And sow it begins…

Saturday 9 January was officially the first growing day of the year for me. I absolutely love growing from seed, so it is always a joy to put the first seeds of the year into compost and imagine what they will turn in to.

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My late dad’s propagator

It’s too early to plant most things, but January is definitely the time to start off peppers and chillies chez snail. So, Mr Snail retrieved the propagator from the loft. It was my dad’s and I’m sure that had he still been with us he would have appreciated the fact that it is still in use. I dug out the ethically -produced coir pots that I sourced last year plus a few small plastic pots and sorted through my seed collection. Then I made some new plant labels by cutting up some old plastic milk bottles that I have been saving for just this job.

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A lot of frozen chillies

The fantastic conditions in the limery meant that the 2015 chilli crop was HUGE. We have pots and pots of hot sweet chilli sauce and in the freezer I have a 2 litre tub completely full of whole chillies. So, in 2016, I plan only to grow one variety – my favourite – Lemon Drop. Of course some of the plants from last year may survive the winter (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t) and so we may have more than this, but frankly, we won’t need them.

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Seeds sown

I have focused instead this year on sweet peppers. I had some seeds left over from last year for two varieties: Kaibi and Nova. The former did well in 2015, but we got very poor germination from the latter. Anyway, I have planted all the left-over seeds and we shall see. In addition I have one variety – Sheepsnose – from Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library, and I have decided to try out two new varieties from Tamar Organics: Yolo’s Wonder and Corno di Torro Rosso. I’m hoping to identify varieties that like the conditions we can provide so that I know what to focus on in future years.

Few other crops benefit from being planted this early in the year, but I did sow a few lettuce seeds to grow indoors… the last of our 2015 lettuce was consumed by slugs in early December. Now I await germination… I can hardly wait to see those green shoots.

Stuffed peppers

This month I was planning to write a blog post every day… and it was all going well until It became necessary to spend a day and a half struggling to sort out one mobile phone contract and one mobile phone top up. I’m not going to go into details, suffice to say I seem to have wasted a lot of time and energy and haven’t managed to write for a few days, but I’m back now!

Profuse peppers (and chillies)

Profuse peppers (and chillies)

Yesterday I decided to make lasagne, using lots of home-grown tomatoes and peppers. The pepper harvest was slow starting this year, but we’ve eaten lots over the last few weeks. Sadly, they aren’t ripening very well, but we are just enjoying them green… or pale yellow in the case of Amy, the wax pepper. It is the variety Lipstick that is, however, especially abundant at the moment.

As the plants have grown so prolifically recently, it has got increasingly difficult to reach the ones in the far corner of the greenhouse. Yesterday, however, was nice and warm so I decided to extract some of the pots so that I could see the state of the plants properly. Once removed from their inaccessible location, I was disappointed to notice that a few of the plants had been nibbled by slugs – I even found one of the little blighters wrapped around the stem of a pepper plant.

Anyway, I harvested the chewed peppers and some others that were a decent size and went indoors to prepare the lasagne. And it was at this point that I discovered that two slugs, not content with having snacked on my produce, had decided to take up residence inside! Yuk!

However, I am pleased to announce that organic pepper stuffed with slug is a real delicacy… for hens. The slug-free lasagne was good too, but just for us!

Winter veg

A time of plenty... courgettes growing by a Boston winter squash

A time of plenty… courgettes growing alongside a yellow Boston winter squash

Yesterday brought beautiful August weather, with lots of sunshine and a breeze to keep the air fresh. It does feel like the end of summer, though, with the mornings a little cooler and a slightly different smell in the air. It’s a time of plenty in the garden… something to harvest every day. However, we also need to think about the future… we may be awash with fresh vegetables now, but things will be different in the winter. So, even as we harvest, we should also think about sowing. And that’s exactly what I did yesterday afternoon.

Newly planted seeds surrounded by abundant capsicums

Newly planted seeds surrounded by abundant capsicum growth

I sat in the garden with compost and seed trays and planted a range of vegetables that, I hope, will help us through the winter. In the seed trays I planted kale, spring onions, red mizuna, komatsuna, kai lan and namenia. I discovered that I had very few plant labels just before I started, so I cut strips from a plastic milk carton and wrote on the rough side – it seemed to work well. Next, I cleared the bolting lettuces out of the strawberry planter and fed these to the chickens. In their place I sprinkled seeds of Claytonia and a lettuce called ‘Winter Marvel’. I also potted up some sweet pepper and chili plants. as they seem to be growing really well and it looks like we have a late-season mountain of capsicums to look forward to.

I will be planting more seeds over the coming weeks, including coriander, rocket and several more varieties of oriental greens. If you want ideas about what to plant now, the best resource I know is the Garden Organic website. They have pages for ‘what to do in the garden this month‘ which include planting suggestions… do check it out, it’s great.

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