The Beechgrove Garden 2021 episode 23: The Beechgrove team review some of the successes and failures of 2021’s growing season.
Carole takes a look at her 6 x 8 greenhouse and checks whether her chilies are hot enough to handle. In Old Scone, Brian appraises the first year of his new no-dig vegetable plot, and in sunny Joppa, George assesses the hits and misses on his allotment. Meanwhile, Kirsty creates an on-trend and easy-to-replicate teapot terrarium.
Growing your own tomatoes successfully is always satisfying. Camilla Fredricksen takes that to a new level as she grows around 200 varieties in her produce-packed garden in Aberlour.
The Beechgrove Garden 2021 episode 23
Growing your own chilli peppers means you can choose from a huge array of colours, shapes, flavours and levels of heat – a much wider range than you can buy in supermarkets. Chillies are easy to grow in pots in a greenhouse or, after starting off indoors, can be grown outdoors in a warm sunny spot.
Sow indoors from late winter to mid-spring – an early start will give you an earlier crop. Fill a small pot with seed compost, firm gently then sow a few seeds on top. Most seeds will germinate, so only sow a few more than you need, in case of losses. Cover with a fine layer of vermiculite, pop in a plant label and water. Seeds will germinate quickly in a heated propagator, or simply put the pots on a warm sunny windowsill. Place a clear plastic bag over each pot, secured with an elastic band, to raise the humidity.
As soon as seedlings appear, take the pot out of the propagator or remove the plastic bag. When seedlings are 2.5cm (1in) tall, move each one into its own small pot filled with multipurpose compost. Water and keep in a warm sunny spot indoors. If you don’t have time to sow seeds, or don’t have a suitably warm, bright place to raise good plants, then buy young chilli plants from garden centres in late spring.
While plants are still growing indoors, move them into larger 13cm (5in) pots when roots begin to show through the drainage holes in the base. When they reach about 20cm (8in) tall, or if they start to lean, stake with a thin cane. Pinch out the shoot tips when plants are about 30cm (12in) tall to encourage lots of branches, which should give you more fruit.
By late May, move each plant into its final 22cm (9in) pot or plant three in a standard growing bag. Keep these in a greenhouse or move them outside when all danger of frost has passed. Alternatively, plant them into the ground, spaced 45cm (18in) apart. Give them a warm, sheltered, sunny spot, and cover initially with fleece or cloches.
How to grow tomatoes
Growing your own tomatoes is simple and just a couple of plants will reward you with plenty of delicious tomatoes through the summer. Sow indoors, then plant outdoors in a sunny, sheltered spot, or in a greenhouse. There’s a whole array to try, from tiny sweet cherry tomatoes to full-flavoured giant beefsteak types.
Tomatoes start to ripen from mid-summer onwards, depending on the variety, weather conditions and fruit size. Smaller cherry tomatoes ripen more quickly than larger fruits, and greenhouse tomatoes usually start cropping earlier than those grown outdoors, and continue for longer, well into autumn. Check plants every few days and pick tomatoes individually as soon as they’re ripe and fully coloured.
At the end of the growing season, lift outdoor plants with unripe fruit and either lay them on straw under cloches or pick the fruits and place somewhere warm and dark to ripen. Alternatively, put unripe tomatoes in a drawer with a banana, to aid ripening.