Autumn was definitely in the air this morning. I knew by late afternoon yesterday that a drop of several degrees in night time temperatures was going to happen. I could just feel it. My thoughts and concerns as a gardener, turned to the temperature sensitive chilli plants that are still laden with peppers in the large greenhouse and the affect the drop in temperature would have on them. It has been getting steadily cooler over the last few weeks and the plants had, for the most part, coped well with this gradual change but a sudden drop of two or three degrees could be potentially disastrous.
“I’ll have to put the chillis under fleece tonight,” I told Mud.
I wondered down to the greenhouse during a lull in the tea cooking process, to hunt for the horticultural fleece I knew was there. As it turned out I spent the next 10 to 15 minutes or so, rearranging the plants, moving the flowers to the front near the door and the chillies to the back to give them that little extra protection. Several days ago I had noticed that one of the Ohnivec plants had sustained some damage on its’ main stem and that all the branches above that point were starting to wilt and die back. With 4 large peppers just starting to change colour on the top part of the plant, I opted to leave it in situ to give the chillies the best chance possible of ripening but last night I decided to remove the peppers and bring them in to finish ripening, as I was fairly sure the plant wouldn’t be able to withstand the colder air and I didn’t want to risk spoiling the chillies.
With tea finished, I headed back out to the greenhouse to cover my precious crop of chillies, as best I could with the fleece I had available. I knew that the size and quantity of the fleece meant that I wouldn’t be able to completely swathe the plants from top to toe but I did make sure that the back of each group, the area nearest to the cold panes of the greenhouse sides, were completely covered with the lower edge of the fleece touching the staging, covering the backs of the pots entirely. The fleece was then gently brought across the top and down the front, not quite reaching the top of the plant pots. However, most of each plant was tucked up under the fleece by the time I had finished, giving them the best chance of coping with the dip in temperature whilst also allowing for air circulation.
Secure in the knowledge that I had done all that I could to protect my plants, I headed back inside.
This morning, as I said at the start, there was a definite Autumnal nip in the air but the greenhouse was actually quite warm and with the fleece removed to allow the plants to get the full benefit of the bright and very welcome morning sun, they all appear to be none the worse for the chilly night. I will continue to coddle them at night, to try and maximise the natural “on plant” ripening of the chillies but it may yet be necessary to strip the plants and ripen the chillies indoors.
In the other greenhouse, all but two of the tomato plants have been stripped of their bounty and composted. Of the two remaining plants, I harvested the last of the chocolate tomatoes yesterday, as the deteriorating state of the parent plant was such that the fruit would have spoiled had it been left in situ. The tomatoes have now joined the others on the large white platter in the dining room, where they will hopefully continue to ripen. The remaining Amish Paste plant only has 3 tomatoes left on it but as the stem these are on is still intact, I will leave these as long as I can. Outside, the tomato plants growing against the lawn fence are definitely looking a little the worse for wear and I will need to pick the last of the tomatoes from these today.
All in all, in terms of tomato and chilli production, this year has proved to be a bumper one thus far and I will continue to tuck the chillies up under their fleece blanket for as long as I can because a plant ripened pepper is invariably hotter and better than a plate ripened one.