With the threat of rain forecast for today, I was a little concerned that some of the outdoor tomatoes which had been nearly ready for picking yesterday might split if I didn’t get them in, especially as we had already had some rain overnight. So I decided to pick what was ready when I went out to open up the greenhouses first thing this morning and I thought that I might just as well pick the chillies that were ready at the same time.
Looking at the chilli plants in the large greenhouse, I realised that some of the plants were still flowering which was not good at this late stage in the year because I need the plants to focus on ripening the chillies which had already set and there was also some damage which needed to be sorted out immediately to prevent fungus and rot setting in which could pose a risk to the entire crop.
One by one I took each one of the 50 plus chilli and sweet pepper plants and trimmed off any dead or dying foliage and nipped off the flowers and buds which were forming which will, I hope, focus all the plants’ resources into ripening the existing chillies and peppers, instead of wasting energy on trying to grow more peppers, or repairing any damage. A couple of the plants also had some damage to the branches and these were also snipped off and any peppers on the snipped section were checked to see if they were salvageable. Thankfully, most of them were still firm, if green, and I have brought them in because they are still useable and may even turn red over time.
I was pretty ruthless with the plants, cutting back the growing tips and giving them a general thinning out which should help with circulation of air which, in turn, should help prevent further problems with decaying foliage. Two of the sweet pepper plants had serious rot on the main stem below where the peppers had set and so I have removed the peppers and they will be frozen for use during the winter months and the plants are now in the compost bins. Whilst the demise of two of my Sweet Pepper plants was frustrating, I was thrilled to discover that one of the peppers on another plant has finally started to change colour.
I also removed any recently set chillies because these are unlikely to achieve a useable size before the really cold weather starts and kills off the parent plant and once again, in removing these small chillies, I hope to force the plants into ripening the existing chillies.
The plants are heavy with chillies and some of them are so laden that they needed another cane added for extra support, as they were in danger of toppling over. Never one to count my chickens, I have my fingers crossed that I can keep the plants healthy long enough, to ripen this harvest, as I would like to make more Sweet Chilli sauce and some spicy tomato chutney (providing the tomatoes all ripen as well).
It took me the best part of an hour to work my way through the plants but it is so worth the effort because as we move into Autumn and the colder, damper days and nights start, the risk of fungi and rot setting in, is increased, especially where old flower petals have fallen and landed on leaves and stems, are now rotting back and are, in turn, causing damage to these previously healthy sections of the plants.
With the chillies and sweet peppers sorted, I turned my attention back to tomato picking and harvested a pleasing number of fruit from the hanging baskets I had made, way back at the start of the season.