Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Critters are waking up.

Slowly, things are warming up, and with the micer weather, so the little creatures are comming back to life. Whilst doing some spring cleaning, I came across these ladybirds, hibernating in the corners of the windows in the spare room.

My message, is 'Leave them alone'. I say this as I did once hear one shopper in our local shop asking for fly killer for these lovely aphid eaters. I did explain that they were organic pest control, but some people don't like to be told what to do in thier own homes. She was a tad shocked when I told here how much ladybirds cost to buy as organic aphid control.

One of the others which like to over-winter inside our houses are Lacewings, if you see these, please leave in peace.

Monday, 3 January 2011

An Island of Fire?

Two Ducks, and a Duckling.
In a charming village betwen Bath and Bristol, on the quieter and more pleasant road to drive along, there will be something rather special to have a look at later this year. Yes, we at Simpsons Seeds are teaming up with the ‘Duck’s at Upton Cheyney Chilli Co, that is Alex and louise, plus Jessica, (the duckling).
They have been selling the book Chilli, Chili Chile, (http://www.simpsonsseeds.co.uk/shop/copy_of_Books.html ) for sometime at the farm shop, however after a few late night conversations the idea of a special show tunnel came up. I am able to supply about 100 different types of capsicum, note I say capsicum, as some sweet peppers will be on display, some of their cousins , the tomato, will also be on display, along with a few other plants, companion or useful flowers to help keep pests down.
This project is something for us all to get excited about, currently I am sketching out designs, based on two central island, the first as you enter the tunnel will have some of my favourite chillies, the Rocoto’s, both the red and yellow, and the two pod shape, long and squat. These will be joined by my other ‘favourite’ chillies, the baccatums, tall growing chillies, very tall, in some cases well over 6 feet tall, these shall be central in the first island, some edging will take place. Perhaps some sweet peas? Seriously, they help to reduce pests.
The tunnel will be edged with annuums, and a few frutescens, leaving the final island to host the chinense’s, an island of fire? Island of Fire eh? Sounds like something from an Arthur Conan-Doyle tale. The Upton Cheyney Island of Fire...
All this within a few minutes drive for the good people of Bath and Bristol. 2011 is going to be a great year I believe.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Blight, lets try to avoid it.

well, all this comes froma conversation this morning with a customer, who has a new garden to play in, and is going to try tomatoes again. The poor fellow had suffered very badly from Tomato Blight at his last place, and asked for any tips to help rduce the risk. Sadly Blight can be carried on the breeze, which makes allotments such a dangeous place for toms and potatoes.
But we did come up with a few ideas on how we could reduce the chances of an outbreak, so here they are.
I ought to point out that these are theorectical ideas, that were bourne out of a conversation on a bitterly cold winters day.

1 as Blight can live in the soil, sterilise the soil where you will be growing tmos, this can be done with Jeyes Fluid, or other agents, have a look in your garden centre and see which ones you feel happy with. I tend to go for Jeyes, as I like to use what is freely availiable to our custmoers.
2 Blight, living in the soil can 'splash back' up onto the stem and leaves of your plants, so to prevent this, watering needs to be done with care, one tip is not water directly around the plant, but to cut the top away from an empty soft drink bottle and invert this by the pant stem, support with a cne and some gaffer tape, then water/feed into the up turned bottle.
3 Taking step 2 a stage further, as a heavy rain storm may cause spashback, esp after a spell of hot dry weather, I suggest that you grow toms through a porouis membrane, these are sold under a variety of different names, such as Terram, or Phormisol. They are made out of woven nylon strips. Do not use the material sold a weed proof mebrane for paths, this does not transmit water very well.
4 Wood chip, and if poss use Oak chip, this idea behind this is that Oak conatins a hight level of tannins, and Oak bark can be effective against some for of fungi, hence the slow rate at which fungi rots Oak down. So by my system of logic, Oak chippings should upset any blight spores in the soil.

Well I hope these thoughts are worth sharing.

Finally, it seems as if the Americans are not too keen on us, they seem to be a little bit peeved at the ability of UK growers to top the 'Magic Million' SHU's, with varieties which score about 6-800,000 SHU's over there. Sadly they cannot compre hand that with glashouses we have temps which mathc theirs, and with our longer summertime days, were beating them hands down.

Happy christmas everyone.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Pickled Frogs and a Lemon Curse.

When our chilli customers 'phone in their orders, more thana few have asked how I came up with the name, and the history behind it. Well the history is the best place to start.

My good friend Sarah Wain, who is in charge of of West Dean Gardens nr Chichester, Sussex, sent me a selection of chilli seeds, all members of the cap baccatum family, one which I have championed for some years due to their unique flavour. Sarah told me she had recieved them from another grower, but had no names to go with them, just trial numbers, so I was left with a series of numbers for names. This was back at the end of 2009, so now lets skip a few monthes, to mid Sept this year, we are having tasting sessions at the Nursery, as usual I am hovering around the tasting tables, listening to comments and answering the odd question. One of our regular customers, a serious small holder an producer of many pickles comments that no 4 would make a great pickle, not being a fan of pickles, I decied to take his word for it. But the variety needed more, then I was reminded of a wonderful Monty Python sketch, titled the Whizzo Quality Assortment, have a look on Youtube. Typed words will not convey the humour, so all I'll say is that if they took the bones out it would not be crunchy.........

Here it is, or should I say, here they are

The Aji Pickled Frogs

Now for a Lemon Curse?
Have nothing to fear. As a producer of veg seeds, I am often left with waste, and like most folks I hate waste. Now Cucumber flesh, once they have been grown for seeds has no use at all, it tends to be a rather sickly yellow and is only good for the compost heap. Tomatoes can be used for soups and other cooked dishes. I like to fill my freezer with bags of soup for the winter, but chillies have always been a bit of a problem. I had wanted to make my own sauces, and had a few problems finding the right sauce people to work with, after some mistakes I am delighted to be working with the Upton Cheyney Chilli Co, who are just the other side of Bath. Already we have made some wonderful creations, the first was 'Sunshine', which we made for this years Chilli Fiesta at West Dean, where it also sold out. For the Corsely Show we produced a deliscious combination of plums, Baccatum chillies and honey, which we called the 'Beauty of Baccatum, this too sold out on the day.
I have spent the last few days having a wonderful time in the kitchen working on Five! Brand new chilli sauces, which shall go into production in the new year, they are
Horny Goat, made with Goat Horn chillies.
Rock n'Roll, Rocoto's and hint of Jack Daniels.
Fruit Burst, made with the Habanero I developed through selecion here at the Nursery.
Lemon Curse, with the wonderful Lemon Drop Chilli.
Finally, and one to be wary of
Megalodon, made with lethally strong 7-Pot, which for two seasons ina row has been measured at over 1,000,ooo Scoville Heat Units, (SHU's).
There is a bit of a 'broo-haa' building up of this chilli, I'll write about this one in a few days.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Two weeks to go.

No its not Christmas, the date I have in mind is December 14th, the day I try to sow my hot cap chinense chilli peppers. Why? you ask, well, a week later and its the winter solstice, and the days start to get a little bit longer. To me, and a few other friends, some sort of hippy orientated, some horticulturists, feel that its one of the most significant dates in the calender. Anyway, I have always held the belief that plants have some sort of rudimentary intelligence, apart from 'Tropisms, please excuse me if I misspell that word. but they are clearly aware of changing seasons. Anyway, back to the point, having been sown on the 14th, they should be starting to poke their little heads out of the compost by the 21st. So I aim for that date. Not all will be up within a week, they are one of the slower types of chilli pepper to come out of their seeds.

In order to give them their the best start in life and to protect them against the cold of January and February, I use a wonderful propagator made by Greenhouse Sensation, (strange I thought I was one of those). Greenhouse sensation are based Ooop North, so understand getting things going in the cold.

Now these very early sowings are for our use at the nursery, mainly varieties I want to produce seed from, but not all, some will be used to create sauces, oils and some other tasty goodies, but more of them in later blogs.

Back to the baby chilli peppers, its only members of the cap chinense which I start of this early, members of the other families are quicker out of the blocks. For example, a cap annuum may be 18 inches tall in early April, whilst a cap chinense will be about 3inches. They also tend to fruit a bit later, so giving them an early start means a larger plant, and more fruit.

I feel that as this is my first blog, its not going to purely about chillies, as or motto is, 'Putting Flavour First', its going to be about all things relating to the nursery and the seed business. However things are, (please excuse me), hotting up in the chilli world, with the possibility of a trans Atlantic ruckus starting, so watch this space.