December 15, 2006

Harvesting Chiles

It is the busy season for my business, so my little chile garden has been somewhat neglected while I've been away at work. The cooler temperatures and the occasional rain has been helpful in keeping all my plants healthy and productive while I've been gone. I always have chiles through Christmas and this year is no exception.

My chocolate habanero turned out to be the most productive chile of them all. I have a gallon ziplock bag in the freeze full of the dark pods. I also found a couple of yellow fatalis, red bird peppers and more red scotch bonnets. There will be plenty of fruit to experiment with this winter and I hope for yet more pods before January.

I have pulled out a few of the plants to clean up the bed. The hungarian wax, the pepperonci's, the salsa garden and the thick cayenne plants are now gone. I've been pleased with the production of my plants in my tiny pepper patch, but I think that next year I will grow fewer plants and make sure that all of them are caged properly.

I hope to overwinter the more exotic peppers, such as the habanero, the fatali and the bird pepper. I understand that the second year they can get even hotter and more flavorful. I will need to get through christmas first, attend to the family and then perhaps, there will be time to play out in my garden.

Merry Christmas everyone! Happy chile growing.

September 14, 2006

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I was giving my pepper patch a good watering this morning, when I heard a loud snap. When I went over to check my blushing beauty bells, I saw that half of one of the plants simply snapped in half and fell over! I've never seen this happen with my bells before. The blushing beauties are forming several large pods and I'm looking forward to harvesting them once they ripen, but the pods seem to be sinking down to the ground. The plant simply can not support the weight of the fruit. I had not put up cages around my peppers this year and I regret this action now. Next year, everything is going to get a cage!

September 05, 2006

Scotch Bonnet Pods Form

One of the things about a garden is that you can step away from them for a time and then return in a week and find all sorts of surprises waiting for you. My big surprise was the discovery of a large number of scotch bonnet pods forming in my garden. It seems like I've been waiting forever and a day for this plant to start producing pods. Now, it finally is!

The latest heat wave combined with my watering the chile patch less often seems to have hit pay dirt. All of my peppers are doing quite well in my little side yard. I can't wait to see what forms next!

August 15, 2006

Tomato Sauce Success

We've been suffering through a long heatwave and most of my gardening has come to a stop. Fortunately, the pepper plants in my garden are still thriving. I have lots of fresnos, hungarian wax, bulgarian carrot, kung pao and cherry bomb pods out there now. I've been harvesting most of these for various breakfast dishes. Putting them into omelet or making them into fresh salsa. I'm now keeping avocados and cilantro in my kitchen on a regular basis for cooking. Now that the heat wave is over, I've been noticing that my peppers are starting to set more pods and seem to be flowers more.

My blushing beauty bells are starting to flower at long last. The plants are about 2.5 feet high now. I've had no bells at all this year in the garden and I'm hoping that at long last, the bells are going to start setting pods.

The scotch bonnet and the chocolate habanero plants are growing like weeds. They are now the tallest peppers in my garden, but so far there are still no flowers or pods on them.

The two tomato plants have exceeded my expectations. I made my very first batch of homemade marinara sauce and it turned out wonderfully. I've never had to peel tomatoes before, but I found it easy enough to do via the instructions that came with the recipe in the cookbook I used. The magic bullet made pureeing the tomatoes very easy. I used my smaller crockpot to slow simmer the sauce for a full day and the flavors of herbs, red wine and tomato blended beautifully. I added in a bit of ground beef the second time around and it was a hearty summer meal. Between the fresh salsa and the marinara sauce, growing tomatoes is more than worthwhile. Next year, I think that I better cage them though. My two plants overtook my tiny plot and I'd like to contain them better the next time.

July 07, 2006

Weeding Time and Chile Update

I can't remember the last time that I weeded my salsa garden. It was time. A few weeds had taken hold inside the cinderblocks. They all came out easily due to the weed barrier under my cinders and the bed. I pulled out most of the wandering jew vines coming through the fence. Now that my garden is two cinders high, the vines are having a tougher time getting into my patch. I don't think that anything will stop those blasted vines short of a nuclear attack, but at least the double high cinderblocks makes it easier to keep them at bay. I got them out of my rose garden too.

I checked over the chile plants. I'm concerned that I haven't had a single full sized bell as yet. It is July, I should be having bells by now! I also do not remember having so many insect chewed pods before. I am starting to get healthy and tasty pods from the plants this past week, so at least I'm starting to see some production in my garden.

The "pepperoncini" that had the strange colored pods got a closer look. I have now determined that the plant simply was not a pepperoncini pepper, but a strange dark jalapeño type chile. I removed the entire plant from the bed. I also noted that one of my cherry bomb plants is sporting jalapeño style pods. It is definitely not a cherry bomb. I didn't plant any jalapeños this year and am starting to regret that I didn' that one can remain. For now.

Something that was a pleasant surprise was my fish pepper. The leaves are starting to turn a molted white. At first I thought that the plant was sick, but then I remember reading that both the leaves and the peppers have white markings. This one is going to be very interesting to see. I can't wait to try one of the pods in my cooking.

On the tomato front, the two plants are setting MANY tomatoes. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them all. I'm hoping that I will have enough ripe ones to serve at our BBQ next week. I always like to include some of my garden produce at my parties so that our friends can enjoy some of the organic food that we grow. Next year, I think that one tomato plant might be more than enough to feed my family.

July 05, 2006

Bulgarian Carrot

I got a good harvest from my pepper plants yesterday. A few of the large thick cayennes, more hungarian wax, a few fresnos and one bulgarian carrot. They are in a basket in my refrigerator waiting to go into my dishes.

I have never had a bulgarian carrot chile before. It is a cheerful orange hue, reminding me of an orange habanero, but it is long and pointy like a serrano chile. I found the texture to be crisp and the heat level a comfortable medium, rather like my favorite fresnos. I think that this is going to be a chile that I continue to grow in my salsa garden. I can see many uses for it in my cooking due to its pleasant heat level and color.

June 24, 2006

First Tomatoes

Although I only planted two tomato plants this year, both are producing fruit like there is no tomorrow. Most of the tomatoes are still green, but this afternoon, I spotted a pair of ripe ones in the bed. I am happy to say that I have my first ripe tomatoes from my garden! They are small Celebrity Tomatoes of a beefsteak style. I'm not sure what I will make with them yet, but I'm looking forward to using them.

Meanwhile, the pods are still forming on the chile peppers. Most of the plants have pods now, although few are ripe enough to eat. I'm growing concerned about a few of my chile plants. The chiles are turning black. I'm not sure if this is some sort of fungus or if my pepperoncini peppers are NOT pepperoncinis. The one replacement pepperoncini seems to be perfectly normal and it is beside the others in the bed. I will have to ask a few questions of the MSN Chile forum and see if the experts there can figure out what is wrong with my pods.

My garden paths were cleared of weeds today and all the juniper needles that had fallen on my gravel paths has been raked up and hauled away. The area is looking quite neat and tidy and I'm well content with that. I still need to pull out the wandering jew vines on the far side of the cinderblocks, but at least most of the work is now completed.

June 12, 2006

First Batch of Homemade Salsa of the Year

Last week, my husband and I bought a "Magic Bullet" blender/food processor system. We wanted it for blended drinks, but I was hoping that it would be an easy way to make salsa as well. It is! This morning I harvested the first chile pod from my garden, one of the salsa garden variety, intending to make homemade salsa.

I followed the seven second salsa recipe that came in the book with the machine. I threw in a quarter red onion, 10 grape tomatoes, most of the garden salsa pepper minus the seeds, two cloves of garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley. The Magic Bullet whirled this into fresh salsa in an eye blink and I found that the portion was perfect for one serving. One great thing about the Magic Bullet is that the clean up is just as fast as the processing. Just a quick rinse and you are done.

The salsa garden pepper was a bit more crisp than a jalapeño, but the heat was definitely there and it had a decent flavor. I'm glad that I included one of the plants in my garden.

June 02, 2006

Summer Heat Arrives

At last, the summertime heat has arrived. Bright sunshine and warm to hot temperatures are making my gardens sing in delight. The peppers have been growing taller and most of them are starting to put forth pods! My husband and I go out and view their progress each evening with delight.

The tomatoes are spreading out and taking over the entire 3'x3' bed. Two plants was more than enough for my limited garden space. If I start to grow tomatoes on a regular basis, I think that I will look into a vertical growing method for next year. I hate to lose what little growing space I have in my small backyard.

While it is not salsa related, I wanted to note that my roses are flourishing their colors in a grand manner. I don't believe that I've ever had such a major showing of blooms from the majority of my roses bushes before. It is quite pleasant!

May 29, 2006

The Garden Grows

I was out in my salsa garden to give the peppers and tomatoes a good watering and was pleased to see the plants progress. The weather has taken a turn toward more normal heat and sunshine and I'm glad to see it! There has been far too much rain this spring for my comfort. The beds do not need weeding, however some of the pathways are being over run with grass and vines. I might use an organic solution to get rid of them and to encourage no further weed growth. I want to be careful to not do anything that would upset the organic balance of my vegetable beds.

I have many new pepper pods forming out on the plants. Many fresnos, hungarian wax, salsa garden, and cayenne to name a few. None of the pods have matured, but it is still very early in the game. The two tomatoe plants are overrunning the 3'x 3' bed and I am seeing more green tomatoes in there. Again, no sign of a ripe fruit as yet.

I have been researching a machine to help me process the peppers and tomatoes. I'm thinking about getting a "magic bullet" to chop and create salsa and guacamole....or simply to mix cold drinks for the summer. I will need to get my canning equipment together as well. I am planning on doing a great deal of pepper pickling this fall and creating sandwich relishes and salad goodies for our winter and perhaps some new varieties of hot sauce to enjoy.

May 25, 2006

New Pods are Forming

My chile peppers continue to flourish. Several of the plants are now sporting tiny pods. Little fresnos, hungarian wax peppers, salsa gardens and cayennes dot the tops of the plants. There is a little gypsy frying pepper growing too. It is only 2 inches long, so I wonder if it will reach full size?

More cutworm barriers have been removed from around the chile plants. Only the congo black habanero has a protective ring around it. It is putting out lots of new leaves so I have hope that I can free this last pepper within the next week.

My two tomato plants are doing well. The Celebrity Tomato has all but taken over the 3'x3' bed, but the little roma tomato is holding its own. Both should give me more than enough fruit for homemade salsa this season. There are a couple of green tomatoes out there, hopefully they will ripen soon.

May 11, 2006

Chiles Continue to Grow

Now that the planting is done, my garden has settled into a quiet, growing phase. As I was out watering my raised bed this morning, I noted that the plants are all getting bigger and stronger. So far, the spacing is working well and I have not had to stake any of the peppers, although I suspect that I will have to do so with the bells later in the growing season. The deeper soil level of this year's raised bed seems to be having the desired effect. The plants are more stable and able to hold their weight instead of tipping over. Last year, I had trouble with most of my chiles not being able to hold their pods off the ground and I suspected it was the scant 6" of soil in the bed that was the culprit. This year, I have 10" of soil in the beds.

My two cherry bomb chiles are now of a size that I felt it was safe to remove the cutworm barriers and allow them their freedom. I still have six barriers in place around the smaller hot chile plants. They tend to grow very slowly and are still only a few inches tall. Of the six, only the scotch bonnet seems to be putting on any real height, but all the chiles are putting forth new leaves and gaining height. It is simply that these peppers are slow growers. I'm told that they will not produce chiles until 110 to 120 days after transplanting. However, once they reach maturity, I should get a year or two of production from them. Now that my new bed is in place, I might be able to successfully overwinter my more rare chile plants. I'll wait and see how it goes.

May 07, 2006

Millionaire Japanese Eggplant Planted

I've never grown eggplant before, but I've always wanted to try one. Even though it is not really a "salsa" type plant, I picked up a single eggplant at the nursery today and placed it into the bed along side the two tomato plants. Supposedly it needs 36" of space and plenty of sun. We'll see how it goes. I suppose that eggplant can go into a "salsa" of some kind!

I also planted a third pepperoncini plant in my pepper bed, replacing the pepper that I lost a week or so ago. I like that I'm growing fewer varieties, but more plants this year. Of the peppers that I love the most, I should have plenty to put up as pickles or to freeze for use throughout the year. As I planted the pepperoncini, I noticed that a couple of earthworms came up with the soil. This is a most welcome sign in my garden. I'm not sure how the worms managed to get in there through the mesh and weed barrier, but I won't complain. They will make the soil all the richer for my vegetables.

May 06, 2006

Football in the Pepper Bed

As my Spring busy season kicks in and I'm away from my garden due to business, it is always such a pleasure to return home and stroll by my vegetable beds and see the progress my plants are making. All of my peppers are growing larger and fuller. One of the hungarian wax plants even has a tiny pod on it. I have not purchased the canning equipment that I wanted to use to make pickled peppers this summer, but seeing that little pod reminds me that I need to start shopping for jars, lids and a canner.

I was dismayed to discover a nerf football resting in the middle of my pepper plants. I simply threw it back over the fence so that the child that lost it might recover his ball, but I'm starting to wonder if I will be losing pods to flying objects this year. I hope not. All of the peppers that are planted on that end of the bed are impossible to find locally except via garden club sales in the early spring. They are the bells that I purchased at the Pepper sale at the Fullerton Arboretum last March.

May 01, 2006

Peppers Grow in the Sunshine

Spring has finally arrived here in my little garden behind the white picket fence. There is still more rain than usual for this time of year, but everyone has agreed that the tide has turned and the sunny days are starting to far outnumber the rainy ones. All of my salsa garden plants are thriving out in the garden. So far, all of the peppers that I planted last week are doing well inside their cutworm barriers. They are getting a little taller and putting out new leaves with little sign of insect damage to the leaves.

I feel that removing that three feet of planting space and tacking it onto the other end of the raised bed was a good move on my part. All of the peppers are getting more sunshine throughout the day. That one section simply was too close to the juniper tree and was so shady that even weeds were having trouble getting established there! My two tomato plants are faring well in the second raised bed. So far, the two plants are alone since my husband hasn't choosen to plant anything there. I'm not sure what will end up in the second bed, but I wouldn't mind starting more vegetables over there before the summer heat is upon us. It would be a shame to waste what little garden space we have.

April 26, 2006

Planting While the Sun Shines

Normally, I don't put transplants into my raised bed until they have gained enough size to combat cutworms and other pests, but due to the pending rain tomorrow and my busy work schedule next week, I decided to risk it and planted the six chile plants that I purchased at Green Scene last weekend. Each one got a cutworm barrier around it and a good watering. I am pleased that the entire length of my bed is planted this year and I am confident that all the plants will get enough sun to produce well despite being in the narrow strip between two houses. Well...except for one spot where I had lost the garden salsa plant. If I have time, I'll try and get that replacement pepper plant this week and pop it into the bed too. Hopefully my little specialty peppers will survive and produce. I'm looking forward to my first homegrown scotch bonnet!

I also planted the two tomato plants I had purchased a few weeks ago. I decided to not add to the soil level in the other bed. There is a good six to eight inches there of wonderful composted soil. I'm sure that between the better sun exposure and good earth that they will produce a bumper crop.

I planted a few more things after I got the chile garden done, flowers and vines. I do love to grow flowers and surround my patio with color. It is one of the pleasures of having a yard in Southern California.

April 23, 2006

Loss of a Garden Salsa Plant

I went out to check on the new chile plants that I have not planted in the raised bed, when I discovered that there had been an attack in the garden. Four of my chile plants have been chewed by an animal of some kind and one of the peppers was smashed as if something had landed on it and thus broken the stem. I decided to remove the broken garden salsa plant since it only had a single leaf left. Most of the plant lay like a dead soldier beside the stem. The break looked fresh, it couldn't have happened more than an hour or two ago. The others are damaged, but I hope that they will recover. Did a neighbor kid throw a ball over the fence into my garden? Did a cat land there and then claw at the plants around it? Is it a rabbit or mole? There are no tracks in the bed and no ball...this looks too big to be the work of cutworms. It is a mystery as to what caused this.

I don't have time today, but I will buy a replacement pepper for the space. I'll get a third pepperoncini since my husband likes them and I only planted two plants this year. I'm curious about the garden salsa chile, but one plant is enough to test it. I have plenty of fresnos and hungarian wax peppers to make salsa with after all.

I've also removed a few of the cutworm barriers from my chile plants. They are getting enough size so that they can stand up to a cutworm attack. The little cups just came up out of the ground and over the plant without a problem. I should be able to reuse the plastic cups for many years to come. That pleases me. They are not expensive devices, but I would like to keep the costs down as much as possible in my chile growing hobby.

April 22, 2006

Green Scene

I returned to the Fullerton Arboretum for their annual Green Scene Garden Show. It costs $6 to get in, but if you are looking for unusual plants for your garden, it is the place to go and worth the price. Most of the booths were of garden clubs looking for new members that were raising money by selling herbs, heirloom tomatos and chile pepper plants. There was a booth with a ceramic artist selling pots, cups and bowls, two booths selling african baskets and hats, a booth of cement garden art and a greyhound rescue. It was a much smaller show than last year with less diversity among the vendors. Attendance was lower due to the rain clouds that threatened overhead. Still, there were plenty of little red wagons being drawn by happy women who were buying plants in glee.

I was able to find the final six chile plants that I wanted for my garden and at a lower price than the nurseries are charging for their regular chile plants. Thankfully, the garden club had cardboard boxes available to take your plants away with since I had forgotten to bring a market bag and it was a long walk back to the car. I bought two cherry bomb hybrids, a kung pao, a red scotch bonnet, a chocolate habanero (i'm hoping it is a congo black) and a bulgarian carrot. I'm glad I went early to the event, because the more rare chiles were already getting low at the booth. Most of the chiles that I purchased today will be new to my garden. This is going to be a fun growing season for me.

April 19, 2006

Dreaming of Salsa

I am experiencing a bit of a snail problem in my pepper garden, but thus far they seem to be more attracted to my two tomato plants than the peppers. I am hoping that I will not have to take action against them since I like to keep my gardens as organic as possible. I still have not planted the two tomatoes, but I am starting to water my second raised bed in order to soften up the soil where I wish to plant them. This bed already has double cinderblock walls, but it could use more soil and a bit of compost before I plant it. Usually, my husband takes this raised bed over for his own gardening, but he has promised me 2 sqft of it so that I can plant two tomatoes for my salsa making efforts this summer.

Our local gardening club sponsors a salsa making contest in July. To enter, your salsa must be made from peppers and tomatoes that you have grown yourself in your garden. I may be entering the salsa contest this year, if I can find the time in my work schedule.

April 15, 2006

First Pepper Blooms

The rains have been heavy and constant for the past two days. This has to be one of the wettest springs we've had here in Southern California for a very long time. I think that the young pepper plants are thriving in it. The water is keeping the insects at bay and the plants are all shooting up new stems and leaves. I'm growing hopeful that my fish pepper and fatali, both of which were chewed to almost the point of no return, will recover! I'm growing tempted to place them in the bed with cutworm barriers, but I'm going to stay my hand at least one more week and give the two plants a bit more time to catch their breath.

The sun has come out this afternoon, although not for long I am sure. Upon inspecting my pepper patch, I was pleased to note that three of the plants have put out their first blooms. A fresno, a hungarian yellow wax and a thick cayenne. There are those that remove the blooms from the plants until June or July to stimulate root growth, but I think that I will leave them be. Let the plants soak in the spring rains and grow as they will in their new home.

April 12, 2006

Cutworm Barriers

The rain has departed, at least for now! Outside it is bright and sunny and song birds are chirping away with glee. I will have to remember to put new birdseed into my feeder for them. The pepper plants are starting to get over their transplant shock. The few that had tipped over a bit are now growing upright. They seem happy in the new raised bed.

I managed to place cutworm barriers around my more delicate pepper plants and so far, the barriers are working! This is a method of organic protection that my friend Bobbi Ann Chukran told me about last year. She likes to grow Texan piquins in her garden and this is how she protects them. This is the first time that I've tried this method and so far, it seems to be working well. I can't tell you how many of my little pepper seedlings have been murdered by cutworms! This year I am hoping to change that.

BTW, Bobbi has just published her first murder mystery novel. "Lone Star State of Death" is a history mystery with a well-researched Texas setting and fine cast of characters, including Sam(antha) Slater, a sleuth with gumption and a sense of humor. You can download the first 2 chapters of her novel for free via her website.

To make your own cutworm barriers, you first take a plastic drinking cup. Mine is a 16oz size one. You cut out the bottom, leaving a few inches of the cup. After you plant your seedling, you put the cup around the pepper plant and press it into the soil about an inch. Voila! The plastic is slippery and doesn't allow the cutworms to get to the stem of your plant! It not only saves your plants, but it is a completely organic method.

April 10, 2006

Planting Chiles Before the Rain Arrives

The current rain storm is moving into the area. Although the sky was very overcast, I decided to try and get my garden planted this morning while it was still dry outside. I purchased more chile plants at Armstrong Nursery. Four fresnos, two hungarian yellow wax, two garden salsa and one celebrity tomato plant. Next, I bought four more bags of garden soil at the Home Depot. While there, I noticed that they had pepperoncini plants on sale, so I picked up a pair of them too. I have never grown garden salsa or pepperoncini peppers before. I'm glad to have a couple of new varieties of peppers in my garden this year.

Once I got home, I put the soil into my raised bed and was rewarded with a soil level that comes almost to the top of my double cinderblock raised bed sides. I feel that I finally have enough depth in my garden to give my plants real root support. Once the soil was spread, I planted most of my pepper plants. The only two I didn't plant were the fish pepper and the fatali, simply because they are still very small and more susceptible to cutworms. They will have more protection in their plastic pots while they gain some size.

Just as I was finishing planting the last the of peppers, the rain started. So I quickly called my dog to pop her into the house and then got all the trash picked up and tools stored. The only thing that I didn't do was put in guards around the chile plants so that they would have some cutworm protection in the night. I'm worried about the plants, especially the ones that I purchased at the Potting Shed since I can't replace them if they are killed by cutworms. However, with all the rain outside, I might have to just cross my fingers that the plants are large enough to survive the insects since it will be a soggy proposition to install cutworms guards today.

April 05, 2006

Atypical Storm for April

The atypical storm continues outside. We've had drenching rains, thunder, lightning and even HAIL. All this in April??? I'm very glad that I worked so hard last Sunday since I would not have been able to do any gardening at all this week due to the weather. According to the weather services, the storm will continue on into next week. Well, at least it will entertain the dog. She has been fascinated by all the noise on the roof!

One concern I do have. My pepper plants are starting to be chewed by bugs again. This is not going to do. I am considering going out in the rain tomorrow and buying some marigolds and leaving them near the peppers. Perhaps this will keep the bugs at bay until my peppers get enough growth on them to fend off the insects and the cutworms.

April 03, 2006

More Soil for the Raised Bed

The bright sunshine that I awoke too soon disappeared as the rain clouds slowly rolled in. It is supposed to start raining again early this evening. Although I am supposed to be working on new stock for my art booth, I decided to take a little time to go back to the Depot and pick up six more bags of garden soil. I poured them into my bed and then did a quick clean up. All my tools, the hand truck that I use to transport the bags and the trash is out of the yard before it gets wet out there again. The soil level is still not quite where I want it to be, but the cost of new soil is getting to be high and I still have a second bed to prep for tomatoes and peas. I have close to 8" of soil in the raised bed and I think that might be enough for the peppers this year.

I did a quick check of my new pepper plants. They were getting a bit bug chewed where I was storing them before so I moved them to the pepper bed to wait in their pots. They don't seem to be more bug chewed this morning so I will leave them there to get used to the location before I plant them into the bed. One disappointment I had this morning was that I discovered that instead of picking up a red and a yellow corno de toro, I have two red ones! So right now, I have no sweet yellow peppers. I should have read the labels more carefully at the arboretum sale. I will have to swing by the Potting Shed in Fullerton and see if they have any of the yellow toros left, otherwise I'll have to find another sweet yellow to substitute. I still need a few more moderate heat chiles as well, so I will be searching the nurseries as usual this spring. More fun! :)

April 02, 2006

Rebuilding the Garden Space

There is something satisfying about being outside and working with your hands on your own land. I've been impatient to begin my raised bed project and get my chile plants in the earth, but with all the rain we've been experiencing...and more rain predicted next week, I was starting to wonder if I'd ever get the task done. I started early on my garden project and didn't wrap up until the sunlight had shifted into that golden hue we call magic hour. The weather was sunny and warm with just the hint of a breeze. Songbirds flittered in the trees and one of those little brown lizards kept scampering across my patio. I don't think that he knew where to find a safe place to hide for the day. It was the perfect day to do some gardening.

My first task was to use a shovel to clear away the gravel from the far end of the yard where the new garden space was to be. I decided to move 3 feet worth of garden space instead of the mere two that I originally had planned. Once the gravel was clear, I moved the cinders from the closer end of the bed to the cleared space at the other end. Then I used the shovel to move the rich soil that was left behind into the new raised bed area.

It was strange seeing the galvanized mesh that I had put down years ago to prevent moles from coming up in my garden. When I had first planned my garden, my neighbor from across the street had told me many stories of moles dying in her swimming pool and eating all her vegetables, to the point where I wasn't going to risk dealing with the little critters. I have never seen a mole in my garden and I had started to wonder if I had been silly to worry about the little rodents, yet when I looked closely at the soil under the mesh, sure enough, there were large tunnels leading up to where my garden would have been! I'll be darn....there be moles here! My mesh idea had worked!

Once the single row of cinderblocks were placed in the new location, I went ahead and put on the second layer of bricks. I am not very strong and had to move one brick at a time, but the task was simple and it went quickly. Fortunately, I thought to wear leather gloves to protected my hands. Those cinderblocks are very dry and scratchy. When I had put all 26 cinderblocks on, I discovered that I had miscounted the number of bricks needed and was six bricks short. So I made a quick run to the local hardware store for 6 more bricks and two bags of pea gravel to cover over the exposed end of the bed. The rest of the level went on quickly and I was able to get the gravel down to create the new path area.

I decided to return to the hardware store and I picked up a few bags of garden soil, peat moss and steer manure to start filling my raised bed. I managed to fill the bed just passed the first cinderblock level, so I know that I'll need more soil. Unfortunately, I'm out of time for the day and with more rain coming, I wonder if I will get those chiles planted this week after all?

After that, I did a bit of cleanup. Old pots that had been lying around for the past year found their way to the trash. The plastic bags that the gravel and soil came in were thrown away. I moved my little greenhouse into the newly cleared space where it now will serve as a tool and pot holder. My watering can seems to fit in there too. What is good about using the greenhouse is that the plastic cover will keep my tools and pots more protected from the weather and from all the pine needles that fall in that area. My side yard is looking neat again, the new bed has all the major work completed on it and I finally have that little shelving unit in a useful place.

March 31, 2006

Rain Delays

It has been raining on and off for the past few days and the temperature has been cold. Sometimes it is a hard rain, sometimes it is just a sprinkling. All of it is too wet for me to go out and get to work on my garden. I put on sweaters to keep warm, make hot green tea, create stews and bean soups in my crockpot and look outside at the raindrops as forlorn as a little kid. I'm glad that I did go out and feed the roses and citrus tree during a break in the weather. With all this rain to active the granuals of the plant food, they are going to get a big boost this early April.

I have purchased the 26 cinderblocks that I need to complete the raised bed project and they are stacked up near my garden area. More rain is predicted for this weekend and on through Tuesday. So for now, my cinderblocks will remain in their stack in the backyard.

I have not purchased the additional soil and compost that I will need for the two raised vegetable beds, but this is gardening. Things will happen in their own good time. Meanwhile, my little pepper plants remain in the small pots that they were purchased in and they seem to be doing just fine. If there is a good break in the weather, I will have to check out the local nursery and search for a few of my favorite fresno chiles. I miss having them in my morning omelettes.

March 19, 2006

Preparations for Spring Begins

There was a massive thunder and lightning storm that lasted most of the night. This means that the soil in my gardens will get a good long soak and be easier to work with in the next week or two. More rain is promised later in the week. Its been a very warm and dry winter, so cool rain is most welcome.

Since there was a break in the rain this morning, I decided to start work on getting my pepper bed prepared for the spring planting. Many vines and weeds had sprouted up in my raised bed, but as usual, they all came out easily from both the bed and the gravel pathway. The four peppers that I had overwintered got a bit of a pruning. They are still producing pods, but not as well as they could be. I am considering pulling them all out and starting over with fresh plants. It will mean another trip to a nursery, but what gardener doesn't enjoy that???

As you can see, I still am sporting a single layer of cinderblocks around my raised bed. In order to give my peppers more root space and perhaps allow them to be more sturdy, I am considering buying a second layer of cinderblocks for the bed. I will need 26 bricks to complete the project. The cinders are very inexpensive, maybe 20 cents each. Upgrading my garden space should not be too difficult, except for finding the time to get the work done.

March 17, 2006

New Pepper Plants!!!!

Another wintery storm is blowing through our area. The rain was pounding on my windshield as I made my way to the Fullerton Arboretum and the Annual Chile Pepper Sale. Amazingly, the outdoor lot where the sale was being held was packed with people despite all the rain. Since it was Friday, the first day of the sale and in the morning, I was able to get good healthy plants of the peppers I wanted. They cost a little more than what I would pay at the Home Depot or my local nursery, but the selection was incredible...and I'm very tempted to return tomorrow and pick up a few more plants...but I'm going to try and be good to my pocketbook.

I bought blushing beauty, ariane, corno de toro (red and yellow), fatali, a gypsy, long thick cayenne and a fish pepper. In total, I bought ten plants. This might not sound like alot to many growers, but I have a very small garden plot that I can fill and I need to be selective of what I put in. There are a few more chiles that I want to grow, but I should be able to find them at the regular nursery. I'm glad that I decided to grow more bells and medium heat chiles this year. I feel that I will get more value from them in my kitchen this year.

March 09, 2006

Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale is Coming

The dates that I've been waiting for! The Fullerton Arboretum Monster Tomato and Pepper sale will be taking place in the Garden Shed March 16th - March 19th! I missed my chance to buy pepper seedlings locally last year due to not watching the Fullerton Arboretum website and deeply regretted it.

This year I have my eye on Fatalli, Chilepins, and Cayennes along with Blushing Beauty Belles, Corno de Toro Reds or Yellows, Gypsy Hybrid and hopefully an Ariane. I want to grow a few more bells to cook with and more medium hot chiles...but I will always include a few hotties to dry into powder. I probably won't buy all my peppers at this event, but a good portion of them certainly will find a home in my little salsa garden this spring.

February 26, 2006

Winter Harvests

At this time of year, I normally do not have peppers in my garden. The earth is fallow, allowing all the winter rains and sun to aid it in its rest. Due to the atypical warm temperatures this year, I still have peppers ripening in my plot. I harvested two red bells that I will use in our meals this coming week. The plant itself is not looking that great so I am considering on pulling it later this week when I do my general weeding and maintenance of the bed.

I am wondering if I'll have the time to put in that second layer of bricks in my raised bed this spring as I had planned. I was hoping to give my peppers a bit more root space and to allow for more sturdy plant supports. Now that our rains have arrived, I have less time to spend in my gardens. Demands of work are keeping me inside my art studio as well.

I also harvested a lemon from my citrus tree in the backyard. Our little eureka lemon is putting out many flowers and new green lemons and several of the larger fruits have started to ripen. This one will go on top of our salmon fillet tonight.

February 24, 2006

Treasures from the Nursery

The sun was shining and the birds were singing. I felt the call of the garden and ended up gardening for most of the day. Due to the heavy rains last week, all the soil was loose and I was able to dig easily. So I moved two of my semi-dormant roses into better positions in my backyard. I had two lavender roses side by side, now one of them is next to a red rose. I also moved one rose over by a foot and this created a planting space for the rose I moved across the yard. I have spaces for three new roses this year and I managed to find three bareroot roses at the nurserys this afternoon...not an easy feat for this time of year. They are all in cardboard pots waiting to be placed in the earth.

I picked up another pink jasmine vine at the nursery today and planted it beside the trellis that I had placed next to the a/c unit last summer. As the vine grows and fills in on the iron trellis, it will create a natural living wall and block my view of the a/c unit. I want to put in another of those trellis on the other side and put in another pink jasmine. The jasmine blooms when my roses are dormant, which gives my garden a little brightness and scent during these winter days.

While at the nursery, I also picked up a few new herbs for my patio herb garden. Lemon Thyme, French Thyme, Chervil, Marjarom and Garlic Chives. They should fill one of my patio pots and it will go next to my kitchen door as usual. I have missed having fresh herbs for my kitchen, so I'm greatly looking forward to having my little patio herb garden back.

I still have peppers growing in my raised beds, amazingly enough. Two red beauty bells are ripe and ready for harvest and I still have more habaneros, piquins and tepins ripening. I believe that I will keep a few of them in pots for next year, but if I have the time next week, I will clear out my plot and start getting it ready for spring planting. There will be no pepper plants available for at least another month, but when the time comes, I want things to be ready.

February 08, 2006


A wildfire broke out near my home and is still burning around 5 to 10 miles away. The air has been filled with smoke and your eyes burn if you go outside for any length of time. The light has a strange red cast to it, as if the entire day is that moment at sunset when the sky changes color. I've been worried for my home, but it seems that the wind has shifted and the wildfire is now headed away from where I live. The 1500 people that were evacuated from their homes have now returned. We are safe this time. Wildfires are a norm here in California, but usually they don't break out near my house!

All my roses have been pruned back to give them a dormant period. Most of my chiles are removed from their beds, except for a few that I have chosen to overwinter. There is a little color from the chinese flowering maples that I have planted, but for the most part, things are very brown and colorless.