December 30, 2005

A Final Chile Harvest for 2005

Although the sky was overcast, I decided to pick the last seven pods of cayenne chiles out in my garden and put them into the dehydrator to dry. A few hours later, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. So the chiles are now properly dried and the machine is back in the garage. A good thing too, we are due for heavy rains starting tomorrow and this storm front should last several days.

I was able to show off my chile operation to a guest. My plummer was here to on fix our backyard hose bib. The new bib had to be soldered onto the copper pipe. He noticed my little dehydrator running on top of my cooler next to the kitchen door and smiled. He had to take a look at my chile garden and then told me how his mother grows chiles from seeds that she had brought from Mexico. He says that they are the most flavorful and hot chiles he has ever eaten. From what he described, they sounded like fresnos or jalapeƱos. Chile growing is such a pleasant hobby. It is nice to hear of others that also grow them.

December 28, 2005

Weather Delays

I was planning on harvesting more of the cayenne pods today and starting them in the dehydrator, but something made me suspious of the sky. Sure enough, around noon it started to rain. I'm glad that I didn't put the machine outside after all.

So I gathered in my dog and settled her on the couch and we are in for the day. One good thing about the rain: I won't have to do any watering this week. Always a plus!

December 27, 2005

Cayenne Powder Makin'

I removed the cayenne pods from my dehydrator that I dried before Christmas. Fortunately, I remembered to remove the machine from its place outside before the rain fell on Monday! I could have ruined my little $15 machine since I doubt it is waterproof.

I took these cayenne pods and the few pods that I had saved from this fall and made my first real batch of cayenne powder for the year. Some of the pods had gotten leathery. I was forced to pull out my old electric mill to do the initial grinding and then put the results into my marble mortor and pedstle for hand processing. The final product is a smooth powder of an earthen red hue that should be excellent for my cooking this winter and spring.

I have another half dozen of cayenne pods just turning red outside. There is more rain predicted, but I think that I have a few clear days that I could possibly dry more pods! I just might risk the rain tomorrow...and get a few more cayennes for my spice jar.

I also have more habaneros ripening out in my little raised bed. It is amazing to see them flourishing after Christmas has passed. I also have a few red beauty bells forming. They are all still green, but I will wait and see if they ripen to red. If they do, it will be the first bells that I will have harvested from these plants. Talk about slow starters! It will be a pleasure to enjoy them in a salad this winter if they make it.

December 21, 2005

Winter Cleanup Begins

It is a bright, sunny day outside, atypical for this time of year. The temperatures are warm and it seems to be a shame to stay indoors working. Now that the Christmas rush is over for my business, I am finding my way back outside into the gardens. There is a certain pleasure to be out tending my plants and garden spaces during a time when most of the United States is dealing with storms and snow. It is one of the reasons that I love Southern California.

My pepper plants have faired well despite my seasonal neglect. The fall rains have kept the soil moist and the shelter the plants receive at the side of the house have protected them from the wind storms that have blown through our area on and off during this December. I pulled many of the pepper plants from my garden and began my winter cleanup. Mainly the bell peppers. They are still producing, but I've been so disappointed with the flavor and quality of this year's crop, that I don't want to waste more time on them. I'm leaving in the chiles since I'd like to harvest more cayenne pods and would like to overwinter a few of the more unusual chiles. Particularly, the piquin pepper. I'm debating if I want to grow the red caribbean habaneros again. They are certainly hot and make a good powder, but the flavor is not quite what I like for my cooking. I'm finding that I am missing my more familiar cayennes this year instead. I ended up giving most of my later habanero harvest to one of my neighbors. So at least the pods didn't go to waste.

I did manage to harvest a dozen cayenne pods this morning and they are busy drying in the dehydrator outside. The weather will be with me and my machine should remain dry from the elements throughout the day. I might have enough cayennes to grind up a small pot of powder for my kitchen. Next year, I will plant four cayenne plants instead of merely two.

The final step was to pull any weeds from the chile garden. There were not many, but I don't want to allow the vines to overtake my plot again. I'm still paying for that year when I neglected my gardens and let them get a foothold. Now they pop up no matter what I do.

Merry Christmas fellow Chileheads!

November 21, 2005

A Small Harvest

I have not been doing much with my gardens this fall, but I suppose that is to be expected. Between being gone due to work and the weather, I tend to not worry about my gardens at this time of year. The rain provides them with moisture and my raised beds seldom have weeds, so all is usually well even with my neglect. I managed to harvest a handful of piquin peppers, three or four habaneros and one red gypsy pepper this morning. I'm going to pop the chiles onto the dehydrator this afternoon to dry overnight while the weather is clear. The gypy pepper will go into my lunch.

One of the nice things about Southern California is that your growing season is long. I can usually harvest peppers all the way until Christmas. However, I'm so busy with work that I'm considering pulling out some of the peppers early and getting my raised bed ready for its winter fallow period. I'm trying to decide if I want to overwinter a few of my pepper plants this year so that I have an early harvest of pods next spring...and don't have to worry about finding the same pepper next season. Overwintered peppers tend to not produce quite as well the second year as the first, but in the case of a few of my chiles, I think that it might be worth the effort.

October 18, 2005

Thunder Storms

My gardens have been besieged by heavy rains for the past two days. For the first time that my husband and I could remember, lightning has struck the street in front of our house. The following thunder was louder than ever. We didn't worry about it. Our house is properly grounded and therefore safe. While we waited for the satellite tv to come back, I made a pot of tea and sat outside to watch nature's show.

Today in the gardens, I am witnessing my roses putting out an abundance of new canes and buds and to my delight, more bell peppers are ripening out on my plants. I have three purple bells and two red bells that should be ready for harvest shortly. While this doesn't seem like much, it is more than enough to supplement our dinners and lunches for the next two weeks. I don't grow to put food away, I grow to enjoy fresh produce in addition to what I purchase at the supermarket. I should be able to continue my limited harvesting all the way through December.

September 26, 2005

The Harvest Continues

I managed to harvest a small handful of ripe cayenne and pequin peppers from my garden. There might have been one more habanero in there, but for the most part those plants seem to have fulfilled their destiny. I set up my dehydrator outside and what little I picked is now being dried. I don't think that I have enough cayennes to fill my spice jar as yet, but there seems to be a few more peppers out there so I will continue to watch and wait.

My gypsy frying pepper has set three more pods even though the plant got bent up when I recaged it two weeks ago. Of all the bells I grew this year, it is the only one that set any pods out there. I think that I will try the gypsy pepper again next year. I am hoping that it will continue to produce fresh peppers for the next month or two, but for the most part, my pepper garden is slowing down.

The Tepin Chile continues to do well and there are many tiny peppers on it. My cherry bomb seems to be developing its very first pod at long last. I don't know if I will get many pods from the cherry bomb, but I hope that there will be enough for me to do a test run of the pepper shooters that I had wanted to make. At least I will be able to know if I want to grow this pepper next year again or not if that happens.

I also potted up the parsley plant that I purchased a few days ago. In a nice thailand patterned blue and white pot. I had bought the parsley to use in my deviled egg platter for the party on Friday night, but there are still plenty of leaves and life left to the plant. We'll see how it does on my windowsil. As much as I love my patio pots, it is now fall and winter is approaching. My herbs are better off inside for the next few months.

September 19, 2005

First Rain Storm of Autumn

While autumn will not be starting for a few more days officially, I feel that it has arrived here in Southern California. Early this evening, we had our first rain storm of the season after many long months of dry hot weather. The thunder and lightning alarmed my animals and my dog spent a great deal of time with her eyes scanning the ceiling as the sound of rain beat overhead. I wonder if my dog even knows what rain is? She is only two years old and hasn't experienced rain for the past four to five months. She might have forgotten what it is. I dutifully turned my computer off while the lightning hit outside, but honestly, this was not that bad of a storm. While we took out candles to be prepared, neither my husband or myself thought that we'd truly need them. Compared to what the poor people of the gulf coast have suffered, we can hardly even call this a storm.

For me, the rain is most welcome. When the rain falls, I like to make a pot of green tea and sit on my front porch settee to watch it fall. Natural entertainment at its finest. About the only drawback is that I was hoping to do another load of chiles in my dehydrator tomorrow. There are a few more cayennes and piquins ripening on the chile plants and I'd like to get them dried. I used some of my new homemade habanero powder in my soup for lunch. I'm not sure if I will grow the red caribbean habaneros again, but they do have a good heat level when it comes to using them in a powder. I thought that the soup was very good with the powder added to it.

September 16, 2005

Back Home in the Garden

I've been on the road at work the last few days so it is always a pleasure to come home to my gardens. My roses have all sprouted new canes and buds. No doubt due to their recent feeding. All they needed was a little deadheading to get them back in order. My Altissimo Climbing rose has been left alone to form rosehips and I'm happy to note that the hips are turning beige and even a little red in places. Hopefully I will be able to harvest a few hips for tea infusions this late fall.

I spotted a few new ripe cayennes that I want to pick when I have my next free day. I'm determined to pick enough of them to replenish my spice pot of cayenne powder. The Tepin Chile plant is starting to come into its glory. The tiny transplant that I thought I had lost at one point, is now a 3 foot high chile plant and lots of tiny green pods are starting to form on it. They are so small, I wonder if I will get enough of them to even make a powder? I'll have to wait and see.

One of my vegetable beds was starting to be overrun with vines and grass and I had made a note to go and weed it. Today I discovered that the work had been done for me! It put a smile on my face. I guess my husband had done it to surprise me. It was thoughtful of him. When you do square foot gardening, there is not a great deal of weeding to be done in the garden...that is part of its charm! However, you still do need to go through the beds at least once a month to pull out a few volunteers. It is nice to know that I probably won't have to do any further weedings for a couple more weeks.

September 09, 2005

Manzano Chiles

I was excited to discover that my local supermarket was selling a box of fresh Manzano Chiles. In Mexico, they are known as "chile apples" due to their round shape, golden color and the hard black seeds inside. The walls are very thick and juicy, reminding me of a bell pepper, but the heat from this chile is between that of a serrano and a habanero. Manzanos are related to the rocoto chile that many chileheads rave about and which has piqued my curiosity more than once. In the few recipes that I discovered that listed this chile as an alternate, it usually subbed for habanero chiles.

I used four of these unusual chiles as the base ingredient for a "Grilled Jerk Chicken" marinade. It is made with all fresh ingredients such as onions, thyme and scallions and lots of different spices. All of it was pureed together in my blender and now waits in the fridge for the chicken breasts. According to the instructions, the chicken has to marinate for a full day. I'll be popping the chicken into the marinade tomorrow morning before I leave for work.

If I find that I like these chiles, I'm going to go back to the supermarket in a few days and purchase a few of the pods for their seeds. I'll dry them and put them into my garden next spring. It is going to be an interesting experiment.

September 07, 2005

Weeding Time

As I do about once every month, I spent a short amount of time weeding my pepper garden. The vines that come through the fence were poking through in places and a few had established in the good soil that I plant my peppers in. Out they went, along with a few grass weeds. This is one of the things that I really love about square foot gardening; there is hardly any weeding to be done at all.

I also pulled out one of the bell peppers that was not performing well and those four anaheim chile plants. They were healthy and putting out pods, but since I seldom use anaheims, I didn't see any point in continuing with them this year. I'd rather give the peppers that I like and that are producing more room in the garden.

I was busy with harvesting as well. A few more trays of cayennes, piquins and habaneros finished drying in the dehydrator and are now waiting to be turned to powder. I'm glad to see that my cayennes are starting to put out more pods. In time I hope to have enough cayenne powder to refill my spice jar this fall. The powder this year is a rich red and a smooth grind. I'm looking forward to using it in my cooking later in the year. I go through a great deal of cayenne powder!

Finally, a confession. I -bought- Fresno peppers from the grocery store for my breakfast. I have been missing my favorite peppers all summer. Store bought ones are not as good, but at least I'll have them once or twice this year for my cooking.

September 02, 2005

Preparing Hot Chile Oil

My enthusiasm for creating my own hot chile oil was dampened over the last day or so. I posted the method and recipe that I was planning on using to both the harvest forum at gardenweb and on the hot pepper forum at MSN. I was told that to make this oil might be dangerous if I included garlic and fresh herbs. I was disappointed, but it was pointed out to me that chinese food restaurants always seem to have hot chile oil on their tables. The key in making the oil is to use dried pods -only-. Also, I've been advised to always keep the homemade oil in my refrigerator and store it only for a few months. If it will keep for at least a month or two, that is more than enough time for a small batch of oil, so the project seems feasible again.

Therefore, I am making a small test batch of hot chile oil this afternoon. I took 1/2 cup of peanut oil, heated it until it was smoking and then put in around 3 to 4 of the dried habaneros. The oil doesn't have that red color that I was expecting, but I have a different recipes that also uses paprika that probably would give me the color that I want next time. Currently, the cooked oil is cooling in the pan and I will strain it into one of the small self corking bottles I purchased at CostPlus Imports the other day. So far, it has been a fun use of my garden chiles.

September 01, 2005

Mortar and Pestle for Making Chile Powder

I bought a little marble 4" mortar and pestle yesterday at Marshall's. It was very inexpensive and small enough that it won't pose a problem finding a place for it in my kitchen. Last year, when I was making my first batch of cayenne powder with pods from my garden, I used an electric coffee mill. This resulted in powder that was more a mixture of fine powder and flakes. We used the powder last year, but it was not quite what I wanted in texture.

This time, I went straight from my dehydrator to the milling process, using only the mortar and pestle. I discovered that the chiles crumbled easily and I was able to grind them into a uniform powder. The picture above is the final result of red carribean habanero powder that I made for my pantry this morning. I also ground up the five cayenne pods that I have dried and have started a fresh pot of cayenne powder. I will need many more cayenne pods to fill my bigger spice pot, but I'm glad to be rid of the older, not well ground powder and leathery pods of last year. There are more cayennes ripening out on my two chile plants, so as the next few weeks go by, I will start to refill my cayenne powder spice jar.

August 31, 2005

Processing Peppers Continues

I decided to dry all the rest of my habanero chiles this morning. Not only did I finish cutting up and seeding the rest of the 47 I had harvested a few days ago, but I found around 15 more habanero chiles on the plants that were ripe. I ended up with four racks of pepper pods on my dehydrator. I also found two more cayennes and added them to the dehydrator too.

Soon I will be ready to get started with making hot chile oils. I bought a few decorative bottles that I'm going to fill and give as gifts later in the year, but most of the oil will go into small half pint mason jars for storage in my refrigerator.

I still might make some hot sauce, but since my husband is a big fan of Frank's Red Hot, perhaps we'll stick with that in our cooking and I'll use the flavored peanut and sesame oils for my stir frys.

August 29, 2005

Drying Habanero Peppers

I have learned my lesson when it comes to drying habaneros and other pungent chiles in my dehydrator. I do it outside and spare my home of the intense aroma. Here, you can see my latest batch of Red Carribean Habaneros being dried for both powder and to be used as the base for hot chile oils that I will be preparing this afternoon.

August 28, 2005

Habaneros are Harvested!

My Red Carribean Habaneros were harvested today. I found 47 of the firey hot pods on my two plants and there are still more green ones out there. This is the most of any kind of chile that I have produced in my garden this year. The picture is what is left after processing many of the pods for my food dehydrator. I harvested a number of tiny chilepins, 3 cayennes and a couple of yellow bells.

I made a batch of "Piri Piri Oil" which is olive oil infused with a habanero, a bay leaf and lemon zest. I also made a vinegar infusion of rosemary, garlic and one habanero cut in half. Both recipes were found in Dave DeWitt's book, "Too Many Chiles!" My chile harvest this year has been very poor overall, but I did manage to get enough habaneros to try out a few new recipes! I'm also hoping to make some garlic chile paste and hot sauce. Everything will be stored in my refridgerator since I don't have a water-bath canner as yet. Frankly, between drying and freezing, I should be fine when it comes to storeage of my upcoming harvest.

August 06, 2005

A Good Weekend Harvest

After a great deal of waiting, this is my first real pepper harvest of the summer. The large peppers at the top are ripe gypsy bells. The long thin peppers are cayennes. The small oval peppers are piquins. I've never had a gypy bell or a piquin before and I'm looking forward to cooking with them later this weekend. I'm considering stuffing the gypsys either with polenta or perhaps a mixture of goat and cream cheese with bacon.

August 02, 2005

First Pepper Harvest

I harvested my first Fresno pepper from the garden this morning and had it in a breakfast omelet. I have greatly missed the flavor of fresh peppers in my cooking. The fresnos are extremely large this year, at least double the size of the ones that I grew last year. I wonder if this is a different variety of fresno? The horns are so big you could stuff them!

Other peppers are starting to form and ripen. Soon there will be many more varieties to sample as the summer heat continues.

July 06, 2005

Peppers Love the Summer Weather

The weather has changed from being cool all day to only being cool in the morning and then very hot in the afternoon. It is now summertime in Southern California. For now, the nights are still cool, but that is going to change shortly and it will be blazing hot all the time. There is no more rain. All the water comes from my hand or the soaker hose system that I have placed in my garden.

This is good news for my pepper plants. They are shooting up with new leaves and taller stems now that the cool weather is departing. There are many pods on all the plants now. A few are starting to turn ripe. I suspect that I will be able to sample the first of my new chiles this weekend in a breakfast omelette. I miss my Fresnos in my weekend breakfast, it will be good to have fresh chiles again.

In the mail today a refund check from the Chile Woman arrived. At least I finally have my money back for the lost chile pepper plants I ordered. I would have far rather had the chile plants. I am going to start looking around for seed starting kits and start assembling supplies for growing chiles from seed. Next January, I'm going to make the attempt to germinate peppers!

June 28, 2005

First Pepper Harvest

I was making Spicy Orange Beef for dinner tonight and the recipe calls for a bell pepper. Aha, I thought. It is time to pluck the first of my bell pepper beauties from the garden and use it in the recipe. I surveyed the various pods ripening out on the plants and decided to harvest the purple beauty pepper.

It was a lovely purple color on the outside, but the flesh was still green when I cut it. Therefore, the pepper was not very sweet in the dish. However, I am pleased enough with the acquisition and look forward to more of these peppers in the future. It is still rather early in the season for harvesting, but I think that within another two weeks or so, I'm going to start having a bumper crop of sweet peppers and hot chiles.

June 22, 2005

Connecting a Timer to the Soaker Hose System

Connecting a timer to your soaker hose system should not be a problem. However, I'm just one woman. First, I had to have my husband remove the soaker hose from the facet since I was not strong enough to do so. Then hooking the timer to the hose and the facet proved to be a challenge that was only solved by a stern twist of a pair of pilars. However, after being sprayed with water a few times, I finally got the timer set to water my pepper bed once a day for 30 minutes. Fortunately, the battery that I had placed in it last year is still working.

Above is a general photo of my full pepper bed with all of this year's peppers planted and caged. There is wonderful growth on my fresno peppers, they must have grown a few inches this week alone. I credit the hot summer days and the bright sunlight. The peppers love that sort of thing as much as my roses!

June 21, 2005

Caging the Peppers

Finally having a day off from work, I decided to put in a little work into my pepper garden this morning. First, I went down the row and weeded all the grass and vines that had sprung up. There wasn't much, but it needs to be done. While I did remove weeds from the cinderblocks, I decided to not weed the gravel path today. Next I planted the Red Beauty Bell that I picked up at Roger's Gardens last week at the end of the row.

Once the new pepper was planted, I used the soaker hose system to water the bed and used my watering can to make sure the new pepper got additional water to reduce transplant shock. Many of my peppers are starting to produce pods. The above photo is of my gypsy pepper and yellow bell. This is my first time of growing both varieties. I hear the gypsy is a good frying pepper. It seems to be producing many pods even this early in the season. The yellow bell pod is getting large and seems crisp and firm. It is still green, so I'm waiting to see what the final color will be.

Once everything was watered, I took out a few of my old tomato cages and put them around the bell pepper plants. I probably should have done this earlier, but the plants are still small enough to put in the cages. I'm not sure if they will provide enough support since I had toppling problems with them last year, but it is what I have on hand so they will have to do.

I got an email from the Chile Woman this morning concerning my order of pepper plants. Since the second box she sent never arrived, we both agreed that sending a third box would not be a good idea. She is going to send me a refund for the plants and investigate alternative shipping methods to my area. Obviously, there is something wrong with FedEx sending here when it comes to live plants! I am very disappointed by the loss of the plants, but it is simply too late in the growing season to attempt seedlings. What I have is going to have to do for this year.

June 17, 2005

Plant Box Arrives

The box of pepper plants that I had ordered last May magically appeared on my doorstep. No signature was required this time...and I don't even know if FedEx delivered it or not. The box had been opened and then taped shut with the words "Not for Landis" written in black marker over the top. The box was very beat up as if it had been smashed in a few times.

When I opened the box, there was a bit of dust, the invoice, six plastic pots...and otherwise an empty box. I think that whoever had taken my box must have stolen the plants and then waited a long time for FedEx to pick up the box for redelivery...or more likely, walked the box to my porch since they knew that I wasn't home. The stinking thevies.

I am very disheartened over ordering plants via the mail. I've asked for my money back and I don't think that I will ever buy a plant in this manner again.

June 11, 2005

New Pepper Plants

Since the peppers that I ordered from the chile woman never arrived, I am faced with the fact that I have additional pepper space available in my garden and no peppers for it. I drove back to Roger's Gardens on the off chance that they would have pepper plants even this late in the season.

I was delighted to discover that they had one "cherry bomb" plant left!!! I also bought a sweet japanese pepper and a "red beauty" bell pepper. I understand that the red beauties are very, very sweet and with large pods. A good replacement for the blushing beauty I was not able to locate this year. I am debating if I will replace the california wonder pepper that hasn't set any fruit as yet...and was never a favorite choice of bell in the first place, or just put the red beauty at the end of the bed where my chile woman peppers were supposed to go since I do have the space available.

More of my pepper plants are starting to set fruit. The gypsy bells are forming, the purple beauty bell, and my fresnos. The rest are still growing and looking healthy, just no pods as yet. It is going to be interesting to see what my garden produces this year. So far, I am pleased with the spacing and how my plants are staying upright without staking.

June 04, 2005

Weeding the Pepper Bed

Weeding is not something that I take a great deal of joy in, but then I imagine that most people find it tedious. Still, it needs to be done from time to time. I put in around 10 minutes pulling all the seedling vines and grasses that have sprouted up in my pepper bed over the past month or two. It is now clear. More of my pepper plants are forming pods. It is nice to see that they are all doing well, even the little Tepin Chile that I was so worried about.

Easy weeding is one of the best things about square foot gardening. Since the beds are raised and contained, weeds tend to not get a foot hold in your soil and when a few do, they are very easy to remove. Mel Barthlomew recommends weeding once a week, but I find that I generally only have to do it once a month and then it is a simple task of minutes.

There is still no sign of the pepper plants that I had ordered from the Chile Woman. I spoke with the owner of my mail box provider yesterday. He is aware that live plants are being shipped and he has placed my number inside my box as a reminder to call me once they arrive. He assures me that FedEx knows HIS address and won't mistakenly deliver my plants to a stranger. I just hope that they make it. I have no idea when they were shipped or how long the transit time is going to take. All I can do is wait.

June 02, 2005

Still No Chile Plants in Sight

I heard back from the Chile Woman about my missing plants. It seems that FedEx did deliver my box of plants and it was signed for...but it was delivered to the wrong house. So basically, some stranger signed for my package and then took off with it. I have no idea who the culprit was, but I'm very angry over this. My house is clearly marked with its number. There is no reason for them to be dropping off packages "with the neighbors".

Unfortunately, many of the peppers that I ordered are no longer available for reshipment...whenever the reshipment is. I'm growing a bit depressed over the whole situation. I'd been so looking forward to trying these new chiles I've been hearing about, but I missed out on them all the way across the board at several nurseries, the arboretum and now my last chance, the mail order company. I'm thinking about making another run to my local Armstrong nursery. I don't have much hope in finding anything this late in the game, but I would love to have cherry bombs in my garden if I can find them.

Next year, I don't think that I can rely on finding plants. I will have to start seeds and get my plants that way. I'm not going to go through all this again.

May 31, 2005

First Fresno Chile Pod

The peppers in my garden are starting to bloom and form pods. This picture is of the first Fresno Chile to appear in my salsa garden this year. It is still green. I won't harvest it for my breakfast until it ripens to a bright red. I have four Fresno Chiles in the garden, so I'm hoping for lots of pods. The Fresno Chile is my favorite all purpose cooking chile.

May 30, 2005

Chile Plants Lost in the Mail

It is official. My package from the Chile Woman has been lost in the mail. I have been very angry with the post office over this. There have been mis-labeled tags left in my mail box and other issues. I have emailed the chile woman about the situation and hope to hear from her after the holiday is over about reshipping my order. It is not her fault that my local post office can't seem to do their job.

My constant disappointments with finding the chile seedlings that I want has taken a toll on my contentment with my chile growing hobby. I need to start my own seeds in January instead of relying on buying plants and get my specialty chiles in that manner. It is less expensive to go this route and easier to get the seeds than to get live plants. I will start to watch the garden centers for sales on seed starting cels and find a waterbed heater with temperature control to use next winter.

Hopefully, seeds will come my way via the chilehead exchange that I belong to. I don't have much to offer in exchange, but perhaps a few people will take pity on me and send a dozen seeds my way here and there if I pick up the postage.

May 24, 2005

Tepin Chile Planted

I decided to plant my Tepin Chile into the raised bed this morning. It has not been faring well in its pot due to the heatwave we've been going through the last couple of days and I didn't want to risk losing it again. It is very small and is at risk to the cutworms, but since I only paid 50 cents for the plant, if I lose it I am not out much. Once the chile was planted, I did some general weeding in the bed. Those vines are starting to sprout here and there and I want to make sure that they don't get another foothold in my garden. I was afraid that this might happen since they had overrun my pepper beds last winter. Those roots are hard to get rid of. Already, more of the invasive plants are poking through the fence toward my fragile peppers.

For watering the pepper bed, I used the soaker hose system. I am still not happy with the distribution of the water around my plants, but I will attempt to work on that this week since I have more free time. I want to get a four way valve on the faucet too. Then I will dedicate one faucet for the pepper bed, one for my dog's self-filling water bowl and another for my handwatering hose that covers my backyard.

May 22, 2005

Loss of the Tepin Chile Plant?

We've been having a heatwave here in Southern California. Normally, it doesn't get this hot until at least June, but the weather has been very strange this year. I've been away at work for the last few days and have not been able to keep up with my handwatering. Tonight, I had a look at the little tepin chile in its pot and it looked like a dried stick. I gave it water hoping that it wasn't too late, but I have a feeling I have lost the plant. My pots of herbs are also suffering. Several of the plants are dying and my parsley is bolting. I will need to make a few replacements there as well.

At least the peppers in the bed are fairing well. They are sheltered from the worst of the heat in my east yard and while they didn't get water, the bed retained enough moisture to keep them healthy. I gave all the plants a good dose of water this evening and I think that the majority of my plants will be fine.

May 19, 2005

Thai Dragon Pepper Removed

After I was done handwatering my raised bed, I decided to get in some weeding in my east yard where my pepper garden is. I got the three or four weeds that had sprung up in the bed itself and then got to work on the gravel path surround the bed. Some grass and clover has sprung up through the weed barrier and I want to make sure that I get it out before it goes to seed. I was surprised to discover that a bit of bopoca had also taken root in the ground under one of my fuchsia baskets. It must have fallen out of the basket this winter. It too is now in the weed can.

Once that was completed, I took another look at the thai dragon pepper that had fallen over due to the weak, chewed up, stem. I noticed that it had a single pepper forming on it, but even so I decided to remove it and added it to the weed can. Then I took the two extra cayenne pepper seedlings from the nursery that I had not planted and disposed of them too. The cayenne peppers in my bed are doing fine, so I don't believe I need the backups any longer. I'm expecting my box from the chile woman any day now, so my raised bed needs to be ready to receive the new pepper plants. I can hardly wait for them to arrive!

May 15, 2005

Whisper Rose

While I normally focus on my peppers and other salsa elements of the garden, I wanted to share a photo of my Whisper Rose in its first flush of spring bloom. Whisper is white with a touch of cream on the reverse, truly an outstanding HT rose.

May 07, 2005

Loss of a Thai Dragon Pepper?

I've been out of town on business for the past week. When I go, my gardens always suffer a little. This time was no exception. My husband did water the peppers for me during my absence, but sometimes even this is not enough to stop trouble.

When I went out to check on my pepper garden this morning, I was surprised to find that my thai dragon pepper was lying on its side in the bed. At the base of the stem it looks like something had knawed the plant away. Could it be a cutworm? I thought the pepper was large enough to handle the cutworm problem, but perhaps I was wrong. The plant is still alive and starting to grow up at the end and even flowering, but I'm considering removing it altogether. I will either find a new thai dragon chile or perhaps I'll plant that little Tepin Chile in its place.

Two of my bell peppers are starting to flower. All four are looking very healthy and gaining more height. I will need to cage or stake them soon. So far, none of the chiles have flowered except the thai dragon. This is okay. I think that it is better if your chiles and bells don't flower until July. The plants develop better roots and seem to get stronger in general.

April 30, 2005

Tepin Chile

Southern California is always beautiful during April. Once the spring rains are finished, the air is clean and the temperatures are moderate. It is the perfect weather to go out to the nurseries in search of new plants. I managed to find my way to the Fullerton Arboretum this morning and was well pleased not only by the selection of unusual plants, but the friendly voluteers that staff the "potting shed". I purchased this Tepin Chile for only 50 cents! Unfortunately, the bulk of their pepper plants, including the Blushing Beauty pepper I was looking for, sold out in their tomato and pepper sale last weekend.

I continued my search for another red bell pepper to the larger Armstrong nursery near Fullerton. There were no more Red Beauty peppers to be had. There was a lone California Wonder on the table among an assortment of hot chiles and Gypsy Peppers. So I decided to get the California Wonder, although it is not a favorite and a Chilepin Chile. This will complete my pepper bed for 2005. Both the California Wonder and the Chilepin have been placed into my pepper bed. I am hesitant about planting the Tepin though. It is still small and I fear that if I put it into the soil, the cutworms will get it.

April 28, 2005

First Pepper Plants of 2005

My first batch of pepper transplants are now in their bed. As you can see by the picture, my soaker hose system is still not quite where it should be. I need to find some guides to keep the hose in the proper place for watering, but that will come in time. I haven't needed to do much watering due to the excess rainfall that we've been experiencing this spring, but my peppers, herbs and roses have loved the extra water.

The chilies are as follows from back to front: Gypsy Bell, Yellow Bell, Purple Beauty Bell, Fresno, Cayenne, Red Caribbean Habanero, and Thai Dragon. I'm planting the bells singly and the chilies are side by side since they tend to be smaller plants.

April 27, 2005

Fushcia Basket

One of my local nurseries was having a sale on common variety fushcias, so I treated myself to a little pink and white one. I find these sort of fushcias to be very hardy. I have one that has been in a basket for over four years. I have paired this plant with two white bopocas. Both are just starting to take off, blooming fabulously.

April 26, 2005

Soaker Hoses

I had tried to set up my new soaker hose watering system last week, but discovered that I needed a female to female connection to complete the loop. Fortunately, I had a kindly elderly man in an orange apron not only explain what I needed to finish my hose system, but he even went to the other side of the store to get the part for me! Now that is service.

This afternoon, I put all the hoses together and turned on the faucet. Water sprayed everywhere! However, I put some elbow grease into the connections and managed to get most of the spraying under control. Libby and I ended up with an unexpected bath is all. I did notice that the hose is brushing against the small pepper plants in places, but I think that if I purchase some guides, that should solve the problem.

Meanwhile, my hunt for pepper plants continues. I placed an order with The Chile Woman a few days ago. This will fill the seven spaces I had left for hot chiles. As I was surfing the Fullerton Arboretum website, I came upon their potting shed plant sale list. There, many of the chiles I have been wanting were offered. I'm glad that I did the mail order since I've heard great things about the chile woman, but I think that I'll go to Fullerton this weekend and see if I can find a Blushing Beauty Bell. It is probably my favorite pepper and I will be disappointed if I end up without having one in my garden this year. It was listed as one of the plants they carry, but I will have to see if they have any in stock.

April 21, 2005

Peppers are Planted

This afternoon, I planted all of my pepper plants. I left a space for one more red bell pepper and seven more hot chile varieties as I can find them. I think the new wider spacing might work better this year. I am planting one bell per cinderblock space and two chile plants per cinderblock space. Basically, this gives 18" around each plant. I thought that the peppers were too close last year so this should solve that problem. I am also going to try and fill in my entire bed this year instead of leaving some of it fallow as I did last year.

April 13, 2005

Another Herb Garden on my Patio

A second potted herb garden now resides on the other side of my kitchen door. The pair of them brings a note of symmetry to my kitchen patio. This herb pot holds Lemon Thyme, Stevia, Onion Chives, Marjoram, and Garlic Chives. I've already cut some of the marjoram for a recipe this week.

April 12, 2005

New Pepper Transplants

The new pepper transplants are waiting to be placed into the pepper bed. Meanwhile, they are getting plenty of sunshine and water.

April 11, 2005

Mel Barthomew Speaks at the Mission

On April 8th, I paid a visit to the San Juan Capistrano Mission where Mel Barthomew of "Square Foot Gardening" fame held a lecture beside the mission's square foot garden. Mel's gardening book has been like a bible to me in my efforts to grow chiles and other vegetables, so it was a real pleasure to get to see him in person. I got my book signed too!

The square foot garden at the mission is simply lovely. They had many examples of different vegetables growing and some neat ideas of flowers to plant in the borders. If you get a chance to visit the mission, I highly recommend going to visit their square foot garden exhibit.

April 09, 2005

No Chile Plants Available Yet!

I was back at Roger's Gardens today. It is where I purchased the herbs for my new herb garden pot. I was hoping to find the specialty hot chile plants that they said would be stocked this year. I was disappointed again. Evidently the plants were effected by the unusually cold weather we've been experiencing here in Southern California and the supplier is three weeks late. I'm to call back in a few days to see if they've arrived.

I do have a small assortment of generic chile plants. Fresnos, Cayenne, and Thai Dragon. I have one variety, Caribean Red Habanero. I will continue my search for peppers for another week, but at that point I'm calling it off and ordering from the catolog.

April 04, 2005

The Hunt for Hot Peppers

I made my pilgramage to three nurseries this morning. Two Home Depots and Armstrong's Nursery. There are more pepper seedlings out there on the shelves, but so far not the ones that I want to place into my salsa garden. The labels are very generic and I'm not sure of the varieties that are being offered.

I hit paydirt at the second Home Depot that I visited. A four pack of Fresno Peppers for only $2.00 and a single pepper labeled "Yellow Bell". I'm not sure about the bell pepper, but since I had not selected a variety of yellow bell for this year, but knew that I wanted to grow at least one, I picked it up. It was $1.50. All the plants look very healthy and well established.

I also picked up a generic fuschia. I'm not sure where I'm going to put it, but it is covered with buds and seems very healthy. I'll find a place for it! The flowers are pink and white.

So far, my little herb garden is doing fine. It is getting enough sun in its location next to my kitchen door. My dog has been leaving the plants alone. The most she's done is sniff the parsley right after I cut a few leaves for my breakfast the other day. I'm growing encouraged by this. This might be the year that I can put plants out on my patio again.

March 31, 2005

First Herb Garden of Spring 2005

I decided to drive down to Roger's Gardens to see what pepper seedlings might be available. I was happy to discover some Caribean Red Habaneros and Thai Dragons. They are waiting in their pots in a sunny and sheltered location. This is just the start of this year's collection. Hopefully, I'll be lucky and find the rest of the chiles and bell peppers that I'm seeking.

Roger's Gardens is famous for their herbs. I could not resist purchasing a few potted herbs to put together my first herb garden of the spring. The herbs are lush and have a wonderful scent. For my kitchen herb garden, I have purchased English Thyme, Flat and Curly leaf Parsley, Greek Oregano and Sage.

Last year, I had purchased what is called a "patio pot", it is a terracotta pot that is bowl shaped. I think it will be perfect for the herbs. My only fear is that my dog Libby might dig into the pot and destroy the new plants. She had a habit of doing this when she was a puppy. She is now two years old. I think it is time to put the dog to the test. I'd like to start having patio plants again!

March 30, 2005

Libby Gets in the Way

Spring is always quite beautiful here in Southern California. It was warm and breezy and there were fluffy white clouds in a cheerful blue sky. It was the perfect weather for gardening. I had purchased three bags of Miracle Gro Garden Soil and two bags of organic compost at Lowe's yesterday. Today I opened the bags and distributed them in my pepper bed. Then I took a shovel and turned all the new soil into the old dirt. I think that my soil level is about as high as the cinderblocks. This should be enough to grow my peppers. I probably should raise my bed up another cinderblock level this year, but I'm out of time and my funds are limited. I will simply make due with what I have.

While I was working, I had left the garden gate open. My dog, Libby, ran into my garden. She leaped into my pepper bed and her hind paw got caught on one of the cinderblocks. I heard a loud -yelp- and then she ran out of the garden, limping. I was very worried for my dog since I wasn't sure what had happened to her at first. I checked for snakes and spiders where she yelped, but I didn't see anything. I took my dog into the house and put her into her bed. She laid still for quite some time and her hind leg and paw were very sensitive. Canceling my plans for the morning, I stayed home and kept an eye on her. In a few hours she relaxed and slowly returned to normal. Tonight, she is her usual cheerful self...none the worse for wear. I guess she had simply banged her paw.

March 29, 2005

Spring has Arrived!

Spring has arrived. My pepper bed has laid fallow all winter long. It is now ready to have new soil added to it and pepper seedlings planted.

March 14, 2005

Visiting Local Nurseries

I drove down to the beach this morning and stopped at my two favorite sea side nurseries. Both carry larger varieties of vegetables and flowers than my local nurseries. I was looking for pepper seedlings.

I spoke to the vegetable buyer at Roger's Gardens and he said that the peppers were not coming in for another two weeks. They are planning on stocking 40 different varieties of hot chiles and sweet peppers this year! Plus, their supplier is the very same guy I was referred to by my chilehead gurus. I'm very excited. There is going to be far more to choose from than the fatalii and habaneros I was planning on getting. They had a seminar on heirloom tomatoes and hot chiles yesterday at Roger's Gardens. I am disappointed that I missed it since it was put on by Steven Goto of Goto Nurseries. This is a place that I've been referred to as an excellent source of hot chili seedlings. I need to keep up with their seminar schedule better!

February 01, 2005

Clearing Out the Raised Beds

Its been an industrious day in my gardens. The winter rains have ended and the air outside is cool and sunny. My little dog has been having a good time sunning herself in the bark mulch. I'm sure that the heat feels wonderful on her coat. I've been enjoying the fresh air too.

I removed all the pepper plants from my raised beds this morning. My fresno peppers did have ripening pods, but due to the shady location and the cool weather, my peppers are not having any real heat to speak of. I don't find them worth eating right now. Also, the insects have eaten most of the leaves and the plants are looking horrible. I will start with fresh plants in a couple of weeks.

I also went over my raised beds looking for more of those awful vines. I pulled any that I discovered in the composted soil. I will give things a third going over before I amend the soil this spring. I don't want to bury any of those vine roots in there or I will never be rid of the plants.

My efforts at removing weeds from my yards in general continues. I spent a good two hours this morning with my hoe and shovel. I wish that I could use roundup on the weeds, but I don't want my dog to become sick if she eats a plant that has been treated and I don't like to use poisons on general principal. So I'm doing it all the old fashioned way with sweat and muscle.

January 23, 2005

Pulling Out Vines....And More Vines....

Pulling out Vines....

I spent a good hour in my raised garden beds yanking out vines that had invaded my yard from my neighbor's property. They spread by long stems that root into the soil ever few inches and the vines cover over rock, trees...anything that gets into their path. They had wormed their way through the redwood plank fence that separates my property from that of my neighbors.

I had thought that the vines had burst through in two places along the fence, but having looked over the pattern of the vines layout, I now realize that they only came through one place and that all these hundreds of yards of vine came from that single source!

I am considering stapling a wire mesh along the bottom of the redwood fence where the offending vines had invaded. I had lined the bottom of my raised beds with this wire mesh to keep moles from burrowing up and stealing carrots and beets, I don't see why it couldn't keep vines out as well....and I should have some of it left in my gargage.

January 19, 2005

Herbs and Pepper Seedlings Spotted

As I work on re-landscaping my backyard, I have been visiting various nurseries in the area in order to purchase plants. I've bought flowering maples, mexican false heather, and camellias so far. All are plants to develop the shady areas of my yard. I was delighted to see the first of the herbs and pepper plant seedlings at the nurseries. It is too early for me to purchase and plant peppers and tomatoes, but seeing the seedlings makes me smile and I long to start putting together new herb baskets. I will not have time to prep my square foot garden beds this month, but I'm looking forward to the time when I will be able to get my herbs and vegetables growing again.

January 16, 2005

The Joy of Fresno Peppers

It was a joy to discover a few ripe fresno peppers in my raised bed this morning. I harvested one for my breakfast. Unfortunately, the pepper was not very hot. I fear that there is not enough heat and sun during the winter to give the chile its bite. I might go ahead and take the last few peppers out of the bed in the next week or two. It is time to start getting my gardens ready for planting in late February.

I have tentively decided to NOT hire a clean up crew for the backyard and side yards and to do the work myself. There are many plants that I want to purchase to add to the color pallet and to make the yard more lush this year. If I pay for the cleanup to be done, I might not have funds for the plants and I certainly would not have funds to get the cement work done. Besides, there is a certain pleasure in doing the work myself.

January 11, 2005

Loss of My Potting Bench

The rains finally came to an end today. According to the weather services, the past 15 days have broken all records for rainfall here in California. I well believe it. Never can I remember so much rain and for so long. Supposedly, more is on the way....

The sun has been shining over my little fallow pepper beds and the water that has flooded my backyard by several inches has soaked into the earth. There is much damage to my gardens due to the storm. Pine fronds lay everywhere and much of my patio is covered. The cement dried enough to allow my dog to go outside. She sat and suned herself, listening intently to the birds and sniffing the wind.

During the afternoon, I heard a loud crack. Going outside, I discovered that my little wooden potting bench had collasped and all the terracotta pots that I had left on it had tumbled to the ground and broken. I am not heartbroken over the loss of the bench since I had been considering throwing it out this year, but I will miss the pots. They were glazed a beautiful cobalt blue and I had found them to be very pretty. Damage is part of winter and of storms. Once the rain is over, I will have much to tend to in my gardens.