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Archive for February, 2015

Chilli Peppers

Every year I grow my own Sweet and Chilli Peppers from seed, they can be very slow to germinate so are one of the first crops that I get going, if you want to have a go at growing your own now is the time to get started, seeds can be sown between February and April, I will be sowing mine in the next couple of weeks.

Sweet and Chilli Peppers make very attractive plants, there are lots of different varieties to choose from producing fruits in varying shapes, sizes and colours, and different degrees of heat, did you know that the heat of Peppers (and other spicy foods) is measured on the ‘Scoville Scale’, one of the hottest known peppers is called the ‘Carolina Reaper’ and measures ‘2,200,000’, at the opposite end of the scale the Sweet (Bell) Pepper which does not contain any heat measures ‘0’.

Sweet Peppers Yellow

Peppers can be grown in a greenhouse/polytunnel, on your windowsill or even outdoors in a warm, sunny sheltered position, Peppers love the sun and will thrive in warm/hot conditions which allow their fruits to ripen and change colour, those grown indoors tend to produce bigger crops that mature quicker.

How to sow your seeds

Fill your seed trays or pots with seed compost and sow the seeds thinly on the surface, lightly cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite and water carefully, don’t forget to add a label, Chilli and Sweet Pepper seedlings and plants look almost identical.

Place in a propagator at a temperature of 15-20C (60-68F), do not exclude light this helps germination, be patient some varieties can take 7-21 days.

pepper plant

Growing On

Once your seedlings have appeared, remove them from the propagator and grow on in a warm environment, once they are large enough to handle pot on into small pots of good quality compost.

When they have outgrown their pots (you may notice roots growing through the bottom) it is time to transplant them into their final growing positions (larger pots, hanging baskets, containers, grow bags) where they are to crop. If you want to grow them outside harden them off first and plant out in a sunny, sheltered position after all risk of frost has passed.

Aftercare

Gently spray the flowers with tepid water to encourage fruit to set, feed the plants weekly after the first fruits begin to form, keep the plants moist but do not overwater. As the fruits develop you may need to stake the plants to support the fruit bearing stems which can become quite heavy.

Sweet Peppers Purple

I grow both Chilli and Sweet Peppers, I give a lot of my Chilli Peppers to friends and family as I am not a big fan of hot spicy food, I do enjoy the Sweet Peppers in salads, stuffed, roasted and stir fried they are delicious.

Happy sowing

Gill

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This week is British Chip Week (16-22 February) and there is no better way to celebrate the humble potato than by eating freshly cooked, crispy chips, whether they are chunky, thin, crinkly or wedged, add your favourite condiment; tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream or traditional salt and vinegar or cover with gravy, curry sauce, baked beans or cheese and enjoy. Chips are so versatile they are a snack, a meal and can be served with most foods they are delicious, filling and we just can’t get enough of them, in Britain almost 676,000 tonnes of British potatoes are made into fresh chips each year.

If you want to have a go at growing your own potatoes this year, now is the perfect time to get started. Commercially potatoes are grown in fields, in Britain we grow around 14,000 hectares of ‘chip’ potatoes each year, if you don’t have a garden or an allotment potatoes can be grown very easily and successfully in growing bags or containers.

Potato Growing Bag 40 Litre

What you will need

What you need to do

  1. Once you get your ‘seed’ potatoes put them into egg trays/boxes with the ‘rose’ end upwards, this is where you might see tiny shoots or the ‘belly button’ end facing downwards and place them in a frost-free light (not sunny) room, this is called chitting and helps the potato to produce strong shoots, which speeds up growing once they are planted, when the shoots are about 2-3cm they are ready to plant.
  2. Fill your bag with compost to a depth of 10cm
  3. Place 4/5 seed potatoes, with the shoots facing upwards, on top of your compost equally spaced out so that they don’t touch each other.
  4. Add another 10 cm layer of good quality potting compost and water well.
  5. Position the bag somewhere sunny and sheltered, on cold nights cover the bag with protective Fleece to prevent frost damage.
  6. As the leaves emerge cover with more Compost and repeat until you reach the top of the bag.
  7. Potatoes need to be kept well watered but not soggy.
  • First Early varieties – plant from end of February until end of May, harvest in approx. 10 weeks
  • Second Early varieties – plant from March until late May, harvest in approx. 13 weeks
  • Early Maincrop varieties – planted from March until late May, harvest in approx. 15 weeks
  • Maincrop varieties – plant from March until mid May, harvest in approx. 20 weeks

Why not give it a go children love planting, growing and harvesting potatoes they taste so much better when they are home grown.

So get growing and have some fun

Gill

 

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Nyjer Seed Feeder

Winter is all about looking after our wonderful wildlife especially the birds, as their natural food resources decline they increasingly rely on us for food and water, putting out a regular supply can make a huge difference. The RSPB monitor British Bird populations using the results from their Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend, if you took part don’t forget to submit your results before 16th February, Schools have another week left to do their Big Schools’ Birdwatch it’s a great classroom activity and a great introduction to birds.

 Blackbird Nest Box

As the days lengthen the birds sense that Spring is on the way, they become noisier this is often to attract a partner or to defend their territory, the next step is to build a nest you may notice birds carrying twigs, feathers or moss in their beaks, now is the perfect time to give birds a hand and put up some nest boxes in your garden/school garden/local community they come in all different sizes and shapes to suit different species of birds, it may take a while for the birds to show an interest in your box, be patient, they will start by ‘checking it out’ to make sure it is suitable and safe, once chosen they will quickly build their nest inside.

Build Your Own Nest Box

Organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to encourage individuals, families, Schools, Groups and Clubs to put up Nest Boxes in their area, National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February) coincides with the half term holidays so get the children involved, choose and put up some nest boxes in your garden, put up different types to encourage more species, if you really want to get ‘hands-on’ my favourite is the Build Your Own Nest Box Kit it contains everything you need (pre-cut, pre-drilled wood pieces, screws, nails, washers and a hanger) to make your own Nest Box it has a 32mm entrance hole making it suitable for a wide variety of birds including House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal, Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatches.

 Nest box showing removable sections

If you want to go ‘high tech’ in the garden why not put up a Bird Box with a Camera, you will be able to watch the day to day life of your birds and witness that special moment when the eggs hatch.

So give a bird a new home, there is nothing more satisfying than a bird nesting in your Bird Box especially if it is one that you have made.

Love your environment

Gill

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