Container courgettes

We were so pleased with how our Midnight courgettes grew last year in containers that we wanted to give them a try again this year.

We did quite a late sowing, as there were already some that Dad had grown in the garden during the first part of the season, so we wanted some that would hopefully follow on in succession.

We sowed the seeds like we do most seeds, in a 1/4 seed tray filled with moistened Seed and Modular compost. The seeds are sown on their sides (as hopefully you can see from the photo). This is because the root and first leaf come from either end, so sowing them on their side gives them the easiest route down into the soil (in the case of the root) or up into the air (for the first leaf).

Once sown, each seed was covered with a sprinkling of vermiculite.

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A week or so later, they had germinated and so we pricked them out into multipurpose compost in 3 inch pots! They stayed in these until they were planted out into their final pots.

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And a couple of weeks later they were planted out into 20 litre tubs. As they’ve got established, we’ve now given each courgette a stake (as we do with the ones we have planted out in the garden), and we will train each plant up these so that we don’t use up too much space.

The only thing with the container courgettes is that they need A LOT of water otherwise the compost dries out. Therefore, we always make sure to give them water every morning (and sometimes at night if it’s been a really warm day!) to make sure the compost doesn’t dry out.

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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!

Progress on what can only be described as small purple spaceships…

We decided to grow Kohl Rabi this year. We’ve never tried it before, but thought it looked nice so wanted to give it a go. In fact, we think the plants when mature look like little purple spaceships. But maybe that’s just us…

Last weekend, the plants were ready to be planted out. Well we think they were. We’ve never grown them before, so we can’t be sure. But we understand that they’re part of the brassica family, and they were the same size as we would usually plant out cauliflowers, etc. so we went for it!

We dug a hole with a trowel about 4-5″ deep and then upturned each plant one by one. As you can see, they’ve got a pretty good root system, so probably the right decision to plant them out.

Each plant was placed in the hole and then the hole backfilled with soil and the plant firmed in.

The plants were then carefully watered in to firm the soil around them a little bit more.

 

 

An update on the colourful cauliflowers

 

The weekend before last, our Romanesco and purple cauliflowers were ready to be planted out. We had five plants in total, as unfortunately we’d lost one of the purple cauliflowers between pricking out and planting out. It’s stem had rotted off for some reason, so we’d had to throw that one away.

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We dug a hole to plant each one in with a hand trowel and then gently eased the plant out of the pot, making sure to keep the plant and its roots in tact. The best way to do this is usually to hold the plant upside down, supporting its stem and roots between two fingers and gently squeezing opposite sides of the pot until it loosens and comes free.

Each plant was placed into the hold we’d dug, and the soil brought back around the plant, making sure to firm this in around the newly planted brassica. It’s important to firm the soil back around the plants to ensure there aren’t any air gaps around its roots where you dug the hole to place it in – as that wouldn’t do it any good at all!

When digging each hole, the aim should be to plant each brassica up to its bottom set of leaves. If you leave too much stalk above the ground, the young plants can easily get broken off in the wind before they get a chance to get established.

After we’d planted them all out, we gave them a feed of Blood, Fish and Bone. This is a general organic fertiliser and should help them get going!

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Finally, we gave them a good soaking in with a watering can to settle the soil around each plant, a sprinkling of slug pellets to stop our slimy “friends” devouring them immediately and covered with bird netting to stop our feathered friends doing the same.

We’re hoping to be able to start harvesting these in early July – but that all depends on the weather!

Planting out the brassicas

The brassicas we sowed and pricked out a few weeks ago are now ready to plant out. We had a few cauliflowers and one broccoli plant to plant out.

Dad gave us a bit of his vegetable patch to plant them out in as they need a fair bit of space to grow properly. We have tried them in 30 litre pots before (with some success), but they are definitely better if they can get their roots in the soil.

First things first, we had to dig over the soil which had already been used once this year!

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Then, before planting out, we soaked each plant in a solution of maxicrop seaweed. We find that this gives them a little bit of a boost as they start to get established in the soil.

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We then planted the plants out, around a foot apart. Making sure to firm the plants in so that their roots can get away into the soil as quickly as possible.

The plants were then watered in thoroughly to settle the soil around the plants.

Unfortunately, some of the wildlife in the garden is not as beneficial as you’d like it to be. Therefore, we always have to cover the brassicas to protect them from pigeons and rabbits! We therefore built a corral out of pieces of wood and then covered the plants with some netting.

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Planting out some more cucurbits

The cucamelons have continued to grow away as quickly as they started, and were moved outside last week to harden them off before planting out. We’ve never grown these before, so we’re not sure what we’re doing, but a quick Google search gave us some ideas.

They grow like a vine, so we fixed some plastic coated metal fencing up for them to climb up. You can see the little tendrils they already have growing which will help them to climb their way up. In fact, they were already a bit difficult to untangle from one another in the seed tray, so we don’t think they’ll have any trouble climbing up the fencing.

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We didn’t have much space left, so we had to plant four cucamelons in a 30 litre pot, with a small cane to support their journey up to the main fencing. Let’s see if they carry on growing at the same pace they have been!

One of the cucumbers we took from a cutting a couple of weeks ago was also ready to plant out. Similarly, it was planted out in a 30 litre pot, making sure not to put too much damp compost around the stem of the cucumber, as they can be a bit temperamental and we wanted to give it the best chance of not rotting off.

Like with the cucamelons, we have used a bamboo stick to support the plant until it reaches the batten that we’ve fixed to the fence for it to be trained along.

We’ll keep a close eye on the plant, as they can be difficult to get going, making sure not to water too heavily, and certainly not near the base of the stem.

Container courgettes

There are an increasing number of great varieties of courgettes these days that are bred specifically to be grown in containers. Some examples are Parador (which is also a lovely yellow variety of courgette), Patio Star and Midnight.

Last weekend, I planted a Patio Star and a Midnight in 30 litre pots. We’ve grown these varieties for a number of years now and they are both fantastic croppers and very tasty to eat – which is key!

With anything we plant in containers, we always put some soil in the bottom to give the pots a bit of weight and keep them anchored if the wind creeps up.

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We then filled each container with multipurpose compost before planting one courgette per pot.

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We then put a stake in each pot for the courgette to grow up, securing this to the fence so that the plants can’t blow over once they get courgettes growing on them. As you can imagine, the plants get quite heavy once fruiting, so its important to make sure they’re tied up the stake at regular intervals to prevent the plant falling over.  The ones we grew up stakes last year grew taller than me, so let’s hope for some of the same from this year’s plants!

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Go Go Gogorez – Potting on the Peppers

 

**From 20th April 2018**

…Better late than never with this post!

Despite the overly enthusiastic title of this post, peppers really aren’t the quickest growers. These were sown back in February, and some two months later they are ready to be potted on.

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Step 1. As you can see above, the 6 peppers were big enough to move on to larger pots (or, at least 5 and 1/2 of them had come on well to date!). I raided the garden for whatever pots I could find.

Step 2. The new pots were filled with compost, roughly 3/4 of the way to the top. I only used a multipurpose compost and 3 weeks on nothing has died – so no problems there!

Step 3. Make a hole in the middle of the pot big enough to fit the incoming pepper.

Step 4. (as above) Turn the pepper upside down, and, gently supporting the stem in between two fingers, pinch the pot with enough force that allows the plant to fall through – you may need to alternate between the sides.

Step 5. Slot the pepper into the hole you’ve just made in the new, bigger pot – as below…

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Step 6. Fill the pot up with some more compost, enough to ensure that the stem of the pepper is not too exposed, as this won’t be helpful to its growth once it starts to be left outdoors as it could be blown over in the wind. Instead, we want a strong, sturdy plant to give it the best chance. Don’t worry if this means some of the lower leaves are submerged.

Step 7. After repeating the above steps for all of your pots, they’ll need a good watering. The pots should be moist but not completely saturated:

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The process for potting on is very similar for a lot of plants and vegetables, but I don’t think it hurts to demonstrate that fact!

The peppers can be left outdoors during the day for the next few weeks (as long as the weather is set fair), but to begin with they are best brought indoors overnight. They’ll need to be watered regularly to keep the compost moist.

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