A page to keep track of our efforts in the world of horticulture.
We thought we’d start off easily, this being the first time – for Ben at least – that we’ve tried to grow anything more substantial than a plant in a pot. So we opted for some peppers and tomatoes (we eat a lot of salad so it seemed to be a logical choice) and a range of herbs (in this case sage, parsley, chives and basil).
First shoots of peppers (left) and tomatoes (right):
And some herbs to round off the exercise (from left to right: basil, parsley, chives and sage):
21/04/09 – A Little Update…
12/05/09 – Hard Lessons…
Well it’s been a while since the last update but a lot has happened. Unfortunately we were far too hasty getting our seedlings out into the open. We should have re-potted them but then kept them inside for quite a bit longer. As a result of our enthusiasm we lost most of the seedlings – but (probably due to our inexperience) we had plenty of spares so we have an option to try again. This time we’re going to do it properly!
- Let the seedlings develop in their small pots for a while
- Once they look like they’re hardy enough to survive the shock of transplantation, re-pot them into their bigger pots
- Once they’ve got over the shock and started to grow well, harden them off by gently getting them used to the outside and the climate fluctuations it can bring (this is what we missed the first time round to the detriment of quite a few young plants)
Now we’ve had some time with the plants and are getting used to what needs to be done, we’ve decided to move on from the disastrous attempt previously. As Becky mentioned in her blog post, we spent a bit of time re-potting some of the plants on Sunday 10th May. The current situation is below (hover your mouse over the pictures for a bit of detail):
These are the two long pots that we have. The one closest to the window is full of pepper plants. One or two of these are the ones that survived the previous attempt at re-potting/hardening off, the rest are some of the younger ones we held back in reserve. Behind it is a pot of tomatoes. The biggest one on the left is the only survivor of the first attempt, but what a survivor! The others were the strongest of the seedlings we had at the time when we re-potted.
Above are two shots of the rest of our tomato and pepper plants. The first picture shows different stages of pepper growth. The square pot in the second shot is currently the strongest batch of peppers we have. The round pot contains attempt two with the next strongest tomatoes (after the long pot above). The growing tray contains the hanging tomato seedlings we were sent by Becky’s friend Shani. They only turned up relatively recently so are lagging behind the rest.
As you can see the herbs have been doing quite well outside on their own, clearly a bit more hardy than the tomatoes and peppers! I think we planted too much seed in too small a pot for both the basil and parsley as they appear to be fighting for resources quite a bit. We have been eating some of the basil though, so will continue that method of population control whenever possible! Sage and chives have been quite slow in developing, but the sage is finally starting to come along a bit – obviously just needed some time! The brown tubes you see leading into the pots are part of our watering system which will enable us not to worry about watering our plants when we go on holiday – more on this system later on.
Now that the plants are taking well to their new homes, it’s time to harden them off. This is a process whereby they get acclimatised to conditions outside. If we were just to move them outside permanently without first hardening them off, they would most likely die through shock (the mistake we made first time round). To harden them off we need to slowly introduce them to the outside world, bit by bit. This is easiest done by moving them out for a couple of hours one day, then a couple more hours the next day, and so on until they are spending the entire day outside – then start with nights. So far the hardiest of our plants (shown below) are spending most of the day outside unless the weather really comes in. Now that they’ve gotten used to it, they hardly roll their leaves (in the cold) or wilt (in the heat) anymore, which has got to be a good sign!
And here’s the whole gang doing the ‘hardening off’ thing. Let’s see how far they make it – they might even be able to start spending the whole day and night outside next week…
10/06/09 – Growing Up
So after several weeks of sun, some rain, and even some hail on occasion, the plants that were strong enough are now happy living outside. They seem to shrug off most of the climatic variation that Swiss spring weather is throwing at them. So far about half of them are outside. The peppers are placed where they get slightly less sun as they seem to wilt quite disturbingly if they get too much afternoon sun. Unfortunately with the angle of our terrace, there’s no chance to place them somewhere where they get only morning sun (as apparently would be best for them) so it’s a bit of mid-afternoon sun and then shade. They seem to be doing OK with that idea though.
Above: The four pepper plants that have managed to survive being outside. You can unfortunately see some leaf damage from where they were recently pelted with huge lumps of ice courtesy of a hail storm
The other peppers are doing well as well, although not quite as large because they’re younger, and also have not spent so much time in the sun. They will however be ‘moving’ to be outside and join their siblings very soon – now that the weather is forecast to stop being quite so unpredictable.
The tomatoes are doing very well however, growing strongly and seem not to have been so badly hit by the hailstorms. They prefer more sunlight and don’t react as badly as the peppers to the strong afternoon rays so they’ve been placed in a sunnier position. If you look very closely at the tomato plant furthest to the right you can just make out the first flower that we’ve had on our plants!
We were also sent some hanging tomato plants by Shani (one of Becky’s ex-colleagues and friends) which we have started to grow and are now potted into two hanging pots which we hope will allow them to drape over the sides of the pots (so they have not been staked yet) and hang on our terrace.
After a bit of reading up however, it appears that hanging tomato plants can also (hopefully that shouldn’t be only) hung upside down. Once I find a bucket or two, this is going to be our last project with the tomato plants this summer. We have a couple of young plants that will be transplanted into hanging buckets and then grow downwards. Once this has been setup and is working, some pics will follow.
17/06/09 – Upside down tomatoes
Well, what to say. As my last comment mentioned, we needed to try hanging some tomatoes upside down since apparently that is how hanging tomatoes are supposed to grow. Since this is our first growing season, we feel perfectly happy just experimenting, so the hanging tomatoes we received we have in three different types; normal hanging baskets, upside down buckets and some just planted and staked normally (really just because I want to see what the difference is between them and the normal plants!
Anyway, not too much to show so far, but here are the upside down buckets we have. More pics will follow as soon as they’ve grown sufficiently to look impressive. Considering how late these ones are, I imagine we won’t get a great harvest, but at least they’ll come late which should keep us in tomatoes for a while!
I was amazed at how well the upside down ones took to their new homes (buckets) considering that they were left far too long in the growing tray we had. So much so that I couldn’t fit most of the root structure through the whole in the bucket so was very worried they’d not make it through the trauma of the move. But lo and behold, within a day or two both of them had taken very happily. Now to see how they like being upside down (note the one on the right already trying to grow upwards again!).
And just in order to provide some kind of comparison, here are the two types of actual hanging tomatoes we’ll have. Once the staked ones have taken to their new home there’ll be some pictures of them too.
29/06/09 – Flowers
Not too much to report on the plant front, except that most of the tomatoes and peppers are now flowering, or starting to. The tomatoes are still growing ridiculously fast, and now look quite silly in the tiny pots we’ve got them in, but hopefully they’ll survive long enough to provide us with some decent vegetables. Speaking of which, there are some growths on some of the older plants that look like they might be future ingredients for our salads! Finally the weather has cleaned up its act and we’re due for some very warm (actual summer) weather this week. I was mildly worried that the 12 degree highs that we had last week could have been unkind to the plants, but it looks like they’ve pulled through.
10/08/09 – Fruit and of course more flowers
Well it’s been a while since the last update, but as can be expected the plants have all continued to do what they do best – grow and flower. Now they are starting to bear fruit too! The tomatoes are slowly getting redder as even more flowers are showing on the plants. We have also become even more aware that our pots are woefully small for the poor plants – next year we’ll know better.
As you can see we will soon have a bumper crop of tomatoes. We’ve had enough already for a couple of dinners, and they’ve definitely been very flavourful. So far it’s mainly been the cherry tomatoes that have been ready. Although some of the strange shaped tomatoes (we have some disfigured looking ones, mainly from the plants that were out in the cold at the beginning of the season) have also been ready and eaten – although these seem to have a rather unsightly black bit at the bottom that extends into the core – needless to say we cut that out before eating! We’re looking forward to trying some of the normal large round tomatoes though to see how those compare with shop bought.
So far the peppers are growing along quite happily too, although they seem to be taking quite a bit longer (well they do have to grow bigger don’t they?) so some more of an update once they start to change colour too!
07/09/09 – Not too much to report.
The tomatoes have been regularly providing us with fruit. So far they seem to be just the right amount, although we have had to find a lot of things to cook with tomatoes to make sure none of them go to waste. Which is fun anyway, so win-win. As you can see by the first picture below, the upside down tomato plants are actually starting to come into their own now (in fact the one in that shot is challenging the ivy for space!) – sadly probably just in time to die when the first frosts hit, but never mind.
The peppers have also started developing nicely. So far we’ve only had one green pepper and one yellow pepper (both of which were very nice) but there are several reds that are going to be ready in the next day or two.
Oddly one of the pepper plant pots (try saying that quickly) has managed to kill off most of the plants in it. Not sure what happened there, if it was shock, disease or pest, but from one day to the next almost all plants in the pot shed their leaves! There are a couple of peppers that are still growing slowly and should be eaten soon, but it was very strange behaviour. The only thing that I did just before that happened was to change the stake and tie up one of the plants, neither of which should have had that effect!