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CREATING A MONSTER: Chinense / TF Powys / Ivy Aphids / Leaf Curl / First Flowers

Until recently I was sitting on the floor of the greenhouse to write, enjoying the wildlife that was passing by or through - goldfinches, toads, European hornets, a weasel. Gradually over the past few weeks I’ve been pushed out.


The peppers are in the ground. And on the work bench. And on the floor. And on the path outside. They are on upturned dustbins and in wheelbarrows. There are peppers everywhere. I still have a few to pot up but I have nowhere to put them.


So this weekend I botched together a shelf for outside based on some broken furniture in the garage - old bed slats, a cheap broken Argos clothes rack, and some torn sheets from an old polytunnel. And I’ve created a monster.


The writer TF Powys used to get criticised by the farmers passing by his house as he knelt there fixing his fence with string. He enjoyed fixing his fence with string so why shouldn’t he spend an afternoon doing it? My DIY ethos is very much of the Powys school. I’ve enjoyed sitting in the sun hammering nails into this thing. And it started well. I used a measuring tape and everything. But as the afternoon passed it’s true I became a little cavalier.


One little thing I found. I placed the monster against an old shed - a former pigsty, I believe - that’s falling to bits and has ivy growing all over it. I trimmed some of the ivy down and found it absolutely covered in purple aphids. Ivy Aphids. Are these a threat to peppers? They’re not one of the major pepper pest species of aphids but I can’t find a straight answer. Does anybody know?


To the peppers themselves. Last week I wrote about how amazing the Baccatums have done through May. My summary of the species and months so far would be that April is for Annums (Cayennetta, Ring of Fire, Jalapeno) and May is for Baccatums (Sugar Rush Peach Stripey). I’m hoping une will be for the Chinese peppers as they’re all pathetic right now. The Khang Starr Lemon Starrburst are just a few inches tall and doing nothing, while just two or three of the eleven Habaneros look like they might make something of themselves.


The Rocotos look like they might spring to life now. Interestingly, rather than growing up, they’re just growing out. So they’re very small plants still, but the reach of their leaves is broadening. I’ve never grown these before so we’ll see what happens next.

At the same time, while those Jalapenos were rampant a month back, they’ve now stopped dead. This may be the shock of the potting on process, or the weird weather. With this little patch of sunshine over the weekend maybe everything will perk up.


Leaf Curl. As conditions change some of the plants have leaf curl. So far I’ve been very lucky with pests and disease and check every plant daily. It’s not that. Essentially, peppers whinge and moan a lot. A little bit too much water and they cry. Too little water and they sulk. Too many nutrients and they curl and colour. Too few and they curl and colour. Too hot or too cold, they throw a complete tantrum.


When moving the peppers out in May, planting them on or out, adding any fertiliser you might add, they’re going to make a fuss.


Personally, I’m more likely to over water than under water. You might feel the top of the soil and it’s bone dry, but at the bottom of the pot it might still be saturated. This is bad news as the roots will rot and the plant might die. I think this is the issue for one of the Ring of Fire I have put in a small pot for now. From the top it looks dry so when it started to fuss and throw off leaves I worried, but when I checked the root base, they were soaked. I’m letting that one dry out completely now and I’m not going to water it until it wilts.


Some leaves may fall, some may curl and recover. If the plant is very small and weedy at this stage then there may be a casualty but hopefully few. Trust the process and the plants should recover as they settle in.


Lastly, an Ode to the Cayennetta. The most impressive plant remains the Cayennetta, which is bushy and beautiful and has been throwing out flowers for a week or two. I’m snipping off those flowers for now to encourage a bit more green growth. Otherwise the plant will put all its energy into those flowers and early fruits, and it isn’t strong enough yet to give a good yield, so I would probably only get a couple of peppers. When it’s an even bigger and more robust plant I’ll let the flowers develop.

Oh, and I picked up some marigolds. Sarah says they attract hoverflies, which eat aphids. So I'm putting them around the plants, a handful in the greenhouse, one in the Runt Trough. Do I need to explain the Runt Trough? Next time.

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