The 2017 growing season is under way
Break out the egg boxes, it’s potato chitting time. I’d been in two minds whether to grow potatoes this year. They’ve always grown successfully here but the amount of space the plants take up compared with the modest return of potatoes doesn’t necessarily stack up. But when I saw bags of the delicious Charlotte second earlies on sale last week temptation won the day. Today the best ten of the bunch went into an egg box and they should start sprouting the important shoots a few weeks from now.
Elsewhere I do have a terrible weakness for peppers – sweet and chilli alike – so a fair bit of thought went into this year’s choice of both. In the end, three varieties of chilli and an interesting selection pack of sweet peppers found their way onto this year’s growing plan, all courtesy of the very wonderful moreveg.co.uk
- Bulgarian Carrot Can’t wait to sample this one. They look exactly like small carrots: orange with the green stalk on top. Their Scoville rating seems to be anything from 5,000 to 30,000, so hotter than a Jalapeño but not scary hot.
- Rosso Guardia Cielo Dinky plants, just a foot high, with small red chillis which grow pointing upwards. I don’t know their Scoville score, so it’ll be fun finding out.
- Early Jalapeño A classic old favourite. With this early version, a January sowing and a long season you can just about get them to turn red up here.
The ‘Peck of Peppers’ selection included:
- Carmagnola Italian variety of big red bell-shaped peppers. Grows in the Alps, so hopefully will like North West England too.
- Golden Calwonder A yellow variety of the popular California Wonder. Block-shaped fruit with thick flesh.
- Marconi Red Six inch long horn-shaped red fruits. Popular in Italy.
- Sweet Banana Shaped like long chillies but mild sweet pepper flavour, yellow-green when ripe.
I also bought New Ace An F1 hybrid supposed to fruit early, so good for the British climate. These are traditional block-shape peppers.
Like many growers I don’t think the traditional early spring sowing gives the fully grown plants enough of a season to ripen lots of fruit before winter starts. So they went into the heated propagator today, 30th January.
The challenge of course is to give the seedlings enough light once they emerge. Indeed Rachel at Moreveg points out in the instructions for the chilli seeds that light is one of the contributors to germination, so one should top the seeds off with only the slightest layer of (seed) compost. Or vermiculite may be even better, with its comparatively large grains allowing light through more easily.
All being well there’ll be seedlings coming through in a couple of weeks.
Outside the ground is very wet in and around the raised beds. With some things having overwintered and other remnants needing to be dug out and cleared away, the beds look a right mess for now. It was getting dark before I could start work (honestly) so I’ll do the big tidy next week.
Of those overwintered items it was good to see the garlic shoots appearing healthy. There are three varieties (Red Duke, Mikulov and Bohemian Rose) and I put a mesh tunnel over the area to ward off any birds who might pull the shoots out.
I hope that cover hasn’t over-insulated the garlic as it’s good to get some real deep cold onto the cloves to encourage them to split into a bulb containing more cloves. It’s not essential as some claim though; I grew a variety called Arno five years ago, planted in the spring and harvested as properly split bulbs six months later with not a hint of real cold temperatures. So there’s always hope.
Nearby last year’s rainbow chard is still doing just fine, albeit nibbled in places, no doubt by some clandestine slugs. Otherwise it’s so vigorous I’m in two minds whether to pull it out and sow more from new seeds, or whether to leave it there to flourish. The hiding slugs may swing the decision: pulling the plants out may be the only way to get rid of the little pests.
Still I was able to pick a nice bowlful of leaves – chard, kale and pak choi – to wilt down and have with dinner. As a first crop of the year that was nice. Now, apart from potatoes, peppers and garlic, I have the enjoyable problem of deciding what else to grow in 2017. The big sowing season starts in March so I can see a good few packets of seeds landing on the doormat in the next few weeks. 🙂