Oops! - nearly lost my last Manzana chilli plant in the latest heat wave…
My fault of course - I lost track of which one of the 50 watering cycles this particular plant relies upon. And although I’ve grown this chilli in the past I’d somehow failed to keep the seed-line alive except for this single plant. As Manzana chilli seeds are simply no longer to be found in my favourite heritage seed catalogue this is something I can’t afford to happen. It’s my favourite chilli, now rare and irreplaceable.
‘Permanent wilting point’ is the scientific term for ‘death’ in plants – lack of soil moisture causes the remaining water in the plant tissue to be drawn out in a last ditch attempt to maintain life. So tissue – and hence the leaves and stems – wilt and droop as cell turgor is lost.
This extremity can be reached very quickly in hot weather and particularly in sandy soils that aren’t as good as loams and clays at holding soil water available to the plant root system.
To cap all that off, this particularly chilli bush is exposed to the full heat of the westerly sun, so must deal with this source of water stress in addition to the gardener’s inattention.
There is only one thing that saved this rare heritage chilli; the fact that I was on holidays and so around the garden all day. As this small chilli has been planted right outside the backdoor in easy reach of the cook, it caught my eye just in time.
So which irrigation schedule is it on? It turns out that its alone, by itself, outside the norm and utterly reliant on the gardener to keep it alive. For I water this one plant by hand, stealing the occasional bucket of rinse water out from under the cook’s nose, as she has her own favourites to water.
And that rinse water? Lots of small items just aren’t worthy of the trip to the dish-washer and so get rinsed over a 5 litre bucket in the sink. This water is saved rather than allowed to run to waste down the drain. All it takes are a series of routine trips to the garden to dispose of each bucketful as it become available.
So rather than wait for the ‘wilting point’ symptoms to manifest themselves I have installed a GDot soil moisture sensor dedicated to this one Manzana chilli.
Maybe even the cook will spot its plight next time and make a rinse-water donation when needed?