Trying to create chilli heaven!

IMG_5005If there’s a downside to allotmenteering (or gardening for that matter) it’s how to get a break during the growing season. I suppose our allotment has the additional problem that all the water is turned off between late October and mid-March, and so we early starters need to make our own provision. Back at the Potwell Inn, we have just under fifty tender capsicum seedlings in the two propagators.  Normally I water them once a day with a fine spray of very dilute seaweed growth stimulator, but I thought I’d do an experiment to see if I could use capillary matting attached to a large water source.  In its first iteration I passed a wide strip of matting from a small bucket, through the ventilator of the propagator and under the matting inside. A rapid flood occurred because evidently too much water was flowing from the source.  So I wondered if the flow rate correlated with the width of the connecting strip, and I halved the width, but that also wicked too much water into the propagator.  Quick rumble of the little grey cells and so next I wondered if the amount of wicking that was submerged in the source bucket was the problem. The solution was to shorten the wick and attach it to a wine bottle cork with two drawing pins – as per photo – a very cheap cistern arrangement. That’s been running all day and it’s certainly slowed down the transfer of water to the propagator.  If that still proves too much I’ll halve the wick width once again and carry on with the cork cistern – total cost about a pound.  The next stage is to work out how large the cistern needs to be for us to have a week away. I should say that the lights are timer controlled to give 12 hours of fairly intense daylight at 24C.

IMG_3868Up at the allotment I spent a couple of hours yesterday reinstating the timed dripper system to water the seedlings in the greenhouse. It took some time last year, researching the available gadgets,  to make sure the one we bought would function at the very low pressure provided by the water butts. This battery operated model has been reliable for a whole season, and works on a reasonably small head of water.  Given that there’s no clean water available on the site for some weeks yet, I was so pleased when I rigged up a temporary tap from the water butts to find fresh clean rainwater – 1000 litres of it – flowing reliably through the system. Madame had taken a look at the rainwater in the trough but someone appeared to have washed a paintrush in it so it had a nasty blueish hue and was almost certainly contaminated with anti-fungal chemicals.

IMG_3876The other independent watering system we’ve used is soaker hose which we installed under the tomatoes last season and which worked very effectively over the first 2/3 of its length. That’s a point worth noticing, the hose we used was years old and had become kinked.  It would probably have worked under mains pressure, but trickle fed from a water butt wasn’t working at all.

I haven’t photographed the watering can but that became the mainstay of the watering regime during the hot weather last season.

None of the hoses – large or small – last forever, and under intense heat and sunlight most of the plastic hoses in the dripper and soaker hose systems had degraded and become stiff and liable to disconnect themselves.  I’d recommend changing them annually if you want complete reliability. Allotmenteering is incredibly rewarding but even the most dedicated of us need to factor in a degree of resilience against holidays or unanticipated absences, and that can’t safely be done at the last minute. With climate change well and truly in charge we really have no idea what climatic conditions we’re facing season by season.  Half of my time this winter has been spent mitigating potental excess rainfall and now I’m fully absorbed in planning for drought and heat. Ah well, life’s rich tapestry in the 21st century but you’d think there might be a bit more action at the top.  We’re not going to save the world with 1000 litres of water and a bit of clapped out soaker hose!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

One thought on “Trying to create chilli heaven!”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.