If there's one thing that has done well for me this year, it's these little peppers. They were an impulse buy - I found them as plug plants in a supermarket and just threw them into the trolley along with some tomatoes that I really wanted.
They weren't quite what I expected. I have to admit to having looked too quickly at the label and thought I was buying big, sweet peppers. But when I got home and read it properly - no, they were small, hot peppers.
Now, we don't usually like hot peppers, so I was more interested in them for their ornamental value than anything else. And have they paid off. They've been green and glossy all summer and are now covered in bright red fruit, which looks great against the green walls of the flat.
And unlike virtually everything else I've grown, they've not been touched by sap sucking insects or red spider mite this year. Apart from a bit of caterpillar damage, they're just about the healthiest plants I've got.
Is that because the bugs don't like them? No. These two plants came in a group of four, and the other two went on the front balcony with the tomatoes. And the insects just dived in and munched. They didn't last much past flowering.
So why the difference? The only thing I can point to is this.
Mint, growing at the bottom of the peppers. Or at least, it was.
Back in the summer I wrote a post on companion planting. Some plants will repel insects, thus protecting any other plants growing nearby. Mint is supposed to be one of them.
Now, I ask you - does this look like a plant that has repelled insects? Huh - they've had a feast.
Rather than repelling the insects, it seems to have acted as a sacrificial plant. They've enjoyed the mint so much (and believe me, a while back there was a lot more of it) that they've left the peppers alone.
Well, that's the theory. I can't find confirmation anywhere that mint should attract pests. Every website I've found so far solemnly assures me that insects can't bear it. They've clearly never met ours.
In any case, I know what's going to be growing between all my other plants next year. it's going to be tomatoes and mint, surfinia and mint, roses and mint, hollyhocks and mint, beans and mint, potatoes and mint, honesty and mint, jerusalem artichokes and mint, zinnia and mint, peas and mint, black-eyed Susans and mint, lettuce and mint, morning glory and mint, sunflowers and mint, delphiniums and mint, marigolds and mint, cosmos and mint, calendula and mint, poppies and mint, rosemary and mint, antirrhinums and mint, radishes and mint, alyssum and mint ....
So should you hear people complaining of a mint shortage in North Italy around about the beginning of May 2011, please don't tell ...