Thursday, November 20, 2008

More plants, and a new direction?

So I bought some more chili plants today, and I have decided that I shouldn't tell my wife. Not yet, anyway. I picked up a Hungarian Wax, and an Orange Habanero. I have been looking at Hungarian Wax plants for quite a while now, and have decided that while its not my first choice, I really want a yellow fruiting plant somewhere. The habanero might be to replace the one I have growing at the moment, because it doesn't seem to be in the best of conditions. Hopefully it will pull through, but if it doesn't, I now have a backup. I'm also going to pot this one into store bought potting mix, the first one went into my home made concoction of food compost, pot-ash, and some of the duplex loam soil that prevails here. Or I might try and get some lighter soil, sand even, for the extra heat it adds.
On another note, I have been looking into hydroponics a lot lately, as they seem to be a great way of growing a huge amount in the small space that I have. I first got the idea off of the Refining Fire website, when I was looking at the pictures up there of the set-up. Then I started to think that it couldn't be that hard, so I have been looking at it in more detail, and, not surprisingly, have found that the best source of free information on the net today, about hydroponics at home, is from the various marijuana growing forums. Everyone else doesn't really have a need for hydroponics (damn all you people with a real garden), or they want to charge you a lot of money to tell you how to grow hydroponically. Another problem I have is that even if I wanted to do it, I would probably have to wait until next year's grow cycle to really grow chillies (I want them to never touch soil), plus I have to overcome my families objections to me taking up our already very small yard. Worth pondering though.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perth Garden update

Well, after a week in Perth hanging out with my plants (and my family), I didn't manage to get even one picture of them that was good enough to put up here on the site. Shocking I know. Hopefully I can get some pics taken by my wife, as I wont be back to see them for over a month at this stage, I'm going to get withdrawal for sure.
So of the plants in Perth, the cherry tomatoes are looking good, there are some sporadic fruits there, but its going to be a while before I get some really good crops from them. I repotted some plants, mainly because the plants were 3 feet high, but were living in a 15cm pot. Not the best. I did some research on plant nutrients, and realised that I was feeding them high nitrogen foliage booster, not exactly what I wanted. So instead, I have now changed over to using a tomato specific liquid fertiliser. I mixed in some slow release npk when I potted the plants, but I'm figuring that the liquid stuff is what I need. Im going to post more about what I have learnt with regards to fertiliser in another post.
My Roma plant is looking pretty good these days, it has a couple of fruit hanging off of it, but the foliage on that one is amazing. It is much more bushy that I had expected. I put a stake in the pot just in case, but it doesn't seem to be necessary at all, very impressed!
The Grosse Lisse's are a little behind the others, but they were two weeks later into the ground, so no big surprise there. The size of some of these ones, though, is pretty amazing, some of them are now over 4 feet and looking very good. I did have the intention of knocking off the lateral shoots, like I was told to do, but when I was looking at the plants, I realised I didn't actually know which ones they were. Needless to say, in the interests of not killing my plants, the shoots are still there. I am open to help on this one though, any takers?
The chillies are doing pretty well, the chili inferno plant has 3 fruit on it (Yay!), and a whole heap of flowers. I decided to try and manually pollinate some of them while I was there, I figured even if I destroy those flowers, there should be enough season left to grow another round.
The mild chili plant isn't showing any signs of reproduction yet, it barely even had any pods on it, hopefully its just a late starter. I hadn't realised how much these two had grown until I saw them next to the habaneros, which are only 2 weeks old, the first two must be 2 feet tall by now.
The habaneros are looking alright, but definitely not amazing. The leaves have curled up along the leaf, forming a U-shape, not sure why that is going on. I fed them with tomato feed, (I am feeding all my chillies with a mixture of Epsom salts and tomato food now, hopefully it makes them grow more fruit), I can only guess it is a nitrogen deficiency, they came from a dodgy nursery so will be interesting to see what happens to them.
The basil all looks pretty good, it seems to be winning its war with the slugs, plus the beer trap is doing its job pretty well. My wife refuses to touch the trap now, she says she doesn't care how many slugs are in it, that's my job and mine alone. Anyway, the plan of growing enough basil to use ifor bottling the tomatoes is working, except I seem to be growing 3 times too much basil. Guess what my friewnds are getting for presents later!
The slugs seem to be winning in the patch of green veggies though, they successfully destroyed one of my pumpkin seedlings, but another one appeared right next to it so should work out al right. The cucumber looks like it has taken a pounding, but should pull through, The peas and beans are growing at an amazing rate, I think they tripled in the size I was there! My mom was surprised that I was growing them now, she doesnt think they will work due to the summer heat. I have no idea what will happen, Im just happy green things are appearing!
I tried a bit of my chocolate mint the other day, it would have to be one of the most amazing plants I have ever smelt. It is exactly like smelling a high quality mint chocolate, I dont think it will have many leaves on it very soon!
I went to the local nursery for a bag of coir mulch for the pots, instead came away with a bag of composting mulch and a Hoa Lat chilli plant. I dont seem to be able to find it on the Chileman's site though, not sure what it really is, or if I have something very new. It is meant to be a hot little sucker, bearing lots of fruit. Either way, my better half has threatened certain parts of my anatomy with certain kitchen knives if any more plants come home, I may have to concede that 12 plants is all I get this year. I am already working on building a list of seeds for next year, although planting time is still 9-10 months away!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why why why?

How is it that I get so frustrated by people? I have been looking at youtube for a little bit tonight, and am finding a lot of videos on people eating the world's hottest chilli. Good idea. Except its not the world's hottest chilli, its a habanero. Not a naga jolokia, bhut jolokia, or whichever pseudonym you wish to use today. And its not even like its hard to find out either, have these people not heard of wikipedia? Sure, what you read may or may not be one person's imagination, or, indeed, a government organisation's late night activities, but is usually pretty reliable. But I digress. These people are smart enough to put their video on youtube, or at least someone they know is, so why not check your facts? I do, however, take a large amount of pleasure from watching them eat their chillies, regardless of which ones they are. At least this is a proper one, with one of my favourite quotes, "It feels like someone tazered my mouth".


Good news

My wife just phoned me, she is in Perth, she said that I have about 40 tomatoes growing right now on my plants, she thinks there are more, but she lost count. The best news is that that is only one Roma plant (with 7 on it) and the rest are cherry tomato, the grosse lisse should be coming along in a couple of weeks. Cant wait to head to Perth to see them!
On another note, my pumpkin seedling was apparently chewed on recently, the leaves are on the ground next to the stem, will have to inspect that one to see what did it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sleep be damned, its research time!

Was just trolling around for info on chilli growing tips, and found that spraying a 2% Epsom salt solution every two weeks or so onto the leaves of the chilli plants will increase the size of the plant substantially, but not so much the yield. Epsom salts are high in magnesium (their chemical name I think is magnesium sulfate), which the plants are supposedly lacking in. I might try spraying a couple when I get the chance, see if there is any noticeable difference. Wont be a real test though, I don't have enough plants of the same type to compare sprayed Vs non-sprayed, plus if its going to help, I want to do it to all my plants! This is what I found at Down to Earth Distributors:
  • Magnesium (Mg) Aids in chlorophyll formation and energy metabolism; it increases oil production in flax and soy beans; helps regulate uptake of other elements.
Quite simple really. Bring on the Epsom!

Plant Update

Since at the moment I am living a few hours away from home, due to the current job that I have, I am also away from most of my plants. I do, however, have a whole bunch of chillies with me, mainly because they will fit in the car with me for the drive back to Perth. Im finding it quite relaxing to have something to look after, which I guess is the reason I got into gardening in the first place. Im trying to become a paramedic, and I figured I should work on stress relief before its needed, get a system going if you will. Anyway, enough rambling, now for the plants:
My Black Pearl, not to be confused with cheap trash of a similar name, I picked it for its ornamental value, plus the fact that I hadnt seen one before. It is a hot variety, apparently around 30'000 scoville units (read on for more), with black fruits ripening to red. A tad smaller than what I would like, will wait and see how it goes.
Red Cayenne Chilli Pepper. An impulse buy, but really, they were all impulse buys. I figured I love cayenne pepper, so why not the plant that provides the raw ingredients! Just got it home yesterday, repotted it last night, sprayed with food today.

My mini sweet chocolate capsicum, not actually a chilli variety, but bought once again for the appearance, it comes from Digger's Heirloom range. The fruit ripens to a 'chocolatey' colour, with a sweet taste. This is the first of my plants to set fruit, with one solitary fruit hanging off of it near the top. It has a couple more flowers on it, so hopefully there is more to come. My orange Habanero plant, hopefully this one gives me lots of fruit, as Im hoping for big things from this one. Just to be sure, I bought another two a week ago, they are in Perth with my other plants, where my better half is taking care of them for me. This one was bought two weeks ago and seems to have droopy leaves, not sure why, but hopefully repotting it into something bigger, as well as adding a lot of compost does the trick. This one, if grown properly, will have fruit with a scoville rating of around 200'000-300'000. To put this into perspective, a rating of 0 means no heat, tabasco sauce is around 2000, serrano peppers come in at 20'000, tabasco chillies are at 30'000-50'000, and the hottest recorded ever is the naga jolokia, which comes in at around 1'000'000 scoville units. That one is on the wishlist for next year. More about that to come...This is my chilli serrano, bought when I didnt think there was much selection around, so I had to buy what I could. Since then (all of 2 weeks ago), I have found that it is regarded as a medium to hot chilli, producing an average crop of fruit. More on this one in upcoming editions.

All of the plants that are on the table in the photos above were just repotted last night, some because the old pots were too small, others because the pots werent mine. I left them in the shade today, tomorrow they will go back in to sunlight again, plus they were all watered with Seasol before transplanting, which is said to lessen the transplant shock. Im using coir mulch to stop too much evaporation, which seems to be working quite well. After two days without water, in 20-25 degree days, the soil is still quite moist a couple of centimetres down. An added bonus, hopefully, is the increased humidity they give off, which should help make the plants hotter.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Garden Update

Well, so far my tomatoes are flowering, as are some of the capsicum varieties, namely the mini sweet chocolate capsicum, and the mild something-or-other chillies I got from Bunnings. Hopefully I get some good fruit off of these ones, I was told to pinch off the early buds to extend the harvest of fruit, but I cant bear to do that this year. somehow, the thought of being mean to my plants just doesn't sit right. Hopefully just a passing fad.
The slugs seem to be enjoying the sweet basil that I have planted around the place, I think its now down to a final battle over how much survives. I have on my side a beer trap, some slug pellets, and a ready salt shaker, while they have protective mucus, large numbers, and the inability to form conscious thought. For the sake of my tomato sauces in the coming months, I hope I win!
I just bought two new chilli seedlings today, having had to rule out growing from seed due to the time of year. I picked up one jalapeno, and one red cayenne, both utterly root bound, and about to be repotted. So far I have just been giving them some Seasol before transplanting, and then putting them in a mix of potting soil, compost, sometimes lime, and sandy soil as a filler. A wise uncle once told me that the sandier the soil, the hotter the chilli, will have to see if this is true.