Friday 31 July 2015

Chilli update

Our weather in July has been decidedly chilly - not good chilli weather! We have also had some significant rain for a change, which was welcomed by most of my garden. However I am trying to keep my chillis "a bit on the dry side" as they say, because that puts them under stress, which allegedly makes the fruit hotter. Of course it is mainly sunshine and warmth that promotes spicy heat in chillis, but I have no control over that, but then again I can't control the rain either, and since I grow my chillis outdoors I suspect they will be quite mild this year!

Anyway, thinking positively, most of the plants are looking very healthy now, and the aphid problem seems to have disappeared completely. This little chap may have helped with that, though I would like it if he would invite the rest of his family to visit. They would have a Field Day with the blackfly on the nearby Runner Beans.

I had been worried that all the lush foliage on the chilli plants might mean that they would produce fewer flowers and hence fruit, but it seems I was wrong:

Some of the plants are laden with fruit like that unidentified one above, (that is the one I thought was going to be Cheiro Roxa but isn't) and the Cayenne and Ring of Fire:


Ring of Fire

Fortunately two of the three mentioned above are the ones I am growing mainly for use in the kitchen. They are the "boring" ones - ordinary red ones with nothing special about them. I would like to have quite a few fruits off them so that I can have a supply of them in the freezer to last until this time next year.

Some of the other, more exotic, ones are just producing their first fruit, and it will be touch and go whether they will ripen before the first frosts (especially since it currently looks as if the first frosts may arrive before the end of August!). This is "Aji Limon" (always one of the last to ripen) on the plant I kept from last year:

Aji Limon

This is Caribbean Antillais, a Scotch Bonnet type:

Caribbean Antillais
This is first tiny fruit on Bolivian Rainbow:

Bolivian Rainbow

The Rocoto plant is getting big and straggly now.


It has no fruits so far, but several really pretty flowers:


Neither of my two Nosferatu plants has any flowers yet, but they probably win in the Foliage category. This is the normal type, with plain dark purple / black leaves:


And this is the one I have called "Nosferatu Green Leaf", whose leaves have less black and more green colour.

Nosferatu Green Leaf

That one is grown from seeds sent to me by my friend Trevor, in Wales. His plant was the result of a chance cross-pollination between Cayenne and Nosferatu. The fruits it produced for him were long and slim like Cayenne, but dark black, ripening to red, like Nosferatu - really a very beautiful plant.

Both of the Nosferatus branched-out at an early stage, producing three stems, like this:


Actually, before we decide which one wins on foliage, look at this Calico one:


The leaves are a mix of green, purple and cream, and the flowers are beautiful too:


The prize for the tallest plant definitely goes to Brazilian Starfish, which is about four feet tall now:

Brazilian Starfish

It has quite a few fruits on it, gradually developing their starfish shape:

Brazilian Starfish

I have a number of quite small chilli plants - late-sown ones plus a couple of re-potted volunteers - and I have brought those ones indoors in the hope of giving them a boost. Our night-time temperatures have been ridiculously low recently (7 or 8 degrees several nights), so a spell indoors is probably going to be welcome.

Growing chillis outdoors in the UK is always a bit of a gamble, and success depends heavily on the weather, but unless we get an early Autumn, things are looking OK at this moment.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Chalk and cheese - or is it the sublime and the ridiculous?

I wrote the other day about getting some "Webbs Wonderful" Lettuce that were small and insufficiently dense, and I said at the time that I thought this was caused by the plants being too cramped - of which I am definitely guilty when it comes to salads! Spacing can have a big influence on the size and quality of plants.

Well, I think this Lettuce has not suffered from lack of space:

Actually there are two of them, side by side.

I haven't harvested them yet (waiting for a suitable opportunity to appear on the menu!), but they seem right - in other words the hearts feel firm and heavy, so they should be good.

"Webbs Wonderful"

Adopting the completely opposite approach I have recently planted out loads of tiny Lettuce seedlings, spacing them very closely.

These are ones left over after selecting the best ones for temporary potting-up, awaiting their turn in the Salad Bed. I hadn't the heart to just dump them in the compost, so I thought I would grow them as what I call "Cutting Salad", in other words I will pick their leaves individually while they are still small rather than letting them mature. My second sowing of mixed Cutting Salad has run to seed and been removed now, so these Lettuce seedlings have become available at a very convenient moment.

I have left in place a few of the less bedraggled plants from the recently-removed Cutting Salad, such as one or two Endives. My "deliberately-sown" Endives are not doing well so far (mostly bolted), so I need every Endive I can get. Since we had a fair bit of rain last weekend the soil is nicely damp now, and the Lettuces will grow quickly. I should be able to start taking leaves from them in just a few days from now.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

More wildlife pics

Over the last few days my garden has been swarming with bees,  hoverflies etc. I have even seen several butterflies, though most of those have been the unwelcome white ones. I have had several sightings of small blue butterflies, but they are exceptionally difficult to photograph because they are tiny and they never seem to sit still. The Gatekeeper is more obliging though...

In my next photo you can see two Gatekeepers side-by-side. One was a lot bigger than the other, and they had different markings. I have learned that the smaller male butterfly has black bars on its forewings (lower left), whereas the larger female has plainer forewings (upper right).

Female Gatekeeper

Male Gatekeeper

The flowering Oregano is a veritable bee-magnet. Almost every flower-stem seems to have a bee permanently perched on it!

Most of the photos in this sequence are of the White-tailed Bumble Bee, but I have also seen Red-tailed and Buff-tailed ones. This is evidently a Red-tailed one:

Here's a bee and a Gatekeeper on the same flower.

This is a type of Hoverfly that I see quite frequently. I think it is the Banded Hoverfly Volucella Zonaria.

This is a very small bee of some sort. I don't know what type it is. Oh, and you can see a couple of Pollen Beetles too. They are everywhere at this time of year.

Here he is again... (same bee, different flower).

Making a change from insects, here's a rare sighting of the shy Nuthatch. It's a poor photo, taken at full zoom, through glass on a rainy day, but you have to seize opportunities like this whenever they arise!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Of eggs and weevils...

The white butterflies have been active in my garden, as is normal at this time of year.

The butterflies are searching for brassica plants on which to lay their eggs, which in due course hatch out as caterpillars - the ones that can so easily decimate your crop in the space of a day or so.

My main brassica crops are covered with nets which are hopefully keeping the butterflies out, but elsewhere in the garden (as far away as possible from the main brassica crops) I have a group of spare PSB and Cabbage plants, which are unprotected.

I'm not worried if these plants don't make it. I have dubbed them "Sacrificial plants" because they can help to lure the butterflies away from the plants I want to grow. The butterflies are making the most of the opportunity, and I see that the plants are already covered in eggs.

These are the eggs of the Large White, typically laid in groups:

These are the eggs of the Small White, typically laid singly:

The eggs are white when laid, but gradually turn yellow.

I'm not sure what type of eggs these ones are. They are definitely different. Anyone know what they are?

While photographing the butterfly eggs, I noticed a small beetle-type insect on one of the leaves. At first I thought it was a desirable insect, probably a predator of butterfly eggs.

However, closer inspection suggests that this is NOT a beneficial insect. It looks like the Rape Stem Weevil Ceutorhynchus Napi. Furthermore, it was not alone - there were several of them. My photo here is not of the best quality, but I believe it demonstrates conclusively that these weevils eat the central ribs of the brassica leaves:

Caught red-handed!

OK, so I think I have another task ahead of me now - picking off weevils! Perhaps I need to check my main crop plants too, since the nets covering them will evidently not keep out a 3mm weevil.

Monday 27 July 2015

Harvest Monday - 27 July 2015

More Carrots this week. On Thursday this batch:-

These are a mix of my three types, "Early Nantes", "Autumn King" and "Kelly", but I forgot to identify which ones are which. I think the sharply-tapering one (extreme left, below) is "Kelly", but I'm not really sure.

They weren't all such good-looking ones though. Look at these...

Usually it is stony soil that makes Carrots go like that, but I went to great lengths to prepare the bed for them, by adding sand and removing stones. Soil composition has a part to play in it, and I did add lots of home-made compost too. Anyway, it's not too much of a problem because the vast majority of the Carrots are nice and regularly shaped.

I got another nice batch of Beetroot this week.

That's 3 of "Boltardy" and 3 of "Baby Beet Action". The "Boltardy" ones are the bigger, redder ones and the "Baby Beet Action" are smaller and slightly darker.

On Saturday I picked this mixed basket of produce:

There were more potatoes, the last pot of "Balmoral" (694g) and the last pot of "Charlotte" (970g).

More Carrots. No funny-shaped ones this time. And notice - no Carrot Root Fly damage!

One "Mini Munch" Cucumber.

And most welcome of all, the first of the Runner Beans.

It was only half a dozen beans, but it looks as if they will be the first of many. There are many more little pods forming. The recent heavy rain will probably have done then a lot of good, because Runner Beans like plenty of moisture.

I nearly forgot to mention the Lettuce. One little head of "Tom Thumb" here, in the centre of the basket, though we have actually had Lettuce several times.

Next week I hope to be showing off my first ripe tomato. Yes, probably only one!

This is my entry for Harvest Monday, hosted each week by Daphne's Dandelions, so why not visit Daphne's blog and see what harvests other people have been getting.