells per seed tray), filled with seed and modular compost.

We use different composts depending on the size of the pot/cell tray that we are pricking out into. Multipurpose compost can sometimes be coarser than the seed and modular compost, and therefore the finer compost works better in the smaller cell trays.

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Seedlings are usually pricked out when they have grown their first two true leaves. Therefore, they are big enough to handle, but still quite small and delicate in the whole scheme of things.

We prick the seedlings out with a dibber, being careful not to disturb or break off any of the roots that the seedling has produced where possible. The dibber is dug in the compost a little way away from the seedling, and then underneath where the roots are likely to be to achieve this. The seedlings are then handled only by their leaves (not their stems) and pricked out into the pot/cell tray.

As you can see, the seedlings produce quite a root even after a week!

And this is the finished product! Always making sure to label the plants up as you go along so they don’t get muddled up.

And as we didn’t manage to write this post for a couple of weeks. This is how the cauliflowers look now…! They will stay in these pots until they’re planted out now, but we’ll keep you updated.

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It’s finally hotting up! – Sowing the Chilli Peppers

The sowing season is now very much upon us, and this weekend we sowed our Machu Picchu Chilli Pepper seeds.
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It was a very simple process, and didn’t involve anything out of the ordinary! 

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First of all we filled the seed tray with seed and modular compost (which is much finer than regular compost, therefore ideal for sowing).

Our next step was to use a block of wood to flatten out/compress the compost…

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Then, we carefully placed the seeds on top of the compost, an equal distance apart – and pressed them down a little.
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Once they’d been pressed down, the seed tray was covered with vermiculite, as shown below…

It’ll now go onto the propagator until the seeds are showing – which will be roughly 2 weeks (hopefully!).

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In other news, we had a little check on our early new potatoes, and whilst we had to move out a little soil before we could find them – they’re certainly not far away from showing!

Planning for 2019

It’s really hard at this time of year not to wish away your life in return for the early arrival of summer and the possibility of harvesting the vegetables you have grown. But whilst we have to wait patiently for the weather to warm up (extremely patiently based on the snow that has been forecast over the past week!), it’s a great time to stay indoors and plan for the year ahead.

It’s always good to try some new things, but also to stick to some of the crops you’ve grown and loved before and can look forward to growing once again. Too much change and you set yourself an almost impossible task with failure almost destined as you try to grapple with growing some many unfamiliar vegetables all in one go!

Needless to say, despite my comments above – looking through the various seed catalogues and on their websites, our list of “want-to-grows” almost doubled, with all the eye-catching photos of the crops you can grow!

So here’s our plan for the year ahead. Fingers crossed we get round to it all!

  1. Potatoes. We’ve decided on three sowings – early new potatoes (hopefully ready for harvest in May, a second sowing ready in July and a third that will hopefully give us new potatoes for Christmas! Refer to our previous blog post for the early new potatoes, as these were planted last week. We’ve gone for Red Duke of York and Charlotte.
  2. Chard. We’ve never grown this, but like its colours – so we’re going for a pink and orange selection to get that rainbow effect. We bought some from the supermarket to try it before we committed to growing it from scratch, as we wanted to make sure we liked it! It went down well – so here we are!
  3. Sweetcorn. I’ve grown this at home before as a kid, but Chris fancied his chances with it this year. Initially we were going to grow the multicoloured cobs (you can see a theme emerging here!)… until we found out that apparently it looks a lot better than it tastes. So, standard yellow it is!
  4. Kohl rabi. We think that the end product looks like spaceships – what more reason do you need to give it a try?! There are green and purple varieties – surprise surprise, we’ve gone for purple.
  5. Romanesco cauliflowers. So we grew cauliflowers last year, which we may well do again. However, fancied a slight change and wondered whether Romanesco cauliflowers taste the same. We’ve gone for one of the green (rather than purple this time!) varieties as they are so bright! I’m kind of imagining it’s going to taste like broccoli, but we’ll have to wait and see.
  6. Dwarf beans. We found a variety that advertised “easy picking” bush plants. They sound ideal. They don’t use up much space and they’re easy to pick – so we’ve gone for those.
  7. Peppers. We’re trying two varieties (so far!), and neither are similar to the bell-style ‘Gogorez’ peppers we grew in 2018. The first, is going to be Padron – a medium-sized long pepper that makes for a great Tapas dish and is harvested before it goes red (not to say we might not leave a few of them red to see how they differ!). The second, is a chilli pepper by the name of ‘Machu Pichu’ which is by no means the hottest chilli pepper, but should give a little extra spice to a few of our favourite dinners.
  8. Garlic. We like to use garlic in cooking, so thought we’d see how easy it was to grow our own. The bulbs are purchased, and are waiting for us to plant out once the weather perks up a bit.

And some firm favourites from last year:

  1. Radishes
  2. Carrots
  3. Lettuce
  4. Spring onions
  5. Cucumber
  6. Courgettes
  7. Strawberries

I’m sure we’ve forgotten something – we’ve just got to hope we remember before sowing time! We also haven’t firmed up sowing dates etc. yet, but watch this space…!

Some more potting on of peppers…

Today we potted on Emily’s Gogorez peppers – they definitely needed some more room!

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They’re also currently doing a little better than mine at the moment!

We filled the pots up about half way with soil, and then topped with compost:

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Next, we made some room in the centre of each pot large enough to fit the peppers:

 

After that, it’s a simple case of pushing the compost around the stem of the pepper and making sure it’s nicely secure in it’s new location…

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We needed some bamboo canes to support the plants as they continue to grow upwards over the next couple of months, and of course as they start to grow the peppers themselves.

 

 

As above – we tied the stems of the peppers to the canes with some string, just to keep them upright, and to help take away some of the strain.

And voilà –

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