Tuesday 25 April 2017

Tomatoes and chillis

I have been taking advantage of the sunshine, and putting my tomato and chilli seedlings outside in the fresh air whenever possible.

Unsurprisingly for April the nights are still very cold, and even during the early part of the day it is usually too cold for the seedlings to be outside without protection, so I normally put them in the mini-greenhouses. However, when conditions allow, they get to be really outside. Initially they only stay in the fresh air for a couple of hours at a time, but gradually, as they become accustomed to the conditions, they can remain longer. If you are not aware of this, the procedure of gradual acclimatisation is called "hardening-off".

The light-coloured wall of a raised bed is a useful feature here, because it provides protection from wind (only from one direction of course), and reflects sunlight onto the plants. I expect the wood also retains warmth from the sun and acts like a storage heater.

I'm also lucky that this location is directly outside the sliding doors of our Living Room, only about 5 metres from where I sit when I'm writing blogposts - and visible without me even standing up! This means that I can react very quickly if weather conditions change. It is very different to being miles away from an allotment, isn't it?

My tomato seedlings are looking particularly healthy this year, and they are all doing well.

The chillis, on the other hand are a bit of a mixed bag. For reasons I don't understand some of them are really good and strong, but others are tiny and very weak.

This one is my best chilli plant. Unfortunately I don't know what variety it is - the seed came from a self-saved pod.

Contrast that with these puny specimens:

At first I thought the problem might be to do with the potting compost I used - Levington's John Innes No.1 - but this is a high-quality specialist seed-sowing compost, which ought be the best type to use. When potting-on the chilli seedlings into 5-inch pots I have used Levington's John Innes No.2, which again is supposedly the right type of compost to use for well-established seedlings. You might say "but the chillis doing best are the ones in the No.2", but that doesn't ring true because I only moved up into the bigger pots the seedlings that already looked relatively strong.

Just to emphasise the size disparity, look at these three "Fidalgo Roxa" plants:

They were all sown at the same time in exactly similar fashion, (in the blue Elmlea pots) and come from the same source.  It's interesting to note the difference in leaf colour too. The one on the left, with the green leaves, was the strongest and was therefore moved up to a bigger pot (with the John Innes No.2 compost) earliest. The other two have some much darker leaves. I wonder whether the leaves of the middle one (more recently potted-on) will now turn completely green too? If they do, this will confirm that the compost has an influence.

Yesterday I potted-on the "A-team" tomatoes and chillis - in other words the ones I expect to grow to maturity, not the spares. I moved them from 3.5" to 5" pots. The size disparity in the chillis was very apparent!

Choosing which tomato plants to be my A-Team was easier than usual, because they all seemed equally good. Sometimes a few plants look much stronger or weaker than the others, but not this time. I'm not discarding the spares just yet, but I can't afford the space to put them in 5" pots, because all of this lot has to come indoors at night-time and be carted outside again in the morning!

B-Team ones still in 3.5" pots are seen at top left

Observant regular readers will be saying "Mark was growing three of each type of tomato, but now I only see enough pots of two of each type. Where are the others now?" Well, the answer is that I have passed them on to another member of a Fleet-based gardening group on Facebook. In return I have taken delivery of some little Jalapeno chillis, a Cucumber plant and a Courgette plant (these are seen at bottom left in the photo above).


  1. Thanks for the reminder . . . I need to start putting mine outside for a day of real sunshine and get them acclimated to the weather before putting them in the ground next month. Oh, May is almost here:)
    Happy gardening!
    Connie :)

  2. Are you sure you're watering them enough? I have some stunted ones as well but I know that these were drying out too quick, until I moved them to bigger pots which hold more moisture.

    I found the simple difference between small and big pots was the moisture. Some small plants left in the small pots started to grow better when I concentrated on watering them more often.

    When I thought I had watered them well enough I found that the bottom of the small pots was still bone dry. They looked well watered but taking them out of their pot after a normal watering was a bit of an eye opener - so I now water until water comes out of the bottom holes every time and have had no problems since.

  3. Well we are getting hail and a maximum of 10C so everything sensitive (Chillies Tomatoes) is staying indoors until the "warmer air pushes in".

  4. It is very different to allotment growing. We also had hail late this afternoon.


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