A leave of abscence

2018 has by all accounts been the worst year of my life thus far.

It started with my wife’s cancer diagnosis which then continued to throw challenges at us all the way through. Her treatment is ongoing even now with a long road ahead reaching into 2019. She is facing it so bravely, and my love for her has never been stronger.

It’s turned the lives upside down not just for us and our parents, but that of our two little ones. At 3 years and the other at just 4 months it’s been a major upheaval to the balance we had just struck in our lives.

So everything took the back burner this year. The children were both put into nursery to enable me to continue working while also caring for Ellie. Parents have been helping out with logistics so much I honestly don’t know how we would have coped without them.

It’s been an overwhelming, heart wrenching bastard of a year. But there is hope that 2019 might bring with it better things.

So confident of this are we that we actually took on a second allotment last week as a family. Not just a place that Ellie can use as therapy once she is well enough (and her plans for the space are already in progress), but also for us to extend our veg growing experiments, while trying to spend more time out doors as a family.

This year has stolen so much from us, leaving us housebound more often than not. We still managed a fair amount though all things considered, up until August when we down tooled to focus on Ellie’s treatments. But that will be discussed in a different post.

So roll on change, roll on the new year and roll on better times…

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Chilli update – the first flowers

So the greenhouse is going mad and this seems to be a trend from the other blogs I read, with it has come an accelerated timeline for a lot of the chillies.

The Aneheim, yellow habanero and the Bularian Carrot have all started to flower.

Now I’m of the opinion that it’s better to remove the flowers at this stage as its more important that the plants put there energy into growth rather than fruit at this stage, so on some of them I’m going to remove all the flowers, and I’m going to leave one or two on the Aneheimn and the Bulgarian carrot, so I can potentially get something in a few weeks. As I have plenty of plants, staggering their development like this probably won’t do any harm!

So here are a few pictures of the younguns

Pink Tiger ChilliHabanero flowersAnaheim
For more pictures as they grow, check out the Instagram account!

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A week on…

It has been a week since we put out the chilli and tomato plans in the greenhouse, so I went to check up on them yesterday.

In hindsight I might have been a bit brave to leave the auto watering systems to their own devices for the first week, but luckily they worked as intended!

See below just how happy the chilli are

Bulgarian Carrot 1 week after planting out into the Quadgrow
“Fish Chilli” one week in the Quadgrow

Sadly we have had to put some slug pellets down, as the mild winter has lead to a very strong slug and snail contingent this year.

All the chillies are looking nice and happy. Some like the Aneheim even have flowers. Given that the Aneheim is prolific I’m going to let those flowers stay, but on the hots and the super hots, I have been gently removing them, so the plant can focus more on growth than fruit this early on in the season.

Anyway, it’s a lovely day, time to get outside, off to take little one to the park and then back to the allotment tonight to plant out the corn and maybe a few courgettes (as they are too large in the windowsill now!)

Unexpected but welcomed heat

So we are finally through the worst of the weather this Spring, so I am told, and this last weekend saw an explosion of activity down on the allotment. Not just in plant growth, but in people! Some that I had actually yet to say Happy New Year to turned up. We are lucky, our allotment is such a hive of positive people, and who knows maybe so of it will rub off on me!

The crazy heat though has already subsided and today I was met with grey clouds and the threat of thunder, hopefully this is now the odd day rather than the norm.

I went to check up on the Quadgrows yesterday and even in the heat, the auto watering system was keeping the chilies nice and watered. Watered but not soaked which is much preferable. A close eye will be kept for the rest of the week.

We have already had our first casualty though sadly. One of the gherkins ended up being a rather large breakfast for a slug. Bastard. I’ll get him next time…


My French and runner bean seed came through and so I have done a few test sowings in pots under lights, now the chilies have gone to the greenhouse there are gaps that I feel should be filled.

The end of the weekend saw the acquisition finally of a BBQ. It must be a British thing that when there is the first good weekend, everyone rushes out for the opportunity to char grill various coated meats on a BBQ. So not having one of our own, and not wanting to miss out, we finally got one. Putting it together in the 30+ C heat was interesting, as the black barrel is designed to absorb and then radiate heat, so it was getting progressively hotter as it was assembled. 

Fire was lit, meat was charred… Perfect 

Planting chilies out in the Quadgrows

They say the early bird gets the worm, well this morning the early bird planted chilies! 

The study was getting over grown, and the weather is looking stable enough so we threw caution to the wind. Plenty of other people down the allotment already had their tomatoes out so its “probably” ok!

When mum and I left it today it was pushing 35 degrees in the greenhouse, a heat that my super hot chilies will thrive in. 

I also took the opportunity to plant them out in the Quadgrows. Quadgrows are a type of capillary action self watering system made in the UK by a company called Greenhouse Sensation. I’m trying them this year along with their chilie specific version to see if they reduce the burden on watering whilst. also increasing the yield.

We are trying mainly chilies but also a tomato and gherkin plant, to see how well they do. The theory goes that if plants have access to as much water as they need/want and they are provided with a nutrient rich feed, they will achieve their maximum potential. 

My only concerns are that the overly abundant and easily accessibly water supply might come at a drop of taste, as for reference the Quadgrows has a 30 liter water reservoir for 4 plants. A number of sources including James Wong’s book “Growing for Taste” point out that if the chilies have access to lots of water, they compromise on heat, as it is when the plant is stressed, that it ups its capsaicin content (the active component of chili peppers that grant it the heat). 

So we shall see. It may be that the act of only having to water once every week or so out weights a potential for slightly less potent peppers, but if the balance is right I will be recommending them to one and all. I will update as the test goes on!

The Quadgrow base and reservoir
The first 4 chilies to use the Quadgrow system

It’s nearly time…

 

Although recent meteorological events point to the contrary… it’s nearly that time of the year where the serious growing begins. All of the seedlings taking refuge in my house will be able to go forth to their final positions. Im 99% sure my wife will be thankful for this.

Im having to rub flowers off the chillies to stop them wasting their effort. They really need to get into the greenhouse, as they are starting to yellow but i don’t want to give them any food until they are transplanted… quite the dilemma.

Bank holiday this weekend, plenty of material to follow.

Happy gardening…

 

 

Start your seeds indoors they said…

… It will give you a head start, they said

Well it’s definitely done that, but what I forgot to factor in is, seedlings grow… Fast. They then require potting on… Quick.

So what lookes like a decent collection of seedlings, quickly turns into a forest and if you don’t have a heated greenhouse or copious amounts of south facing windowsills you have to get creative.

For me my creativity manifested in setting up one of those plastic greenhouses in the study, with some inexpensive grow lamps…

 chilli plants under grow lamps 
 tomato seedlings 
And I think it’s worked quite well. The chillies are doing well, nice strong stems, possibly too much nitrogen in the potting mix as the foliage is massive, but on balance I’m pleased.

Not long now until the real gardening happens, the allotment has already had some tlc from us and there is only one more bed to dig over. 

But for now, back to the waiting game for a few more weeks

 

Salad crops are coming on well in the veg trug