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Anticipation in the April garden

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Post by Chilli-head on 1st April 2016, 10:51 am

Anticipation is about all I have ! Out in the garden, the ground is still very wet to work on the Chilli-head plot.  Only broad beans, early potatoes and overwintering onions and garlic are in.  Mind you, the garlic is looking very good, no gaps and a good amount of growth.  I might have expected it to rot in this wet !

In the greenhouse, it is looking like being a Mexican year ! The milder Mexican chillies - Ancho and Mulato - have emerged well.  Also good are Ohnivec, and the red pepper seeds I saved myself.  The Thai Dragon were quite old seed, and show no signs yet, neither do tomato Costoluto Fiorentino which was also old seed.  The Capsicum chinense varieties, Ecuadorian Devil's breath and Red Savina are yet to show, but normally are slow to emerge and need a lot of heat.

Time to build my big propagator.  I need to separate stuff, the tomatoes need potting on. That will leave the small propagator free - so I can crank it to 25 or 26C to try and force those Red Savina up !


Last edited by Chilli-head on 1st May 2016, 11:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Dandelion on 1st April 2016, 9:34 pm

With the night time temperatures forecast to be a bit higher over the next week, I've moved some of the larger tomato plants out to the (unheated) greenhouse, as the windowsill they've been occupying is rather full. (I have nine more varieties of tomatoes which have just germinated...!)
I will just have to keep my eye on the weather forecast, and bring them back into the house if it's a bit cold. I have a couple of full watering cans in the greenhouse, and some housebricks in various corners, to try and store some of the heat generated during the day.

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Post by Ploshkin on 1st April 2016, 11:46 pm

My tomato seedlings are in the unheated gh by day and I move them into the shed at night. I've got the pots in polystyrene fish boxes which makes them easy to transport and keeps the cold at bay too.
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Post by FloBear on 3rd April 2016, 6:01 pm

Haven't done any more veg at the mo. but am planning a trip to a GC tomorrow and may come back with a few pots of anticipation Wink
I hired a young lad to come and give me some garden help and he did his first stint on Friday. It was lovely to have someone to talk gardens - and chickens and wildlife - with as my OH is not and never will be a gardener. I got a fair amount of weeding done along my frontage (oo-er missus!) and yesterday moved some plants, or bits, that have done well in the back garden.
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Post by Chilli-head on 3rd April 2016, 10:07 pm

What's your soil like at the moment folks ? Mine is still sodden. I dug my last leeks this morning, the forked over the bed they were in. Far too heavy and wet to do much more, I just hope that loosening it up will help it dry out a little. Itlooks like being a late start to sowing at the allotment.

Ate the leeks and the last parsnip with dinner tonight. Not a lot left now - garlic, a few squashes and a few odds and ends in the freezer. And a long wait for any new produce Neutral
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Post by Dandelion on 3rd April 2016, 11:32 pm

My soil is OK where I managed to spread compost over it, but I was investigating the strawberry plants today, on a patch which didn't get any compost, and the soil is compacted (it is clay) and has a bit of green algae in places. Not nice.

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Post by Chilli-head on 14th April 2016, 8:00 am

Aha, perhaps my ground is warming slightly. A row of broad beans have burst through in the last few days. Just as well, the overwintered ones at the allotment are looking a bit bedraggled !

But I'm happy, because in the greenhouse I have germination of Capsicum chinense "Red Savina". Nice hot and fruity habanero chilli.
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Post by Ploshkin on 14th April 2016, 11:40 am

I hope my soil has warmed up a bit as I have put in my seed potatoes. The few (Rocket) that I put in the polytunnel are racing away. The broad beans in the PT are covered in flowers but not many pollinating insects around (I leave the doors open every day and the beans are right by the door). I have seen a couple of bumble bee queens on them. I have been hand pollinating the first few flowers on my strawberry plants with a brush just in case but it's not really feasible on the beans.
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Post by unmadebed on 14th April 2016, 6:22 pm

We have found a quite successful way of keeping seedlings warm in the greenhouse in the cold night weather recently.  We have a B & Q plastic greenhouse with four shelves and put that in a spare part of the GH, and we got half a dozen house bricks - the ones with three holes in the middle.  We threaded in and out of the holes and then round and round the bricks using an old soil warming cable.  It easily keeps the plants at around 24C overnight and apparently is very cheap to run.
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Post by Dandelion on 14th April 2016, 9:13 pm

24C is warm!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 14th April 2016, 10:15 pm

It's a bit warm for some things, but some of my chillies are at 30C. They do belong in Latin America though !

I like soil warming cables. They are cheap to run, and a bit of warmth around the roots seems to go a long way. The bricks might store some daytime heat too - reducing day/night temperature variation is said to be especially helpful for tomatoes.
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Post by Ploshkin on 14th April 2016, 11:03 pm

Temperature variation is my big problem this time of year. Under glass / plastic the range has been from minus 2c to 35c in a 24 hour period. I think next year I will have to consider something like your box with cables CH.
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Post by unmadebed on 15th April 2016, 9:28 am

Last night the minimum was 15C with a max of 30C so it must have had a prolonged cold spell to have that sort of variation. Tomorrow night looks like the one to worry about apparently.
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Post by Ploshkin on 15th April 2016, 9:38 am

Unmadebed, the climate is very different in the Welsh hills, that sort of variation is common If we get a high at this time of the year we can get warm sunny days but clear skies at night mean that the temps will dip to freezing or below, often just before sunrise. The highest night time minimum I've had so far this spring has been about 8c
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Post by Chilli-head on 15th April 2016, 10:13 am

Ploshkin wrote:Temperature variation is my big problem this time of year.  Under glass / plastic the range has been from minus 2c to 35c in a 24 hour period.  I think next year I will have to consider something like your box with cables CH.

Tomatoes start to get resentful if kept much below 10C, though they will survive it if they don't actually get frozen.

I have quite a few things to help with this. The box / mini greenhouse within the greenhouse for extra insulation, thermostatically controlled heating cables. But also thermal storage - I have a 100L internal water butt. I do worry that it might be a good Legionella incubator though ! If you watched / recall the original It's not easy being green series ion TV, they built a thermal store using glass granules below ground, which had air drawn through it by a solar powered fan, piped from near the apex of the greenhouse and relasing it at ground level. Quite elaborate, and not greatly effective I would imagine, but on the right lines. What it really might help with is removing damp from the air - the glass, relatively cold from the night, condenses water from the warmer air flow during the day.

I have an automatic vent opener (the ones with a cylinder of oil/wax that need no power) which reduces the bother of opening and shutting. But I also rely heavily on DW who is there during the day to keep an eye on things !
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Post by unmadebed on 15th April 2016, 10:36 am

Chilli-head wrote:If you watched / recall the original It's not easy being green series ion TV, they built a thermal store using glass granules below ground, which had air drawn through it by a solar powered fan, piped from near the apex of the greenhouse and relasing it at ground level.  Quite elaborate, and not greatly effective I would imagine, but on the right lines.

I read the book, but it relied on having access to a machine which ground up all the glass effectively and needless to say I don't!  When we recently erected the GH we laid mypex down and have loose-laid slabs whilst we look into ways of making it more thermally efficient.  A lot will depend on what materials come our way as I don't want to spend a lot on the project, which is part of the challenge.  The real problems begin when I start potting on the seedlings, as we only have a finite amount of cover within the GH.  Draping with fleece is the only defence at that stage - or a paraffin heater, although heating a 10 x 8 will be difficult and expensive.
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Post by Ploshkin on 15th April 2016, 10:46 am

I've got my peppers sitting on damp capillary matting in the base of a non thermostatic propagator.  They're doing really well.  I haven't got the warming capacity to house all my tomato seedlings as well.  They just sit on the greenhouse staging and are currently in polystyrene fish boxes.  I have always had successful tomato plants despite the conditions (but I don't know how good they could be if I could treat them better).  If it is forecast to be a cold night I throw a couple of layers of fleece over them.  One thing I have been doing this year is to water the peppers & tomatoes with warm water.
My greenhouse is a rickety lean to affair (about 14' x 8') that came with the house and hasn't got any roof vents.  It's not worth trying to modify it, I rely on remembering to open & shut the shed door and the louvres in the 3 sides though they have not been very well placed for effective ventilation.  I haven't really got the polytunnel into full operation yet - just feeling my way, but I am going to put a fleece structure within the tunnel to house the pots when I take them over there (no electricity supply possible in the PT).  I open the PT doors every day unless there is a gale blowing. The PT is, by necessity, in an exposed location to take full advantage of the light which is lacking in the greenhouse because we live in a hollow surrounded by tall trees.
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Post by Dandelion on 15th April 2016, 11:22 pm

My situation sounds similar - an unheated greenhouse which gets quite big variations of temperature, During the warm couple of days we had last week I moved quite a few tomatoes off the front room windowsill into the greenhouse, but I will bring them back in tomorrow as tomorrow night looks to be very cold in our area. Our oldest daughter moved into her own house a fortnight ago - I only realised today that her old room is ideal for an emergency seedling station, as it is a very light room (and has a desk in just the right place!)

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 17th April 2016, 9:24 pm

Isn't it always the way. I gave up hope on my Habaneros germinating from the first sowing, so sowed some more. Now both lots have come through together, and I have eight Red Savina seedlings, when I planned on 2 plants. These were the world's hottest chilli until usurped in 2008, so I don't think I'll be getting through that many ! They make really lovely little plants though, and it is so hard to throw away healthy seedlings.

I finally caught up on my sowing, so I'm now on the April sowings rather than trying to catch up with March ! I sowed brassica of various sorts in modules, celeriac, indoor cucumbers and peas for eating as shoots. Outside I've sown leeks in a seed bed under cloches, and some radish and spring onions. I prefer the Japanese type of spring onions that never form a bulb; that way you can get away without quite so many sowings.

Just writing this I remember that I've left all my propagator vents open in the greenhouse, so I'd better shoot down and close them up !
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Post by freebird on 19th April 2016, 4:01 pm

This has been interesting reading.

Now, I have a dilemma. We are due to go away in 10 days. I've just looked at the forecast and see we are due more cold nights - down to 2°. I have a few bought-in tomato and pepper plants, which I must put in the greenhouse, in the self-watering pots. It's  the only  way they will be watered while I'm away.

The only thing I can think of that might help, in the absence of a greenhouse heater, is to stand a couple of black-painted bricks on top of each pot, as close as possible to the plant, to provide some local heat overnight. Whether the stored heat will last long enough is anybody's guess.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
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Post by Ploshkin on 19th April 2016, 9:30 pm

Freebird, could you also wrap the pots in some insulating material or layers of fleece. It won't do anything for the exposed leaves but may help generally. To be honest, my tomato seedlings always sit in an unheated greenhouse and we probably get colder conditions than you do - I've never lost one yet.
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Post by Chilli-head on 19th April 2016, 9:52 pm

The rule of thumb I was told was this : last frost outdoors, end of May. Gain one extra month in an unheated greenhouse (so end April), two for a modestly heated greenhouse. So by those standards, you are almost safe from fear of freezing in 10 days time.

Draping fleece over might help. Water has a large heat capacity, so leave your watering cans full nearby, maybe other vessels too. I've seen a suggestion of using 2L PET drink bottles filled with water amongst the plants. The reservoir of your self watering pots might help.

Although tomatoes like 10C, less doesn't kill them provided they don't freeze. You may get the leaves rolling up and the plants sulking a bit though !
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Post by Ploshkin on 22nd April 2016, 3:44 pm

I was surprised to see the first flower buds on my sweet pepper plants.  I've also got flowers coming on the early potatoes in the polytunnel.

Here are my peppers.  On the left is Kaibi sweet pepper from Real Seeds.  Germinated almost instantly & has raced away.  In the middle is my wimps' chilli, Palivec, also from Real Seeds.  They have done well too.  Those 2 miserable specimens on the right, about to be consigned to the compost heap, are Lipstick sweet peppers also from Real Seeds.  They germinated quickly along with the rest & were treated exactly the same i.e. grown on under lights & with heat but they just stayed yellow and pathetic & never grew.  I had 5 all the same.  I think the seed must have a virus or something.  I might send the picture to Real Seeds & see what they say.

Unfortunately, I've ended up with only one sweet pepper to try as the Lipstick are a failure and Romaine, from the seed swap, failed to germinate on 2 attempts.  I hope I've got them off to a good enough start to actually get some peppers.  I've only ever had a successful crop once, that was in 2006 which was the last decent summer we had.


Last edited by Ploshkin on 22nd April 2016, 3:45 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : couldn't tell my left from my right)
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Post by Chilli-head on 22nd April 2016, 5:33 pm

The left two look pretty good ! I see you got off to an early start, looking at the date on the labels.
Mine are between those in size, crowding four to a pot. Job for the weekend - the greenhouse is a nice place to be if the weather is a bit miserable.

The lipstick do look unwell. Same compost ? I'd have wondered about the growing medium quality if it weren't for the other healthy plants. I've grown lipstick once before and don't remember any issues. I do wonder if we sometimes don't get quite poor seed from the suppliers. I had some Gypsy pepper seeds I have tried 3 times to germinate without success.
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Post by Dandelion on 23rd April 2016, 10:25 pm

On the subject of keeping an unheated greenhouse frost-free, I've been surprised at how much heat is stored in house bricks by the end of the day. I've put a couple of bricks near to pots which need to be kept above freezing: after a sunny day with a cold evening, the bricks are still warm to the touch in the evening.

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