Veg Patch

To read the story of my Veg Patch in chronological order use the links in the Blog Archive

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Chilli Trial Update - Part Two

Warning this is a two cuppa read.. For non uk residents , it means its a bit long 

After the previous update with a guest post from Dan, the other participants began sending their pictures and stories, my email in box filled up with more chillies than you would see at a Mexican restaurant. I dont think there will be a shortage of hot sauce in the Uk this winter.. 

So before we start with the trialist's I thought it wise to remind you all what we were actually doing. 

It started as a bit of fun on twitter. Chief Vegetablist @5olly had previously grown chilli and decided to see who could grow them with him, and how they would turn out. The beauty of social media is that you make virtual friends with people all over the country, with similar interests to you. 

This also means you get differing growing experiences. 

In december last year he sent us all five packets with three seeds in each. we were then left to our own devices to grow them. Looking at all the pictures I have been sent, growth has been somewhat erratic!! 

So a reminder of the varieties we were growing 

Number one - Piquillo
Number two - Guindilla
Number three - Hungarian Yellow Wax
Number four - Numex Centennial
and finally
Number five - Chiltepin

How did we do so far? I will let you make up your own mind these are in the order in which I recieved the replies .

Nick who is known to us as one of the Two Thirsty Gardeners was the first to reply to my appeal. 

This is what he had to say :- I germinated mine in a homemade propagator, which you can read about here

Unfortunately I think I overcooked the seeds and ended up with just one Chiltepin and two Hungarian Yellow Waxes

The Chiltepin was never the healthiest of plants but has limped along. It looks pretty pathetic but I'll hang onto it and see if I can nurse it through winter in the hope it has another go at growing properly next year.

The yellow waxes started off growing well but a combination of bad compost and overwatering nearly killed them. They're now repotted and are still alive, albeit very straggly and nearly bald. I do, however, have one chilli that looks like it might make it to the kitchen and a few others on their way.

They're currently sat on my windowsill.

Nicks Chiltepin 

Nicks Hungarian Yellow Wax
Next to reply was Lord Manley - No, I dont believe he is really a Lord , its just his Twitter moniker! No words were required to explain his trial results.. 

Lord Manleys tray of dried up soil

Basically a big fat failure to germinate for any of his 15 seeds.

Next to respond was the person who should really be typing this and I am going to blow his cover and use his real name.. Peter, why do we call you 5olly? 

Anyway in his own words, not mine this is what he had to say.

I don't know why I started this whole Chilli Trial idiocy. It may have been the fact that I had a load of spare seeds, or it may have been the fact that I thought it might only be a couple of us doing it, but in the end I think i must've given seeds to about 20 odd people. I can't even remember who most of them are now... I imagine the ones I can't remember have probably left Twitter now and only joined to get some free seeds..

All of my chillis were sown in individual pots on 6th January and placed in a propagator. Germination was pretty good with numbers 3, 4 & 5. Not having access to a heat lamp they were left on the table next to the patio doors. 

There they sat for 5 months; not doing much.

In early May, once the weather turned up a degree or two they were moved out to the greenhouse where they were immediately assaulted by greenfly. 

And that's it really. They've just sat there doing bugger all. Six months of growing and most of them are only 2 inches tall and still haven't got root bound in their pots..

As an experiment though, I thought I might just plant out the largest Numex and the largest Hungarian into a 10 litre pot each. This seems to have done some good and they've shot up in the greenhouse. The ones in 10 litre pots outside have stayed the same.

It's all rather confusing really. I can only blame the weather.

Also adding to the confusion is the successful germination of one Guindilla. I can honestly say that it wasn't down to my skills at chilli growing, nor was it down to the fact that every individual seed was gently tickled with a robin's breast feather.

Nope it was down to the fact that I emptied the entire packet of seeds into that pot in the hope that one might germinate. As it was 4 did, out of about 100 seeds.. 

Unfortunately I accidentally thinned them out before realising what they were. Oh well. You live and learn..

5olly's Guindilla although technically he cheated so this doesnt count
5olly's Chiltepin
5olly's Numex Centennial
5olly's Hungarian Wax
Including Dans guest post that was 4 trialist's responses, I was beginning to wonder what would come next. I knew how mine looked and was wondering how I had managed to grow reasonably large healthy looking plants.

Then Sarah's arrived. She lives on a sort of farm and blogs about her adventures here  earlier in the year she became a self confessed Pork Bore after rearing and then slaughtering some pigs. She seems to have done very well making all sorts of amazing things with the meat. So how about the chilli's?

Here are my sad little chillies. I think I probably sowed them too early (January? I can't really remember) and then they sat in cold water for ages, even though they were in my sitting room which says everything you need to know about my sitting room (ie it was perishing). 

I used a brewing heat band to try and apply some extra heat to them but it didn't make a lot of difference. I only had four chillis for ages (two three, a four and a five - I can't remember which is which ) and then another number five popped up in about April. 

They live in a greenhouse now, but the roof caved in slightly so it's not as warm in there as it might be. They seem to be doing okay if slowly (they are all very small) and then last week one of them bit the bullet or a slug bit it and it's dead (a number three). One of my number fives has been a bit ravaged by something too (gah!). 

As you can see I have stuck my dainty little hand into one of the photos as a very rough guide as to how small they are. 

Sarah's Hungarian Yellow Wax
Sarah's Mystery Chilli
Sarah's Numex Centennial
Sarah's Hand
Now I was dreading opening my email. Had anyone grown anything that better? 

And then finally something that brought a huge smile to my face. Gillian's email arrive. She describes herself as an Impatient gardener on twitter but she is far from impatient to have done this.. 

First of all I would like to say how seriously I have taken this and grown them under strict trial conditions, but have long forgotten which chilli was which , name or number. 

Back in dark and dismal February which was just before dark and dismal March, April and May I sowed my chilli trial seeds, two were no shows, However am Loving the others!

My fave are the small purpled flower ones which are really such pretty plants, would grow these again no worries, nice neat little plants that havent taken up a massive amount of space.

One type grew massive and had to palm one off to Big Dave who lives on the wirral as could no longer see out my window, however the one I kept growing well. Think at first I was a bit too kind to it as it grew very lush with floppy leaves, soon sorted that with a boot camp regime of lean pickings and now the chillis are arriving.

Finally the one whose name I think I have Chiltepin ? is growing well, medium size and I think a chilli is just arriving.

I think the chillis have enjoyed being kept in quite a warm conservatory, they've grown well in there along with other peppers and chillis , they do need watering but I think the trick for me has been a good soak once a week rather than a bit every day. And I give them a weak feed once a week ?

Not quite sure what to do with all the chillis though ? 

Gillian's Numex? 
Gillians's Hungarian Wax? 
Gillian's Huge Plant
Now I was feeling better. and the next email in was in a similar vein. Jono who blogs as Real Men Sow sent this

They're planted out in the greenhouse as I got fed up waiting for the weather to warm up. I've got two of each. Only the numex, Hungarian Yellow Wax and Chiltepen germinated, but that seems the same for everyone I think?

The Yellow Wax are the most advanced. In the photo you can just about chillis on the plants. There are 3 or 4 on one.

Next up are the Numex, which have grown into a beautiful plant. The leaves are a mottley purple, and bright white flowers are now forming.

The Chiltepen are tall, handsome plants but only just beginning to flower.

Jono's Hungarian Yellow Wax

All Jono's Plants. 
My brain was beginning to frazzle , sorting out whose plant was whose, and making sure I didn't put the wrong plant with the wrong person. I wouldn't want to be accused of chilli swapping!! 

Have you had enough yet? well two more to go. Teresa was next 

Here are all 6 seedlings before I potted them on into larger pots - note the teaspoon

My 3 Chilitpin seedlings - who said they were difficult to germinate !! 

My 2 NuMex seedlings - very small but surviving! 

and finally

my only Hungarian Yellow Wax to survive

Bringing up the rear was 5olly's allotment mate Gary otherwise knows as @ianmudrock . He has managed to grow four of the five varieties. 

All these were started in a heated propogator in January then grown on under lights until the weather was warm enough to put them out in the unheated greenhouse.

Sizes are:
Guindilla 12cm ( this was started later as all the trial ones died, so technically not a trial chilli)

Numex 15cm

Hungarian 35cm

Chiltepin 30cm

Sorry about all the others in the background, I don't have room to move them out of the way!


Hungarian Yellow Wax 


The lot 
Then last but not least my chillies  I am not posting pictures, there are loads on my other blog posts. I have 3 Hungarian Yellow Wax and 2 Chiltepin. They are all about 2 feet high and are very healthy  and bushy . They all have chillies on them. I am also growing 4 other varieties, all equally good. 

So now as its a trial there should be some analysis so here it is:-

1 and 2 were rubbish - only two people managed to grow Guindilla and no-one managed a Piquillo at all . How old were those seeds!! 

We all managed 3 4 and 5 in varying degrees of success. The trial is no way complete but in my opinion, at this stage Champion grower should be awarded to Gillian, with Jono as runner up. I am not including myself in this as its unfair. 

Bringing up the rear as a complete fail is Lord Manley and a booby prize is awarded to Sarah as the grower of - in her own words Wimpy plants!! 

Hope this hasnt been too much of a chore to read. Gardening as you can see from this is great fun. We have all made new friends and an element of friendly competition has kept us all tending our plants through a grotty winter, and equally awful spring and now a non eventful summer. 

Watch this space for news when someone actually eats one

Now its time for me to get back to my veg patch. it has been neglected for a week whilst we have had hoards of visitors. They are still coming. Setting off about now from way down near the French Spanish Border, Clem and Elaine are bringing Freda home . We cant wait. 

Finished and ready to come home

Friday, 21 June 2013

Chilli Trial Update - Part One

I think you are now well aware that I am growing Chilli's and some of them, are part of a very non scientific trial being run by the Chief Vegetablist know to all on Twitter as @5olly. Well his blog is currently out of action so the next couple of updates will be on mine. 

I am currently gathering data (well having a bit of a chat) with the other participants, but recieved a very detailed email from Dan otherwise known as @MisterNW, so whilst I am waiting for loads of other to sort themselves out here is his story by way of a guest blog.

Dan's story so far

Aside from the actual growing business this trial has, for me anyway, been more a trial of managing hopes and expectations. 

When I initially planted the seeds it snowed, lots.  Our old cottage is cold at the best of times but even ensconced in the void below the boiler (which also broke for 3 days during the snow!) I thought germination would never happen. I was destined to be a gardening failure.

When I discovered two celery-coloured wispy spears emerging from one pot I was so happy I named them after the hit christmas toy in our house: Mario and Luigi, my little yellow wax Hungarian seedling brothers.  "Grow boys!" I urged them "this is a TRIAL and we're off!", transplanting them immediately from their boiler hideaway to the kitchen windowsill.

Mario and Luigi
Well, grow they did - to about 2 inches anyway.  Soon shoots started appearing in the Numex and chiltepin pots too although the last two trial types foiled me. 


Numex or maybe a Habanero!
Spurred on my my achievements and now utterly convinced I might even have true hidden pedigree as a champion chili grower (just like those footballing shows where a rough street kid turns out to be the raw, unfinished, undiscovered Ronaldo) I bought another packet of seeds, two infact,  JalapeƱo earlies  and habaneros.

My dreams were filled with visions of the buckets of fruits I would no doubt soon be harvesting.  Even supermarket trips were affected.  I would find myself glancing at glass jars, wondering which recipe to use to preserve the chilis that would soon be weighing heavy on those branches.  I once spent an hour reading a website about homemade lime pickle!!

Then came the bump.  They didn't grow.  In fact, some days it looked like they were shrinking.  Winter continued long into spring with sunny warm days  a distant dream.  The only thing of note was when the cat ate half of one of my four leaves.  He doesn't even like salad!

Fortunately the sun did eventually arrive and with it came a growth spurt.  Even the new ones.  I had so many seedlings I didn't know what to do with them.  So I watered them, watched them, guarding against cat attack.

To stake or not to stake?

By this stage all had experienced good growth, seedlings were becoming plants and once again my excitement took over.  Maybe I was wrong to doubt myself.  What else could I grow?  I was hooked!

 I even bought a book about seasonal allotment care (i dont have an allotment) and began mentally sketching out an area of the garden with which to build raised beds.  The proposed area later became a chicken house mind you but the intention was there.  Self sufficiency, if you like chili and rhubarb (for this was the first thing I could conjure in my mind for my new proposed beds) was only a few seasons away.   

Then I thought " I need to do something with these, train them like the shops do, get the fruit in."

I Googled it and ended up no further forward than tossing a coin.  

Don't get me wrong, I love google.  factual stuff like how old is Tom Hanks (it'll tell you to the day if you want it to) it's great at, but subjective stuff can be a nightmare.  Particularly where chilis are involved it would seem.

Give chilli plants lots of water
Chilli plants like it dry

Stake and train them upwards
Don't bother staking

Pinch them out
Don't pinch them out

Without 5olly's advice to cut through the crap they might not have made it.

Worried I wasn't watering them enough I watered then daily but they got droopy looking and rather dead.  I lost a few at this time too

Turns out I was over watering them.  "No, I don't water them daily, only when I can be arsed" was the sagely reply from our head trialist and it worked!!  They soon dried out and started growing again at a pace. 

We're back on the up curve of our graph it would seem but my expectations have been massively tempered.  I no longer puzzle about how to overwinter the plants after fruiting or whether I can grow next seasons plants from the seeds of the fruits from non F1 varieties (nothing to do with cars apparently!  I learned that from the trial too) nope, just one fruit and I'll be happy.  

I've got lots of jobs this weekend but I will hopefully be buying some big pots and putting them out into the big wide world.

Watch this space ...


(North Wiltshire)
(Non propagated windowsill trialist)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pea's again - but not sweet..

Last blog I wrote about my beautiful Perfume Delight sweet peas, Well this time its about the Garden Pea.. 

Last year I did a bit of research and thought I had bought the best yielding variety. They came to pretty much nothing. It may have been that the soil was too poor for them, or it could have been the awful weather, but I got basically one forkful of home grown peas.

This year, whilst shopping in a well known German discount supermarket, I noticed they were selling seeds for 49p per packet. Well after spending my entire seed budget on flowers, I was looking for some savings so purchased two packets of Meteor Peas. A bargain, less than a pound. 

In they went and they grew beautifully

Every seed I planted germinated. And it wasn't long before they took up residence on the Great Wall of Barton

Pretty quickly they came in to flower and the peas pods have been fattening nicely. 

So yesterday, I couldn't wait any longer, I wanted to see what was going on in these little pods. 

I picked a nice fat looking one and opened it up. 

Wow, beauties, Jim had the first try - His verdict "They taste Like Pea's." I think they could do with a few more days sunshine, to sweeten up a bit. This pod contains about as many peas as I got in the whole of last year, but the Great Wall is groaning under the weight of these little wonders. I must say I am very impressed and shall be buying my peas from the same place next year. 

A quick return to Sweet Peas. The next variety to come into bloom are the Beaujolais

They look wonderful next to the others, I am waiting now to see which comes next. They all have flower buds but the lack of sun over the last few days has slowed them down. 

The Arum Lilly has recovered from its very slow start and is covered in these

This California Poppy has appeared , I didn't plant any here so it must be a windblown seed. 

And on the Stream bank, there are finally flowers appearing amongst the tussocks of grass. 

Gibson is on top form as usual, he was snoring his head off when I took this picture, how can that be comfortable

And finally excitement is high, the TR6 arrives next week, this picture came yesterday, she is almost back in one piece. 

A busy fortnight ahead here, with visitors from all over the world, but will try and blog again soon. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Sweet Pea Special

Morning, a short blog today but filled with colour and scent, Although sadly you cant smell it.

I plant Sweet peas every year but usually the garden centre multi coloured unscented varieties. This year however, I was tempted by a sweet pea collection sold by my flower seed guru Ben at Higgledy Garden . The seeds arrived, four varieties Winston Churchill, Perfume Delight, Beaujolais, and Painted Lady. 

They grew pretty quickly and were out on one of my bamboo constructions as soon as possible. Thursday I noticed that there were buds on some of the plants and then yesterday, in the sunshine, the first opened. 

It can only be described as Glorious. 

This little beauty is a Perfume Delight, and whoever chose the name got it spot on. The smell coming from this tiny flower is amazing. I could smell it each time I passed by. By the end of the day in the sunshine, she was joined by others. 

and then I noticed another colour appearing, I think its a Beaujolais, ( I mixed them up and dont know whats what !) but hopefully with a bit of sunshine today, It will open.

Elsewhere is the garden the Potatoes also now have flowers. 

The Nasturtiums are out

and today I should get flowers on the Bee friendly seeds I got free from somewhere ( No idea where) 

If are interested in attracting bees to your garden, there is a very good list that tells you what you should plant here 

Thats it, the sun is out so off outside I go.