Carnival of Capsicums

The first seeds that I plant each year are Capsicums: chillies and sweet peppers. They need a long growing season to maximise fruit production and ripening, so I sow seeds in January or February. The best levels of germination are achieved in warm conditions, so I always plant mine in an electric propagator.

Five varieties of Capsicums sown

Five varieties of Capsicums sown

Last year, in an attempt to reduce my use of resources, I planted them in toilet roll middles filled with compost, but unfortunately the germination rates were very disappointing and I ended up undertaking a second sowing much later. I thought carefully about this and realised that the problem was probably the result of raising the seeds too far from the heat. A toilet roll middle is about 5 inches long and an electric propagator heats from the base, so the seeds were quite a distance from the source of heat. This year I have cut the toilet roll middles in half, thus using less compost and reducing the distance between heat and seed. Fingers crossed that I will have more success this year – I will report back.

The varieties I have sown are: sweet peppers Lipstick and Nova; chillies Lemon drop and Alberto’s locoto; plus a mix of seven Australian heritage sweet peppers (thanks to Kate).

Colleen and Mira

Colleen and Mira

An additional job yesterday was putting the seed potatoes out to chit. When I removed them from their box, I discovered that the first earlies (Colleen) had all already started growing profusely so care was needed to remove them from the nets they had been sent in. The main crop (Mira) also had some small sprouts. I intend to share these tubers  with my sister (who has a new garden) and have a great potato harvest in 2014, like we did in 2013, but this time in both west Wales and Shropshire.

Reasons to be cheerful (or give thanks!)

Normally at this time of year we would be enjoying a wide range of stored produce from the garden, but 2012 will not be remembered as a year of gluts, so we have no pumpkins and squashes, few runner beans in the freezer, and only a limited amount of apple (stewed and frozen or pureed and bottled). I am thinking wistfully about the mountains of apples last year, the winters when we have eaten gallons of courgette soup and the times when we had enough ripened squashes in the loft to provide stored sunshine on even the gloomiest days. Not this year, though.

Sunrise 18 November… from out of our back door

So, what s there to be grateful for this year? Well, the first thing is that we don’t have to rely on what we grow to feed ourselves – if we did, we’d starve this winter. Fortunately, even if we only buy locally produced food, there is plenty – potatoes, meat, leeks, onions, swede… so we won’t go hungry. Living in a marginal area, the country has lots of land that isn’t suitable for plant crops, but is suitable for raising sheep, s0 there’s a source of protein from land that, in arable terms, is pretty useless. Living in the countryside means not only lovely surroundings, but lots of local growers, producers and foragers, allowing us to support the local economy whilst eating well. Llwynhelyg, our local farm shop, sources the majority of the produce that they sell from Wales or the borders, so we even have a one stop shop that delivers the majority of our needs from fairly local farmers and makers.

Peppers ripening today in my office

However, we are also still producing at least a little of our own food. There is a raised bed containing broccoli (fingers crossed for a good harvest from January onwards) and kale (which we have already started eating). We also have leeks growing and still some bunching onions (some of which we ate this evening along with broad beans that were frozen a few moths ago). The Claytonia that I planted doesn’t seem to have germinated, but the oriental greens have and I have high hopes for them plus there is some root parsley that seems to be coming along nicely… and we are using the leaves already even if the roots don’t do well. Meanwhile indoors, there are still a few sweet peppers on the plants that we are hoping to overwinter and some of the rocoto chillis are now ripening up. By the look of the picture here, they may well make great Christmas trees! We even, believe it or not, still have mange tout growing in pots outdoors, although a frost will finish these off soon, no doubt.

November mange tout

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