Treat Chilli’s as perennials for an amazing harvest

I’ve successfully grown Chilli’s for many years. They’re a useful and easy crop to grow, not minding a bit of rough treatment; in fact they seem to thrive on neglectful watering!  Once ripe I pop the Chilli’s in the freezer and use them as needed throughout the year. To be honest we always grow far too many for our own consumption, so many get passed on to a friend who’s a complete chilli fiend.Chilli 'Ring of Fire'

Chilli’s are the first packet of seeds I reach for come the start of the seed sowing season in February, they seem to need a longer growing season. I keep them in the greenhouse or conservatory and by July their first fruit begins to appear and start to ripen.

I have always treated Chilli’s as annual plants, but last year I read that Chilli plants thrive in their second year if treated as a perennial.  So I thought I’d give it a go; overwintering them in my frost free conservatory. Their leaves all dropped off and the plants took on a convincingly dead appearance. The sparse watering and frost free position during winter seemed to work, come spring leaves started to shoot and flowers quickly set, resulting in a fabulous chilli crop so far this year. It will be interesting to see how they perform in their third year.

Chilli Ring of Fire Year 2Chilli ‘Ring of Fire’ in its second year

In comparison the Chilli’s I sowed this year are fruiting, but yet to turn red. The quantity of fruit is also significantly less. It should be noted that they did have a tough start in life as I forgot to pot them  on and it was only when I popped them in a larger pot a month ago that the plants developed and tripled in size! I suspect this would make my little experiment scientifically invalid, however most decisions in my life are dictated by my faithful ‘gut instinct’  so I would highly recommend changing your chilli growing technique from annual to perennial!

hilli Ring of Fire sown this yearChilli ‘Ring of Fire’ in its first year

Todays Chilli harvestTodays Chilli harvest




What is ‘Produce from the garden’?

Someone has made my day! They left a little card in the flower pot that collects the money on my honesty stall. It says:

‘Your flowers are beautiful. So glad I’ve found you… Thank you for your lovely arrangements that bring my home alive!’

CardThe lovely card I recieved today

What a kind and lovely thing to do. It’s put a huge smile on my face. It also comes at an apt time. During the last week I’ve been thinking about ‘Produce from the garden’, trying to pin down exactly what it is so I can develop and help it evolve. The lovely gesture of this card ties in perfectly and reflects my thoughts.

‘Produce from the garden’ is a simple, natural and beautiful way of life, taking pleasure and produce from the garden to share with your friends and family.

‘Produce from the garden’ is a philosophy of seeing beauty in your garden, taking it inside; bringing your home to life. Whether it be home grown vegetables determining your meals, flowers brightening up your kitchen table, a cup of tea enjoyed with a friend sat amongst your flowers or a graceful butterfly that catches your eye, an autumn mobile constructed from fallen leaves or whips of willow weaved into a heart and hung from a door handle. ‘Produce from the garden’ rewards you with simple pleasures that require minimum effort and budget but give maximum satisfaction that you can share with friends and family. Every day you’re rewarded with ‘Produce from the garden’.

‘Produce from the garden’ is not about horticultural perfection, it’s more about the acceptance of a few weeds and a tatty lawn, eliminating garden worries , freeing and enabling us to see the beauty, taking abundant pleasure and produce from our plot.



A visit from a Kestrel

We’ve just been visited by a Kestrel who sat on our telegraph wire, starred me out, then moved onto the TV areal, and then off. I’ve not noticed a Kestrel visit before. I often hear the loud call of hunting buzzards high above in groups but until now we’ve not seen a Kestrel.

Kestrel on telegrapg wireThe Kestrel on our telegraph wire

Kestrel on our TV arealKestrel on our TV areal

Kestrel leaving usThe Kestrel leaving us




Drying poppy seed heads

Last summer I was so taken with the beautiful contorted stems of the opium poppy seed heads that I decided to cut and dry a few to display in a vase.  Not only did they look striking on the kitchen window sill they also filled the sparse home grown flower gap between November and February.

A vase of dried poppy seed headsLast years poppy stems that have filled a space on my kitchen window sill

Dried poppy seed headI love the dried poppies natural patina

This year I thought I’d fill a vase with poppy seed head stems, so we can have a large arrangement in our sitting room over the winter. I grow double opium poppies in my borders which happily self seed each year, they look gorgeous whilst in flower but once over their leaves start to die back leaving an unsightly mess in the border. Pull the whole plants out and break off the long poppy head stems from the main plant, stripping away the untidy leaves, this reveals the stunning contorted poppy stems and their amazing architectural seed heads.

Opium poppy when overThe poppies finished flowering and are now a messy sight in the flower bed

Papaver paeoniflorum - opium poppies doubleThe poppy in flower before revealing its wonderful seed canister

Poppy seed headsThe poppy stems stripped of leaves and popped in a vase

Poppy seed heads in a vaseThe poppy stems left in a corner to dry, come November they’ll be moved to pride of place in the sitting room

I think the poppy stems muted green seed heads with the white hazy polish that coats them looks fabulous now but I know as they dry the colour will change to the golden brown which will give our sitting room a warm, natural statuesque dimension in those lean winter months.



Powdery Mildew

I’ve discovered Mildew on my cucumbers in the green house. The cucumber fruit should be fine, but if the Mildew is left to spread it will reduce the vigour of the plant. So action is needed.

MildewThe white marks of Powdery Mildew on my Cucumber leaves

Mildew on cucumber leafMildew spots on this cucumber leaf

Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that will frequently strike Cucumbers, Courgettes and Squashes. It often occurs during dry periods when the plant is feeling a little stressed by lack of water and is more susceptible to the air borne Mildew spores. When trying to combat Mildew your first action must be to carefully remove the affected leaves and burn them, this will hopefully reduce the spread of spores. Next give the plants a good water and keep them well watered for the rest of the summer. My mildew infected cucumbers are in the greenhouse with a watering system that comes on for a few minutes each morning. I don’t think this has been sufficient, so I’m going to start watering twice a day to help prevent re-infection. My final plan to rid us of Mildew is an untested treatment I recently heard about; spraying with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). I am going to dilute 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to 1 gallon (4.5 litres) of water and spray the affected plants. I’ll report back on the effectiveness of this potion.

Cucumber Burpless Tasty GreenMy first developing Cucumber (Burpless Tasty Green) which seems unaffected by the Mildew


Thinning apples

I consider turning compost heaps, picking up hedge cuttings and thinning baby apples to be boring, laborious and tedious jobs; they’re essential but I’ll try desperately to avoid them! Thank goodness I don’t have an orchard, but I do have sixteen apple trees, so I’ve made a deal with myself to try and thin fruit on one maybe two (if I’m on a roll) trees a day.

Thinning apples down to two fruits per spur at this time of year has a variety of advantages: space is made for large fruit to develop, you can discard any unhealthy looking apples, and it allows air to circulate reducing the chance of pests and diseases to establish. Just pull by hand the apples you wish to discard from the cluster.

Apples to be thinnedA group of apples ready to be thinned

Apples after thinningThe same apples after thinning

Apples before thinningA very congested group of apples

Apples after thinning The group of apples after thinning

To make the job even less appealing I stupidly dropped the apples to the ground; tomorrow I will come armed with an apple thinning bucket!

Discarded applesDiscarded apples that need collecting up for the compost heap; before my boys find them for ammunition!

After completing the removal of apples from the first tree I wandered back up the kitchen garden, and was rewarded with my first Gladioli buds of the year.

Gladioli Purple Flora in budGladioli Purple Flora in bud


Fabulous cut flowers and famine to feast (I hope!)

What a busy start to summer, sadly this blog has become a little neglected.  I console myself with the knowledge that my third and final son starts school in September (I’m going to be cheering and clicking my heels when I leave the school gates that day). I fully intend to establish a weekly kitchen garden routine with plenty of time to blog, I do love a positive and productive plan of action.

I have not completely let the blog go, I have been taking lots of pictures so todays posting will be the story of the kitchen garden over the last few weeks told in pictures, there are triumphs, disasters, and a bit of death and destruction!

The cut flowers have been fabulous so far this year; the plants have thrived in the damp warm weather. These pictures show the amazing growth in the new cutting border in the space of just two weeks, the middle of June to the start of July.

The new cutting border start of JulyThe new cutting border at the start of July

Cutting border Mid June 2The same border in mid June

Cutting border on the drivewayThe cutting border at the start of July

Cutting border mid JuneThe same border two weeks previously, an amazing rate of growth

The star cut flower players have been Salvia Vardis Oxford Blue, Cornflower Black Ball, Nicotiana Lime Green, Antirrhinum, Calendula and Sweet Williams. The Dahlias, Cosmos and Sunflowers are bushing out well ready to produce abundant blooms in the next few weeks.

salvia viridis oxford blueSalvia Viridis Oxford Blue

Cornflower Black BallCornflower Black Ball



Nicotiana Lime GreenNicotiana Lime Green

Bunch of flowers from the cutting borderA bunch of flowers from the cutting border

Flowers for a BBQ from the cutting borderFlowers for a BBQ from the cutting border

Ticking away in my head are plans for a new large ornamental border at the top of our lawn, it will incorporate roses I moved from a traditional (old fashioned) border I grassed over in Spring. I understand that Salvias possess many complementary qualities for roses, reducing risk of disease and encouraging strong healthy plants. This has sparked a new passion for me, Hardy Salvias, beautiful sophisticated blooms which just seem to go on and on. Here are a few of my current favourites and maybe the odd Penstemon and Dianthus. I do try very hard to keep this blog focussed on the kitchen garden, but, these are a bit special and can’t be missed!

Salvia Cerro PotosiSalvia Cerro Potosi

Salvia NachtvlinderSalvia Nachtvlinder

Salvia Stormy PinkSalvia Stormy Pink

Penstemon Just JaynePenstemon Just Jayne

Penstemon Sour GrapesPenstemon Sour Grapes

Dianthus Rainbow LovelinessDianthus Rainbow Loveliness – a stunner!

Compared with the cut flowers the vegetable plot has not felt so productive. Like many we’ve suffered terrible slug problems. I started going out in the evening and cutting the slimy vermin in half, this seemed to have no impact. Our slug population was enormous thanks to the mild winter and wet spring/early summer their perfect climate, slug paradise was then achieved by feasting on the sumptuous delicacies that were being planted out and germinating from my directly sown seeds. Sadly the only viable solution was slug pellets followed by crack of dawn trips to the kitchen garden to collect up the poisoned slugs before the birds got to them. It worked; I filled flower pot after flower pot with dead slugs – YUK! But thankfully the vegetable plants are starting to recover and begin their productive romp. My main gripe which has made me very grumpy has been the lack of salad leaves, I now live in hope that the seeds will develop and I’ll soon be able to pick my lunch again on a daily basis.

I make the vegetable patch feel and sound worse than it is, we’re not going hungry. We’ve been cropping Mangetout, Courgettes, a few French Beans and Tomatoes, Peas, Broadbeans and enjoyed some delicious Artichoke suppers. I’ve harvested the garlic and will plant out the winter cabbages in their place during the coming weeks.

Veg patch JulySome of the Vegetable beds at the start of July

Mixed Veg BedA mixed vegetable bed of Kale and Cape Gooseberries, the Nasturtium are a sacrificial planting for the cabbage white butterflies and their hungry caterpillars

French BeansFrench Beans

Courgette BedThe Courgette bed making a recovery frm the slugs

Tomato SungoldTomato Sungold

Cucumber - Burpless Cucumber  – Burpless

Aubergine plantMy best looking Aubergine plant. I never manage to grow successful Aubergine, maybe it’s time to accept defeat!

GarlicThe garlic harvest, ready to be dried out in the conservatory before storing in a cool dark place

There is definite hope for the kitchen garden, bumper crops will be on their way, it’s just been a tricky start to year and I do miss my salad leaves.