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Mediterranean crops outdoors in the UK

Every year I grow solanaceous crops – peppers, tomatoes and aubergines in the backyard hoping their fruit will ripen before the first frost kills this tender species.

As you know, I am a great fan of builder’s buckets as containers so I use these filled with (peat-free) multipurpose compost and (peat-free) growbags to support the plants.

Everything motors along fine through the long days of summer, but the plants do not set any fruit until the days start to shorten just before the equinox and this is where the gambler in me surfaces.

Most years frost kills the plants before they can develop any fruit of a size that is worth eating.

Crop production starts back in April when I sow the seeds and it is an act of faith really as most years the cold and dull weather of early autumn stops growth before the crop matures and I end up harvesting aubergines the size of strawberries, lots of green tomatoes and peppers (Corno di Toro is my favourite variety) not much bigger than my little finger.

The first frost drags that person who has spent the summer thinking he is in Provence or Sicily back to Evesham!

However….. this year I feel vindicated.

We have been harvesting aubergines, courgettes and brilliant peppers for the last three weeks.

Thanks to good levels of solar radiation (plenty of direct sunlight) average daily temperatures have remained high enough to support crop development so although the tomatoes have all ripened by now, the peppers and aubergines are still going strong though developing rather slowly.

I expect to harvest a good crop of ripe chillies to dry for the winter’s curries and Spanish dishes and a few more goose-egg sized aubergines which are far more delicious than anything my supermarket can provide.

As I said earlier, this whole exercise is an act of faith – if you want results, get a polytunnel!

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