Sunday, 14 June 2009

Chillies Ahoy!!!

I thought I should really devote a little piece of the blog to my balcony grown plants this year. I'm growing 2 Apache chilli plants and some tumbler cherry tomatos in pots. Its a first for me for the chillies, but I have grown tomatos in pots for the past couple of years. Over the past two weeks the chilli plants have become laden with flowers and since we are on the second floor, I can't really rely on insects to do the pollinating for me, so I've been 'artificially inseminating' them myself with a small brush. To my delight I can now announce that my chilli plants are pregnant!!!! I have succeeded in getting the plants well and truly 'up the pole!' There is a small bulb at the base of each flower now and below you can see the first of hopefully many chillies forming very quickly. This ones been growing millimetres each day! So I'll have to look up some recipes for chilli jam, chilli sauce and any other things to do with chillies. I have to say they are so successfull I could very easily see myself getting addicted to growing these guys and I'm already planning to try different varieties next year. Apache, jalapeno, and perhaps some Thai birds eye. Each plant is supposed to give up to 50 chillies so I'd better come up with some ideas for using them.

The tomato plants are also covered in flowers which are starting to fade and I'll know by next week if these are also going to be fruitful. Hmmmm chilli and tomato ketchup springs to mind.

This week we arrived down to plot 103 to find the slugs had been munching on our pumkins. I checked the slug traps and unfortunately again, no slugs. But the lettuce seedlings so far remain untouched!!

I did however manage to find our traps had been successful at catching something! The evidence speaks for itself really. You see our bean and pea bed is right next to the lettuce bed. Dare I say it, it may be possible that I have been just a touch unfair to the marauding bands of squirrels. It might be just a little possible that I have unfairly blamed the squirrels for the devastation and masacre of our peas and beans. There is a slight possibility that, yes.., I may have been a little...wrong! When I pulled up one of our slug traps I found it had caught something, certainly furry, and certainly a rodent, however most definately not a squirrel. The trap had caught and drowned what I think was a small young baby rat. It certainly wasn't a mouse as I've had mice before unfortunately in my apartment when we moved in and became very aquainted with them!! eeuuw! This guy was quite different, was obviously too small to be an adult and must have been a young rat.

At first I was sceptical that he was a rat as he was so small and I thought perhaps he was a vole until I did some reading and found that surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be any voles in ireland. Well, mouse or young rat, It's quit likely that this is the actual culprit for the destruction of our peas, which have now thankfully been replaced with healthy strong seedlings raised on the balcony. To all squirrels, I am tentatively sorry!! In light of the continual failure of our slug traps I think we may need to try and source some organic slug pellets. The beans however appear to be suffering from some sort of mineral or trace element deficiency. I suspect it may be short of Nitrogen, as our soil is slightly acidic and quite sandy, this would impede the uptake of nutrients in the plants and manifest itself as yellowing of the leaves. I've left a query up on the gardenplansireland forum to see if the good people there can shed some light on the situation and hopefully provide a remedy.

Our spuds are doing very nicely and were well in need of some earthing up, which we did. This guy in particular needed to be earthed up badly but they seem to be growing fast and strong, so far with no sign of blight but as there are blight warnings around we'll have to take some precautions. Ireland is particularly prone to potato blight due to our very wet climate, and the recent warm humid weather we've had has most certainly raised the alert.

William the allotment guru kindly offered to give them a quick spray against the blight, the first signs of which may be affecting other potato plants around the allotments, some leaves are showing tinges of brown around the edges. Unfortunately when it comes to potato blight as us Irish know only too well, if you don't stop it in its tracks before it turns into a severe attack, you will loose your entire crop. On that note I just had to put a sneaky photo of Williams plot just so that you know I have a legitimate reason to be jealous and green with envy!!

I'm beginning to wonder if our plot will ever look this good. The weeds have well and truly gotten a hold and we began thinking for next year, definately at least edging all of the beds with wood and perhaps raising them up a little. We'll dig the soil thoroughly in the autumn and ensure everything is well fed, manured and prepared properly for next year. At least then we will have the full year to prepare as this year we got the allotment so late in the season we had to rush to get things in.
The signs of our first crop are very evident, the strawberry plants are beginning to show the first strawberries, and our raspberries are also showing their first fruit. I gave all a good feeding with organic tomato plant food to give them an extra boost while they are hard at work setting fruit.
The sprouts and brocolli we planted out a couple of weeks ago are coming on well and have hardened and strengthened nicely from the weak seedlings I started off on the balcony. The first cabbages we planted out are shooting up and thankfully with no signs of caterpillars thanks to the cheap lidl netting. If we had to be successful against only one of our multitude of pests, It would have to at least be my nemesis the butterfly!! So far, plot 103....1...ugly fluttery hairy thing ...nil......!!
We planted out the sweetcorn we had started on the balcony and hopefully they'll take off as well as all the other transplanted seedlings. We also sowed some more lettuce to have a successional crop throughout the season and a few more rows of carrots.
The carrot and parsnip seedlings were looking very overcrowded as were the spring onions between the rows so I thinned them out a bit and couldn't get over the sweet smell of the the thinnings. It was so strong it got me thinking, how did we ever get so used to mass produced tasteless veg we know from the multinational supermarkets. It really is a shame that with today methods of mass production so much of the flavour of veg and fruit is lost. Many people really don't know what veg should really taste like, the carrots are so much more carroty, the cabbage more cabbagey. When I began growing my own tomatos a few years ago I couldn't get over how much stronger the flavour was compare to the tasteless unripe stuff we've become accustomed to in the shops. Limp watery veg and fruit that has been picked and harvested far before it should, and allowed to ripen artificially on the boat or plane on the way over here. Such a pity! If only everyone could try to grow even just a little of their own food, it doesn't take much space to grow a few tumbling tomatos, or a few pots or window boxes of lettuce, if anything just to realise how good veg and fruit is supposed to be, and of course the true satisfaction that you have grown your own food, cared for and nurtured it, makes it that much sweeter. Irelands 'get growing' campaign has been started by the Green party to promote just that and the website which I have linked in the links section gives all sorts of advice on growing your own, how to get growing in allotments, community gardens, at home or in school. Its one cause I've certainly got to give the thumbs up to. So get out there and get growing!


  1. Hi Sharon, that was a long post!All of your fruit and veg is thriving and you will soon be reaping the harvest of all your hard work.You did start late but have really made up for it. Potato blight is horrible we had it last year and our pops were tiny as we had to dig them up early but this years crop is great and we can see why we like growing our own as you so rightly say the difference is certainly the taste.Enjoy the Open Day

  2. Thanks Peggy, I do tend to rant a bit!! You see I get overly enthusiastic and when I get going theres no stopping me! Its the butt of many a joke among my friends..oops. We;re hoping the blight won't take hold and so far most of the spuds look the picture of health so hopefull if it is blight we got it early.