Archive for the 'Coldframe' Category

mtp

Early Sowings

I started sowing a few seeds today, in-between the over-Wintering Lettuce in the coldframe. Just a few, then if they don’t work out it’s not the end of the world. I sowed a little Cauliflower (Gipsy), Carrot (Early Nantes 2) and some pointy Cabbage (Pyramid). All early varieties.

I’ve found in the past that the early Carrots do quite well in the coldframe. I can grow them quite close together (just not touching) since I will be harvesting them nice and young anyway.

The Cabbage I will transplant into the garden in early Spring so that they can grow to their final size. There really isn’t enough room in the coldframe.

And I just sowed a handful of Cauliflowers and will probably thin them to just three and then sow some more in about a month. I really don’t want a glut of Cauliflowers all ready at the same time and they take up so much room in the garden. Starting them early in the coldframe is the only way for me as they will be grown and harvested before the Cabbage whites can get to them.

mtp

Coldframe Lettuce

The Lettuce in my coldframe are romping away. All this mild weather has confused them and encouraged them to put on a growth spurt. But I don’t want them to get too big just now.

Hopefully the weather will settle down a bit into a more wintry pattern and they will slow down a bit. I want nice large heads in Spring next year not salad ready in time for Christmas!

mtp

Carrot Seedlings Emerging

The Carrots that I sowed in the coldframe a few weeks ago are already pushing through. I think it’s all this mild weather we’ve been having. I always sow a few Carrots in the coldframe so that I can grow them on and harvest some small but perfect early Carrots (Early Nantes) before anything else gets going.

I have sowed some direct into finely raked soil in the open garden. At the moment they are covered with fleece in case we get a frosty night. No sign of them yet but I didn’t expect to see anything yet anyway.

The main garden is looking pretty bare in general right now, with the exception of some Tulips and the wall fruit flowers. But it’s all just waiting to burst into life!

mtp

Success with Cauliflowers!

I can hardly believe I’m writing this but after years of trying to grow an edible Cauliflower I’ve actually gone and managed it. I’m in shock.

I harvested this Cauliflower a few days ago but there are another five or six of them in the ground. Before I went on holiday the plants were quite big and the middle leaves were starting to tighten. But there was no sign of a Cauliflower. When I came back from holiday (two weeks later) I had seven beautiful Cauliflowers, all in a row. I was amazed.

I have tried several different approaches in the past; liming the ground, netting the whole crop, using brassica collars. All to no avail. Every time, I ended up with something that was only fit for the compost pile.

The secret to my success this time must be that I sowed the seed last Autumn and over-wintered them in my coldframe. I then planted them out in early Spring and have been watering them like crazy during the last few dry months. I’ve also been feeding them with chicken manure pellets, once or twice since I planted them in the ground.

They seem to love it and have rewarded me with some beautiful curds. I made Cauliflower Cheese with the first one and all three of us virtually licked our plates it tasted so Cauliflowery. I’m always amazed how homegrown veg tastes are more intense than shop bought.

Next year I’ll be trying to repeat my success by sowing in Autumn again.

mtp

How to Grow Chillies

I don’t tend to grow Chillies here at My Tiny Plot. Firstly, because I don’t have a greenhouse and secondly because I’m not a huge fan of spicy food. So I was very happy when the Chilli King offered to write a short post on how to grow Chillies. And here it is:

Growing Chilli Peppers is easier than most people think. Even in the relatively cool UK climate Chillies can be easily grown providing all the spice you need to get you through the cold winters!

There are literally thousands of varieties of Chilli plants out there to choose from. Below is a small selection of varieties you’ll find in most shops that sell seed or plants.

The main image above is a Jalapeno – A thick-walled pepper of medium heat often used as a pizza topping. Great pickled.

Above is a Cayenne Pepper – Long, thin and red. Medium heat. Best eaten either fresh or dried and crushed into flakes.

This is a Habanero/Scotch Bonnet Pepper – These are intensely hot but also flavorsome Peppers used a lot in Caribbean cuisine. Best eaten fresh or made into hot sauces.

Naga/Bhut Jolokia – Thin and slightly shriveled these are amongst the hottest chillies in the world. User very sparingly in cooking!

Caring For Chilli Plants

If you can then keep them in a greenhouse then do so (they’ll love the heat) however Chilli plants will do equally well outside in a sunny spot. Treat them much as you would a Tomato plant. They like heat and lots of light but are easily damaged by cold spells of weather.

Now we are in June it is probably too late to start off your Chillies from seed. If you haven’t already planted some (ideally you should plant your seeds indoors in March) then buying small plants from the garden centre is your best option. Their increasing popularity over recent years has meant that most garden centres now stock many varieties, both seed and plants.

Chilli plants prefer well-draining soil as they don’t like having their feet wet so always water from the top. I water once every other day on average, waiting until the soil is visibly dry on the surface before watering. I tend to use regular potting compost mixed with a couple of handfuls of Vermiculite that helps to retain nutrients and some (but not too much) moisture around the roots

So long as they get lots of light they should grow fairly quickly. Lack of light can cause leggy plants which may mean they need pinching out to encourage sideways growth. When they start to flower feed them twice a week with half-strength Tomato feed. Pollination shouldn’t be a problem if your plants are outside however if growing indoors you may find flowers simply dying and dropping off caused by the lack of insects pollinating the flowers. To combat this you can easily pollinate by hand by very gently rubbing your little finger inside all the flowers on each plant every couple of days.

All varieties of Chilli can be picked and eaten at any stage of growth. Most varieties tend to ripen from green through brown to red with the flavour becoming sweeter the nearer to red they are. As with Tomato plants, picking fruit will encourage the plants to produce more.

Another common misconception about Chillies is that they are annuals. In-fact most varieties can be successfully over-wintered by pruning right back and moving inside in mid Autumn. While not every plant will make it through the Winter, those that do will mean you get a good head start on the next year. From my experience Chilli plants tend to produce heavier yields in their second or even third years.

Author Bio:

James runs The Chilli King, a site dedicated to growing chillies. For a more in depth article, be sure to read his piece on growing Chilli plants.

If anyone out there has specialist knowledge in one particular type of vegetable or fruit and would like to guest post, then drop me a line.

mtp

Ventilating My Coldframe

We’ve been having some unseasonably dry, sunny weather here in the UK. I’ve been out in the garden almost every day and everything has put on a growing spurt. My Tomatoes have been hardening off well in a sheltered spot, my Courgette, Pumpkin and French Bean seeds have sprouted. Heck, I’ve even got three Melon seedlings coming on in the cloche.

I’ve been watering the garden like mad to keep things growing and to take advantage of the sunny weather to get things going. It seems to have worked. But I almost had a disaster the other day. I went out and forgot to open my coldframe. When I came back my Lettuce seedlings were gasping for breath and looking very sorry for themselves. I watered them quickly and made sure to ventilate the frame every day since.

My coldframe is the in the south-facing corner and so gets the sun almost all day. When it’s closed it can get really hot in there and when seedlings are very small their root system isn’t large enough to seek out water and they get over-heated very quickly.

I won’t be making the same mistake again.

mtp

Say Hello To…!

…our new friend, the coldframe. It cost just £44 from our local garden centre (actually this was the cheapest price I could find for this type of frame – even online!). So now you’re thinking, “£44 for that! – I could have made one out of bits of wood scavenged from skips.” Well, that may be true but that relies on two things happening. One, that I can find a supply of wood and two that I have the carpentry skills to put it together. Certainly item number two on that list is lacking and item number one assumes I can be bothered to find wood. So my purse is £44 lighter, but in exchange I am the proud owner of a brand new coldframe – complete with adjustable lid and everything!