My chillies are producing chillies – of many varieties, and enough for any reasonable uses I can personally come up with. Here are again some photos, both of ripe and fresh chillies, and also about the preparation for preservation. I have decided to dry and make rough, spicy powders of two most high-yielding chilli varieties, Fire Flame and Thai Rawit. Those should be good for hot pots, curries and other similar uses. Those selected chillies that have provided only small number of fruit, I decided to freeze as whole. Dropping a thawed chilli into a meal is an optional use for those. My dehydrator is a cheap “House” model from local Prisma department store, but it has quiet operation, nice temperature controls and appears to do it job well enough. Slicing chillies for dryer takes its time, but has also somewhat meditative character.
It is late August and the first batch of chillies is getting ready for harvesting. The first ones to produce good yield were Fire Flame and Thai Rawit. Others that also had produced some ripe chillies at this point were: Habanero Hot Lemon, Madame Jeannette, Lemon Drop, Fatalii, Trepadeira da Werner and Moruga Scorpion. There are also Aji Cristal and Aji Fantasy crops coming along, bit later. The giant of them all was Moruga Scorpion, which really flourished in the heat of this summer. Most habaneros and thai chillies remained small in contrast, but still producing nice pods. The only real failure this summer was my excess watering almost killing the sole Trepadeira da Werner. Next summer, the automatic irrigation with the Blumat system is probably in order. This summer it was all manual, since we were close at home whole summer.
This is the first summer when our greenhouse is in use. So far everything seems to have gone just fine, even while we have been so busy in other areas that we have not really got so much time for the garden or the greenhouse. Even with just minimal care, most greenhouse plants seem to do well – Laura’s tomatoes exceedingly so, they have grown into real giants. My chillies would had profited from earlier change to the greenhouse and to larger pots, but I did not have the electric heater at that time. So my plants are mostly small to medium in size, but on the other hand the idea of this first summer was not so much to maximise the crop, but to test a wide variety of plants, and then see where to specialize in the future. For that purspose, my small but fruit-filled plants suit very well. Here are some photos taken from the greenhouse today.
Today another key element for our greenhouse was completed. Tomatoes will be cultivated in Biolan brand growing bags (“kasvusäkki”), and our DIY version involves preparing containers that include water tanks and soil-filled pipes that connect the growing bags with the water reservoir. The setup is completed with spiral-shaped, aluminium supports of Juliana that help tomatoes to grow upwards.
Yesterday, the heater for our greenhouse finally arrived and we can now actually keep the plants in the greenhouse, around the clock. As you can see from the Netatmo screenshots from below, the morning temperature outside was 1,7°C, but with the help of our heater (BioGreen Palma Digit, including Thermo 1 digital thermostat), the temperature inside greenhouse remained comfortable 12-13 degrees. The safety instructions for the heater say that there should be 40-50 cm empty space between the heater and our wooden plant crates, plus c. 1,5 meters empty space ahead, where the heater directs the hot air flow – this proved to be bit of a challenge in our small Juliana, but putting the heater on top of a metal chair for the night also the safety considerations have now worked out fine, I think. And chillies seem to like the move to outdoors, they get more light and the moist air of greenhouse is good for them, too. (Got an extra sapling from our kid’s school rummage sale – a Trinidad Scorpion Moruga Red; let’s see how that one turns out…)
Today the watering system of our greenhouse took some nice steps towards completion – the photos below pretty much tell the story, but: we installed a (Bauhaus) black plastic water barrel for temperature control purposes as well, a (Gardena) water tube system to deliver the water below greenhouse structures, and drilled couple of holes for the automatic Blumat watering system – This is still in “closed loop” mode, until the temperature is high enough for leaving plants permanently into the greenhouse. We tried to find a suitable electric heater from Tampere but it seems no-one has such available.
New summer is approaching, and the greenhouse project of course continues (see the previous parts of the story, starting from Part 1 onwards). The greenhouse itself, and its foundation with its freezing protection structures appear to have survived the first winter just fine, which is a good starting point. The next challenges are related to temperature and water. The dual challenges of temperature control in a small greenhouse connect to it’s small air-mass getting excessively hot in daytime, and the near-freezing temperatures affecting it to the other extreme in the night time, particularly early in the spring (or late in the autumn). The automatic ventilation of our Juliana greenhouse is based on the single roof window being opened by the gas spring when the air at the top part of the greenhouse gets hot enough. In sunny days though one ventilation window is not necessarily enough, so opening the greenhouse door as well might be necessary. Also, the sensitive young plants need to be protected from direct sunlight somehow; our solution now is based on reflective, aluminium shade fabric that mirrors enough radiation from the sun so that the temperature and light conditions are now closer to optimum.
The plans for the watering system involve the use of Blumat automated watering system and a dark plastic water tank – this will both help to keep the moisture levels good, and dark water tank will also store warmth during daytime, and release it at night, helping to balance cold nights. While our chilies will be fed by Blumat system the tomatoes will get their own, handmade plant pot/water tank system. (This is still under construction.) Temperature and hydrometer functions are provided by the outdoor Netatmo unit, which has a nice smartphone app.
Today, there were many spring tasks in the garden, and one involved moving the chilli saplings (which had overgrown their small pots) into larger pots, with some fresh soil. It would be so nice to be able to just leave the chillies into the greenhouse already, but nights in Finland in early May are just too cold – so, since we do not have a petrol or electric heater for nights, the chilli plants need to be carried indoors every night, and back in the morning, as long as the cold nights go on. Let’s see how long it takes for me to go out and get that heater…