Happenings at Sea Spring Seeds
Just done a germination test on the fig leaf gourd. Got 100%, which is brilliant. Will start selling seed as soon as I can get the seed packs sorted.
It snowed yesterday, which is great news for us as the snow sliding off the polytunnel plastic cleans parts that we cannot reach!
Just bought a hydroponic system to grow chilies. We get a lot of customers asking about growing chillies in hydroponics so it is time for us to get some experience with it!
On Wednesdays Laura packs seeds. Today, after doing orders, she worked on two chilli varieties: Aji Limo and Stumpy.
Yesterday the last of the polytunnels were cleared of chilli plants. Next job will be to add loads of organic matter from our compost heap onto all the beds.
Yesterday we sent out the January newsletter. This month it was about planning the garden, rotations and the value of greenhouses and polytunnels. We also highlighted two of our employees, Laura Croxson and her older brother Paddy, who is also the manager of our football club, Portesham United Football club.
Our three 'guys' – sixthformers, Jack, Jason and Matt – will be working today, pullling up the dying chilli plants and taking them out of the greenhouses and polytunnels. It is wet, very wet, and windy, so not the best of weather for the job, but it has to be done! Also Laura, my 'seed-counter' will be here, packing seed orders and counting out seeds.
Laura counting out chilli seeds.
One very wet day! Today will be spent posting some YouTube videos. I filmed them ages ago but just haven't got round to downloading them.
Friday 24th February – vegetable variety trials
Still sorting our our vegetable variety trials for 2012. We have to juggle the large number of varieties we want to try with space, and most importantly, our own time – it does no good growing many different vegetable trials if we don't take proper notes from them.
Thursday 23rd Febraury – cleaning up polytunnels
Have started getting our polytunnels ready for growing season. Most of our eleven polytunnels have crops growing in the ground, but we always have four with pots. But as we live on a slope we have to use pallets that have been individually levelled to create a growing space that produces vertical plants.
Sunday 19th February - chilli growing course
Today was the last "What's hot, what's not" chilli pepper growing course that we are doing this spring. All four courses were fully booked, and I think, enjoyed much enjoyed by the people who came. We will be doing more in August.
Michael talking about growing chillies while sheltering from a hail storm in a polytunnel.
Saturday 18th February - sowing carrots for a spring trial
Just sowed four varieties of carrots indoors in pots and outside, so see how they perform as winter/spring crop. Will expect to harvest around May.
Sowing carrots in pots inside the greenhouse.
Friday 17th February - damage in a polytunnel
One of our polytunnels got a rip in the plastic. We get seagulls on pecking the plastic, we think they think it is water – and they do a lot of damage. This tear was where the pecks were so close together a hole had formed. I patched it with tunnel tape. This is the tunnel that our chilli plants are to go in soon so we have to keep it whole!
Thursday 16th February - at the RHS show
Been in London for the last couple of days at the RHS Spring show. We had a great time; we had an exhibit of Oriental salad greens, which attracted a lot of attention – so much so that we sold out of seed of all our salad lines! (very frustrating). There was also a surprising demand for chilli seeds. People wanted to talk about how to grow their chilies and other vegetables. All in all, a busy time.
The Oriental Salad exhibit, and the whole Sea Spring Seeds stall at the RHS Spring Show.
Saturday 8th February - the first chilli growing course
We had twelve heavily coated (it was a cloudless, but very cold day!) keen chilli growers turn up this morning for a "What's hot, what's not" chilli growing course. People arrived early, and stayed late, all the while talking, listening and sharing. Michael did most of the talking, of course, but no one seemed to mind as he had a lot to say – straightforward technical details about how to sow and grow chillies, but also how to choose the right variety for individual needs, difference between growing in a greenhouse, polytunnel or a sunny windowsill, where to buy equipment, etc. All in all, by the end of the two hours everyone there thought they would do a lot better job at their chilli growing ventures.
It was a cold, cloudless at Sea Spring Seeds for the chilli growing course.
Thursday 9th February - hottest chilli in the world
Just been reading up about the new "hottest chilli in the world". This time it is called the Moruga Scorpion and was tested by the Chile Pepper Institute in the USA. They got a high of 2,009,231 SHU - that is OVER two million Scoville units! – but in the same trial, with the same chilli they also got a low of 580,198 SHU.
That is precisely why when we have Dorset Naga tested we include at least a 100 chillies picked at random from the whole crop. This gives a true average heat level. Even then we get tremendous differences between sites, different years and different months in the same year and level of ripeness... and all this from seed grown from exactly the same seed batch.
Until now Dorset Naga had the highest heat level ever published – 1,598,227 SHU, tested in 2006 by BBC Gardeners World – however the test was done on a very small sample so we were not comfortable with laying any claim to this. We have only ever claimed that Dorset Naga, along with the other chillies in this extraordinary group of chillies, is ONE of the hottest chillies in the world.
Last summer we grew Yellow Moruga and got a heat level of 353,718 SHU.
Saturday 4th February - packing seeds
Today Laura and I packed a lot of seed pack. In two weeks time we have a stall at the RHS Spring Show and we have a lot to prepare for it.
Our stall selling chilli seeds at the RHS autumn show last October.
Wednesday 1st February - new propagator
We have just bought yet another propagator from Greenhouse Sensations. I need to prick out little chilli seedlings for our plug plants and need more space for them.
Tuesday 31st January
Our little chilli seedlings are emerging now and soon it will be time to prick them out. We didn't have enough space this year so have bought yet another propagator, one of the super-duper ones from Greenhouse Sensations.
Monday 30th January
The BBC Gardeners World Magazine have listed Apricot, one of our mild habaneros, as one of their top chillies. It is a great chilli and definitely deserves a place, but for me it is a toss up whether I prefer Bellaforma – not so fragrant but thicker fleshed and a softer skin.
Bellaforma and Apricot, two almost heatless, very flavourful habanero chillies.
Sunday 29th January
We did some tastings of four different kales we are trialling. One of the varieties, Red Russian, we already sell, but we want to offer more than just one variety of each vegetable category. It was amazing how different they tasted. The green curly kale, the standard type, tasted awful, so we won't be selling that one. In fact, the best flavoured was Red Russian, which just confirmed previous trials.
Saturday 28th January
Being a Saturday, dead on 8:30 am our three "lads" turned up for work. We need to sow our main chilli crop very soon, so the job for the day was to prepare the greenhouses. First the glass needed cleaning – we've got hard water and so after a summer of watering plants we always get a calcium precipatate on the glass that needs to be washed off. Next we had to put bubble plastic on the propagating greenhouse.
Cleaning the greenhouse and putting bubble plastic on the greenhouse in preparation of sowing chilli seeds.
Friday 27th January
In less than three weeks time we have an exhibit at the RHS Spring show in London. That is a little daunting as mid February is not a good time to have a vegetable display at a show run by Britain's premier horticultural society. We have had all our range of oriental greens growing in pots for a month or more and they are looking good. My only concern is that they look too good – every leaf is perfect – and by the time of the show they will be going downhill. The timing is crucial!
Thursday 26th January
Good news, our new superhot chilli, Fire, has – at last – passed its germination test! Yesterday, out of 200 seeds 74% had emerged. Today, four more seeds have popped up, bringing it up to 76%. Our minimum rate is 75%, so we are there, but I have a feeling more little seedlings are likely to appear....
Anyway, this means we can start sending the seed out. To everyone who has ordered it and has been waiting, I am really sorry it has taken so long, and thank you for your patience; I will get it out asap.
Fire, one of the three superhots sold by Sea Spring Seeds. This variety is particularly interesting as it has an origin very different to all other superhots we know about. Last year we had it measured at 572,000 SHU, but I suspect it is capable of a much greater heat.
Wednesday 25th January
The indoor trial of Oriental salads, with broadleaf mizuna, Yukina tatsoi, golden streaks.
|We are doing a trial on Oriental salads this winter. So we are growing about ten different varieties outdoors, and the same varieties in one of our polytunnels. Sue Stickland, a brilliant garden writer living in Wales is doing the same. In the spring we will compare all four crops. Today we did our second harvest. I haven't got the weights from Michael, but visually there didn't seem to be a great deal of difference between the indoor and outdoor mustards, pak choi and mizunas (our broadleaved variety and the ordinary one). But it has been a very warm winter – I have only seen a frost once so far! – so maybe this was notthe best year to do the trial.
Tuesday 24th January
OK, kicking and screaming we are joining the social media network. Comupters, emails, etc. I understand and enjoy working, even YouTube I get – and have actually had some fun on – and Michael is doing a blog! But carrying a mobile phone every second of every day, and then facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc. just seems a step too far. BUT I am told these are a part of every day life now, and essential for business. Michael and I went to a course on social media this morning. I got back and finally looked at my untouched facebook page and set up a twitter account, woke up this morning and even have some followers. But the mobile phone can stay in the house when I am working in the nursery!
- www.facebook.com/pages/Home-of-the-Dorset-Naga/190921644339274 (I am told I need 25 "followers" to have a better name).
- Twitter: @SeaSpringSeeds
- Blogg: www.seaspringseeds.co.uk/blog/
- YouTube: seaspringseeds
Monday 23rd January
We got a visit from a very nice couple hoping to buy some chilli seeds, in particular Dorset Naga. They live in France – although the husband was British and the wife from the Czech Republic – and were in Dorset visiting friends. I warm to some people instantly, and these two were very easy to like. What interested me was their comments about how difficult it is to buy chillies in France. I have heard this from others before. It seems that, on the whole, the French do not like their food very hot!
Sunday 22nd Jaunary
It is time for our annual stock-taking. Having done germination tests on all seed stock we've held longer than six months I now have to go through everything, checking there is nothing in our fridges (we keep all our seed at 4ºC) that is deemed not good enough.
Saturday 21st January
The three lads who work for us on Saturday morning turned up today. Merlin was hoping to do his favourite job – carting wheelbarrow loads of compost to our tunnels, a job we do every spring. But no, to his disappointment it was a day to tidy up. My packing shed was in need of a serious clear up, and then we turned to cleaning the glass on our propagation greenhouse.
Friday 20th January
Finally our new chilli variety, Bellaforma, has passed its germination test. We do not sell seed with a germination rate of less than 75%, but prefer it to be over 80% and aim for a 90%+ germination rate.
Most of the seed that we produce reaches this target. For instance, in our tests last November we recorded 95% and 97% for NuMex Twilight and Fairy Lights, respectively, and the Dorset Naga seed we are selling at the moment reached an almost perfect 99% germination.
So – at last – Bellaforma broke the magic 75% germination in our most recent test. But it didn't stop there, today a surprising number of little seedlings had emerged and we now have a germination rate of 97%. That is fantastic. On Monday I will send out all the back orders.
This is a brilliant chilli. Virtually no heat, but such a nice flavour; try it stuffed with cream cheese as a starter, or in a salad, sandwich or any cooked dish.
Thursday 19th January
Today we visited Kay and Phil Palmer at the Dartmoor Chilli Farm, and were very impressed. In the harsh environment of Dartmoor they have created a productive holding, growing chillies and other crops for their sauces. Of course, since it is January, there was nothing growing right now. With a fantastic view of South Devon the site was windswept – we can only imagine what it was like in the recent gales – all that was there were the overwintering beds of strawberries and rhubarb and the empty tunnels where their chillies will go. But it did not need much imagination to know what it will look like in the summer, it is just our bad luck that in the summer we will be too busy to visit!
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