10 April 2007

On the Nature of Research Gardening

Days are beginning to draw in; night comes a little too early, and Summer's really over. Winter crops – onions, garlic, cabbage tribe and a few other odds and ends – are coming up in seed trays, and I've finally made a start on clearing and composting the (ex-)Tomato beds.

Somewhere sleeting through the Universe for æons, minding its own tiny business, comes an Idea Particle...

A couple of years ago I stopped treating Chillis1 as Annuals, although that's how most people grow them. "After all," I thought, "they're true Perennials, and since we don't get any frost here, why am I ripping them out fo the ground each Autumn, and starting new plants every Spring?" Sure enough, it works brilliantly. It means I get Chillis as much as six weeks earlier than new-season plants, and its well worth it, even though the fruit gets a bit smaller each season, and the plants produce somewhat less. One Jalapeño bush is reaching the end of its third season, and still prolific enough to be worth hanging onto. So now I have Chillis on a 3-year rotation, but...

Still not satisfied. I generally sow Chillis in September, placing the seed-trays atop a warm compost heap. Chillis like a bit of bottom heat to get going, but I have on occasion cooked the seeds with my over-enthusiastic hot compost. With September sowing (I've tried August, but its a bit too early for them) I generally start harvesting around the end of January or mid-Feb. What would happen, though if I sow Chillis now -- in April!

In theory the weather is still warm enough for them to germinate and put in a bit of growth before they shut down for Winter in about mid-June. Without frost they should be fine until the weather warms up (and plants can tell these things much, much better than we!) Then they should get off to a flying start and be fruiting by early December, but with all the advantage of being "new-season" plants.

So we'll see... Remind me to report back in October or November (unless some other disaster strikes.) Today I planted a couple of dozen each of Jalapeño, Habanero, Serrano and Cherry Peppers -- all favourites of mine.

Parting Shot

One shot good quality Vodka, well chilled in the freezer.
One Serrano pepper, quartered lengthwise, but not all-the-way.

Drop the Serrano into the Vodka. Leave alone for 3 to 5 minutes if you can. Sip.

But slowly!

[1] I know that lots of people spell it "Chile" or some other baroque monstrosity, but I can't get the hang of that.

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