October 01, 2007

Canning and Dehydrating

My first attempt at canning was done about a week ago. I harvested all the fatali chiles from my garden and used them to create a batch of "Razorback Hot Sauce" that I found in a cookbook known as "The Joy of Pickling". To make the sauce, I skinned and seeded around 20 tomatoes that I purchased at the grocery store which I turned into tomato puree and then minced up the chiles after removing the seeds and membranes. Since these are extremely hot chiles (rated around the fourth or fifth hottest in the world) I figured that I could scale down the heat a little in this manner. I water bathed canned five 1/2 pint jars of the sauce and four of the jars successfully sealed.

The rest of the fatalis and all of the red scotch bonnets I cut in half, seeded and then placed into my food dehydrator. This year, I decided to not place my machine outside. This was a good thing because the next day after I started to use the dehydrator it rained. I have a little station set up inside my garage where the machine is set up on a box and the fumes seem to be not as bad as when I attempted to dry chiles in the house two years ago. I have not ground the chiles into powder as yet. I think that I will wait on that until I am done harvesting and drying more of the chiles. I'm still waiting for more of the lemondrop chiles to ripen. They are going to make an unique and delicious powder.

I have set aside four of the red scotch bonnets to make "Carribean Jerk Chicken". I've decided to make a double batch of the marinade and once I put the chicken into it, I am going to freeze the food in ziplocks creating four meals. This is a method of preparing chicken known as "Dump Chicken". At a later time, while the meal defrosts in my refrigerator, the marinade and meat get together and then I can grill or bake the chicken as I feel like, "dumping" it into the pan. I love this marinade, but don't make it often since I only have access to scotch bonnets from my own garden. I'm glad that my plant has produced so many of the little red pods this year.

I have pruned back my tomato plants, but not removed them. Surprisingly, they seem to be undergoing a new flush of growth and I was surprised to see new flowers on them. It could be that I will get a fall crop of tomatoes this year and will be able to sample the fruit at long last. I haven't seen any new tomatoes on the plants as yet, but I will keep my eyes open for them. I am hoping for at least one good batch of homemade marinara sauce yet.

September 18, 2007

Harvest Begins

Since I have a little time off before my heavy fall work schedule begins, I decided that now is the time to get my harvesting done and to can or dehydrate as many of my ripe chile pods that I can. According to the weather service, a storm is due to arrive in a few days, so if I'm going to dehydrate chiles outside, it needs to be soon. To this end, I picked what few tomatoes I had in the garden...perhaps five or six...and then purchased supplemental tomatoes at the grocery store. Fortunately, my local grocer carries organically grown tomatoes on the vine which I feel are an acceptable substitute for my homegrown. I also picked some fresh cilantro from my herb garden and a basketful of lemondrop chiles.

I've not processed whole raw tomatoes in quite some time, but the method came back to me easily enough. I dunked the whole tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for a minute or two and then used a knife to peel off their skins. After that, I went to town with squeezing out the seeds and dicing them up. I saved a few cups of the diced tomatoes for salsa and the rest went into my blender to create a puree. The puree is being held in the fridge to be used to make hot sauce.

My salsa recipe is out of the Ball Canning book and features cider vinegar in the recipe. I used what lemondrop chiles I had for the salsa and only had enough to make two pints of salsa. Because of this, I decided to not can them. Instead, the finished salsa is in our fridge awaiting tortilla chips. I'm not sure if I like the cider vinegar in my salsa and the lemondrops are not robust enough in this recipe. Next time, I might just do a standard Pico de Gallo and simply enjoy fresh salsa with lime juice and leave it at that.

August 30, 2007

Ding Dong the Possum is Dead! I Think?

I've been busy and on the road due to work the last few weeks and unable to do much in my garden. When I returned home and started to get back to work on my yards, I happened to chat with my neighbor and asked how his tomatoes were coming along since he was also having trouble with the possum. He explained that he had spotted the possum in his french drain a few weeks ago, had closed it off with mesh and had thrown in a few gopher pellets into the drain where his dog couldn't get at them. A few days later, he saw a dead possum in the road. He proudly told me that since then he has been harvesting plenty of tomatoes! Hmm.... On the tomato front, I have two ripe tomatoes on the vine and have been watching them closely. So far, no animal has come and eaten them, even though one of the tomatoes is outside my picket fence where the vine had grown over and is in plain view. It may be that I will be able to sample a few ripe tomatoes this fall after all! I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that the dead possum was the one ravaging my garden as well. If so, my possum problem might be over.

I am astounded this week by the progress my garden is making. The chiles are starting to produce like mad. I have dozens of red scotch bonnet pods, a dozen yellow fatalli pods, more lemondrops than I can count and two plants of red, ripe pepperoncinis. It is high time that I started my harvesting efforts and starting to make salsas, pickles and powders.

I went to Wal-Mart and bought a water-bath canner for $17 and a jar of pickling salt. I still need a few more tools to beginning home canning, but I am looking forward to giving this a try. The red pepperoncinis will be my first pickling attempt. I have six half pint jars in the house and I think that this would be a good starting size for slices of peppers. I'm aiming for something that could go on a sandwich or on top of a salad.

July 30, 2007

The Possum Strikes Again!

Last night, my dog was growling at the backyard window during most of the night and I heard rustling and scraping noises. In the morning, I surveyed my tomato patch and sure enough, the possum had struck again. All of the ripe tomatoes were gone and the tomato plants were disturbed. Also, my single ripening corno de toro gallo pepper had been eaten, with only the seed mass left on the plant. My other pepper plants are either dead or dying. The corno de toro rosso was entirely eaten, stalks and all and the blushing beauty peppers that I had nursed through an entire winter are gone as well. The bed is a total loss.

I have not done any further work to this bed, but once my work schedule permits me, I'm going to remove all the tomato plants. They are starting to naturally die back now that their fruit has ripened and probably wouldn't be producing more than another month or two anyway. The heirloom tomatoes that I had selected had been beautiful. Large, meaty and perfect for making sauce. I am sorry that I will not get a chance to sample them this year. There must be a better way to grow tomatoes so that I don't have this sort of losses to contend with. I will have to do research this winter to discover a safer way to grow tomatoes and sweet bell peppers.

July 26, 2007

More Tomatoes Lost

When I went out to water my plants this afternoon, I was stunned to see that three more of my tomatoes were half eaten. Their pulpy mess was left on the vine to my disgust. The possum strikes again! I am beginning to see that I will not be able to harvest a single ripe tomato from my plants this year. The possum leaves the green ones behind, but as soon as the tomatoes are half ripe, it strikes again. There were two tomatoes left untouched, but I'm sure that this evening that they will be gone too. My idea of making homemade spaghetti sauce with garden tomatoes is going up in smoke.

I worked so hard to keep my produce from the critters of the area, but this new animal is hard to detain. At least it seems to be leaving my peppers and chiles alone...although if the possum ever ate one of my scotch bonnets, it would probably never touch a red fruit again! LOL I used galvanized mesh under the beds to keep the moles out, but what do I do to keep an animal out that can climb over fences and up trees? The only thing that I can think to do is either create a metal mesh over the plants, or try hanging my tomatoes in baskets next year, perhaps growing them upside down? Maybe this will be my last year of growing tomatoes? I'm simply not sure what to do.

July 24, 2007

Possum Woes

Summertime is always glorious for my chile plants. They thrive in the heat and lack of water and produce beautiful pods for my family to eat. The one I have pictured in this post is a "fish chile". It is the only variegated chile pepper that I know of and even the chiles have little white stripes. I haven't sampled a pod yet, but I'm eager to do so. This is one of my overwintered chiles and last year the plant never produced a single pod. I think that this year it has found itself and is going to surprise me.

I've been having a little trouble with theft in my garden over the past several weeks. The tomatoes and red bell peppers are being stolen by local possums. I've spoken to several of my neighbors, some as far away as five or six blocks and universally, everyone is complaining about losing their garden produce to the critters. My Red Corno de Toro was clipped to the ground by a possum, the three peppers on it taken. I am not sure if the plant is going to recover or not, but I'm very disappointed since this was one of my overwintered chiles from last year and I've had it a long time. At least it is a plant that I can replace next spring if need be, but I was looking forward to those sweet peppers this year. The yellow corno de toro also has pods and one is about ready to harvest. So far the animals have not been taking yellow colored tomatoes and peppers, so I have hope of actually getting to taste one of these peppers in my dinner this week. My gypsy frying peppers are starting to turn red and are in a section of my garden that the possums have left untouched, that might be what I use for the fajatas. Yellow and red peppers with onions, nothing is better.

My yellow tomatoes thus far have been untouched by the critters and I am starting to see two or three ripe fruits on the vine. Once I have enough, I'm going to turn them into a golden marinara sauce in my crockpot. My husband is a little uneasy about yellow spaghetti sauce, but I have assured him that the flavor is going to be well worth it. He's promised to give it a try.

June 26, 2007

Better Late than Never

I haven't watered my salsa garden in around a week. I was away at work for the weekend and came home with a cold, so I was not able to tend to my plants as I would have liked to. Thank goodness that chiles thrive on neglect! I was out with my water wand this afternoon and was astounded to see all the changes that have happened in my garden while I was away. Better late than never when it comes to water.

There were many chile pods to be seen. Lots of cherry bombs, just turning red. Kung Pao, most of which are a bright red and ready for harvest. Carmen Hybrid, a New Mexico style chile that I have not tried before. They are large and dark grassy green. The two fresno plants are covered in both green and red chiles, ready to be harvested. Tiny scotch bonnets forming on the tree like plant, still green and far from their final size. Chocolate Habaneros are also tiny and green.

I am excited by the possible harvest of this week, but I'm not sure what I'm going to use all this bounty in. I will have to start forming recipes for next week....

June 08, 2007

Summertime Weeding

I've been neglecting my salsa garden other than making sure that the plants are getting regular waterings either by hand or via my soaker hose system due to my heavy work schedule. I realized that the weeds in the gravel path were getting out of hand and that my beds had a few volunteer weeds among the chile plants. So I spent a good 30 minutes weeding the paths and my beds. I also did a little maintenance on the chiles. I broke off dead stems, removed dried up spent chiles and coaxed stems back inside of the metal cages that surround each plant. The plants are looking quite healthy and happy in my little side yard salsa garden.

Most of my overwintered chiles have pods that will be turning ripe in the next week or two. The new transplants are still growing and only a few have a pod or two on them. I'm delighted to report that my overwintered cherry bomb chile has recovered from its transplant shock and not only is sporting new leaf growth, but is starting to produce new pods! I may yet have an appetizer tray of stuffed cherry bombs this fall. On the flip side, the blushing beauty overwintered pepper plant has definitely failed. I removed the dried up stem and the cage as I was weeding.

The tomatoes are shooting up like rockets and I think that I have spied my first semi-ripe tomato deep within the leaves. So far, the larger cages are containing the tomatoes and keeping the fruit from touching the soil where insects might damage them. I'm looking forward to making my first crockpot full of homemade spaghetti sauce this summer.

May 16, 2007

First Tomatoes

My heirloom tomatoes are off to a good start, probably due to the extremely hot weather we've been experiencing in the last few weeks. Since I planted them into the rich soil of the raised bed, they have grown about a foot taller. The cages are doing well in supporting the plants and keeping them vertical, but I have to wonder if I bought large enough cages for the plants. I'll have to wait and see.

I'm surprised that I already have a few tomatoes forming on the vine and look forward to turning them into homemade pasta sauce in my crockpot this summer. I love heirloom tomatoes for sauce because of the lower acid content of the fruit. The tomatoes in the picture are paste tomatoes.

May 07, 2007

Planting the Main Raised Bed

I had been dreading doing the work on my long raised vegetable bed because I knew that it was going to take effort and time. First I had to dig up my overwintered chiles and place them into pots so that they would be more able to take the transplanting. Next, I emptied several bags of organic garden soil and one bag of steer manure into the bed to refresh the soil and raise the soil level so that it was closer to the top of my two level high cinderblock garden sides.

Transplanting the chiles from the pots back into the garden took more time that I had realized because not only did I need to plant the chiles, but I also needed to cage them. I had a few wire cages left over from last year, but not nearly enough to cage all of my new plants. Mid-way through the planting process, I had to drive down to the Home Depot to buy ten more cages. Fortunately, they were on sale for around a dollar each, so this was not a big expense for the garden. Being metal, they will last for many years to come. Putting cages around my chile plants was very important to me. Last year, most of my chiles flopped over and the pods were attacked by bugs in the soil and the branches would not support the weight of the fruit. I'm hoping to increase my production of chiles via the cage method this year and to keep the pods free of insect damage. I also put cutworm barriers around the new seedlings in addition to the cages so that their stems would be protected until they were large enough to stand against the insects.

The last task was to place the soaker hose watering system around the plants. It was already hooked up from last year, I simply had to weave the hoses around the new plantings. With the spaces between my plants being further apart this year, I found that the soaker hose fit in the bed much better than it had before. I'm having some problems with the soaker hose. The end of the bed is not getting enough water and the first bed is getting so soaked with water that mushrooms are sprouting up around my tomatoes. I will attempt to fine tune the watering system as the summer progresses.

The entire planting process took me around four hours, but I'm well pleased with my efforts. Now that everything is in place, there will be little work to do in the garden beyond watering, an occasional weeding and the harvesting. That is the best part of square foot gardening in raised beds, few weeds grow in the protected soil, the vegetables are up higher so that you don't need to bend over as much to tend them and because my garden is just outside my kitchen door, harvesting is an easy prospect.

April 27, 2007

Spanish Lavender

There is something about having an abundance of lavender in the garden. The silver toned leaves and the pretty purple flowers look beautiful beside my roses. This spring, I placed a lavender plant in between all of my roses. The uniformity appeals to me and it is a good start to developing an under planting scheme for my rose gardens. I chose spanish lavender because it is considered hardy in my climate here in Southern California. I do have one french lavender plant tucked in a shady spot. It is not flourishing as well as the spanish, much to my regret. It's blooms are more delicate and appealing. I haven't given up on it though.

The lavender has another effect: Scent. When guests come to my patio, the first thing that they remark on is the pervasive scent of lavender. Most find it relaxing and calming as I do.

About the only drawback I find with the spanish lavender is that it attracts an large number of bees. At any time of the day, you can find little bumblebees gathers pollen from my lavender. I'm learning to live with the bees as I do with the other wild creatures of my gardens. The bees help my vegetable become pollinated and are a sign of a healthy, organic garden.

I'm planning on harvesting my lavender this year and creating sachets. Since I garden organically, even in my rose beds, the flowers will be pesticide free and perfect for giving a calming fragrance to my closets and drawers.

April 25, 2007

Kamikaze Pilot?

I am late with my plantings this year. While I had purchased three heirloom tomato plants for my garden, it took me weeks to get them into the soil. I've talked my husband into giving up the front bed this year so that I can devote the sunnier raised bed to our tomato and bell peppers plants.

The three tomatoes are a paste, a beefsteak and a beefsteak yellow tomato. The peppers are a red and a yellow Corno de Toro and my two overwintered blushing beauty peppers. I'm hoping that with the additional sunshine and cages to support the weight of their pods, I might get a better yield from them this year. I have yet to plant the other chile plants that I purchased at the monster pepper and tomato sale last March, but all the plants I bought are still healthy in their little pots. I will attempt to get them into the ground sometime this week.

The rest of my gardens are in full bloom as the days turn warm and sunny here in Southern California. The scent from the lavender is simply incredible. The extra plants I put in this spring have made such a difference in the level of scent of my garden. It feels very peaceful out there.

Songbirds are coming in to bathe in the birdbath or eat in the birdseed house that hangs on the tree. A hummingbird has taken up residence near my flowering maple plants. I have to be careful as he enjoys dive bombing at me like a tiny kamikaze pilot. The loud buzz about two inches from my ear is what gives him away! I suppose that this is his way to play.

April 22, 2007


This is Greenscene weekend over at the Fullerton Arboretum. Greenscene is a plant event featuring tables for the local plant societies, garden clubs and various vendors that sell garden related products and plants. I felt that this year's event was much larger than last year. There were many new vendors selling handmade teapots, vases and pots or handwoven baskets and sun hats. Even a few jewelry vendors, although they didn't seem to have much patronage. It was overcast and threatened to rain, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the large number of people that came to enjoy the event.

I was amazed at the number of vendors selling succulents this year. Twice the number as last year's event. Since I was planning on creating a new cactus pot for my yard featuring a small aloe vera plant that a friend had given me, I welcomed the opportunity to select a few prickly pots among the various sellers. The herb vendors were not to be outdone, while there were only three or four booths selling herbs, all featured large, healthy and uncommon plants perfect for a medicinal or culinary garden. I selected a thyme and oregano for this season's culinary herb garden.

As I always do, I wandered over to the community garden plots that are hosted by the arboretum. These small plots of land are free, from what I understand, but you MUST tend them and make them look attractive in order to keep them. It is pleasant to tour the community garden for this reason. You view examples of homemade tomato cages, lovely arbors, perfectly constructed paths and raised beds holding a wide assortment of vegetables, flowers and herbs. Despite the prospect of a long waiting list, I always think how wonderful it would be to garden in one of those little plots and have room to grow bigger vegetables, but I have my own little salsa garden at the side of the house and containers for my patio. I suppose that I should be grateful for what I have, small though it is.

March 26, 2007

Spring Rain Falls

Since rain was predicted for this evening, and as I look out of my window, I see the first misting of it now, I wanted to get all my garden tools secured and potting soils either laid into their designated beds or pots or put away into the garage. I've been busy in my gardens the last few days. I've potted up a few hanging baskets of verbena, bopoca and million bells for my backyard, planted a strawberry pot with everybearing strawberries and today, I filled up my front square foot garden bed with soil and steer manure. I've been delighted with the introduction of more organic soils to the gardening centers. The soils are rich and well mixed, not sticks or strange crud that would not work with my garden.

I still haven't gotten to planting my new pepper plants, but since they are still small and might fall to cutworms, that is not a critical. Once this current system of rain has passed, I will get back to work on my square foot garden. Meanwhile, my tools have been put away so that the rain won't damage them, my open bags of potting soil have been stowed in the garage and all is peaceful in my garden.

March 20, 2007

Clearing the Bed

Rain was forecast for the day here in our little section of Los Angeles. All my gardening tools were still outside and I had even left my gardening gloves out on the patio table. Fearing that everything would rust and become ruined in the rain, I got hustled outside early to be under overcast skies.

I took my shovel and cleared the dead tomato plants from my front raised bed, cutting the stalks with my pruners when they got caught on the picket fence that surrounds my vegetable garden. It didn't take long since all the plants had withered away to dry stalks during the winter's cold. All my beds have been cleared except for the chile plants that I am keeping. Once the current "storm" has gone through, I will be ready to start adding new soil and organic compost to my raised beds and planting my chiles and tomatoes into their new locations. All of my tools and gloves have been put away and my yards are ready for the rain.

I hauled all the plant matter away and got the can back to the side of the yard. The city will come and take it all away in the few days on their weekly rounds. Our city has two recycling programs. One takes cans and cardboard. Another takes yard "waste" and sends it to a composting program. I'm glad that our city does this. I feel that it helps us do our part to help the planet.

March 18, 2007

Pink Jasmine in Bloom

One of the pleasures of early spring is the sight and scent of pink jasmine when it comes in full bloom. I have three jasmine vines in my backyard garden. The eldest and most beautiful is the one over the entrance arbor. I thought I'd share a photo of this beautiful vine. I only wish that I could share the scent. The flowers are so massive that you can smell the jasmine from 30 feet away. It is heavenly.

I am always glad when spring arrives. While we enjoy a mild six week long winter (rainy season) here in Southern California, it can be dreary since most of the plants either lose their leaves or go dormant. When the first of the spring flowers begin to appear, it can be a cause for celebration.

For those of you who are curious, the yellow blooms behind the gate in the photo are flowering maples.

March 16, 2007

Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale

Yes, it is once again time for the Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale at the Fullerton Arboretum! March 15th through the 18th over by the Potting Shed, the plant loving public has an opportunity to purchase rare heirloom tomatoes, exotic chile and bell peppers and a good selection of unusual eggplants too. This is my second year buying plants at the Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale. Even though it was Thursday morning, the place was packed with shopper of all ages. I brought a small luggage cart with me to roll my cardboard box of seedlings around the sale and back to my car, but the Friends of the Fullerton Arboretum do provide a limited number of little flyer wagons to haul your plants around if needed.

I didn't buy as many seedlings this year as last, but then I successfully overwintered many of my peppers from last year. This time I purchased two italian pepperoncini plants, two lemon drop chile plants, one of the Carmine Hybrid chiles that was a feature of the sale and one Coro de Toro Giallo pepper plant. I purchased three heirloom tomato plants and will look forward to wonderful salsa and italian spaghetti sauce this summer.

If you live in Orange County or Los Angeles, CA, you should make a point to visit the Fullerton Arboretum and get in on the action this weekend.

March 08, 2007

Pruning Back Chiles

We have been having our front yard re-landscaped this week. A new sprinkler system, a new section of concrete to our driveway, new boxwoods forming a hedge and a new sod lawn laid down. It all looks so pristine. I love it. The gardeners are doing a good job, although the project is taking a bit longer than was originally planned. I'm still waiting for my new boxwood hedge to go in, but hopefully that will happen next week and we'll be all done.

With all the activity in the front yard, it has motivated me to return to my organic salsa garden in the backyard. I spent time this morning going over each and every chile in my garden with garden clippers. Most of the stalks had budding new leaves and a few tiny flowers on them, but I decided to be ruthless and cut back the chiles as far as I could. I want them small enough so that I can put cages over them and to promote new growth this spring. I also did a little light weeding, mainly pulling wandering jew vines from where they were invading from the neighbor's yard.

I ended up losing a few plants to the last winter cold snap we had this past February. Two of my chiles were nothing more than dried up sticks. I have two blushing beauty bells, one Corno de Toro Red, one gypsy bell, three fresnos, one cherry bomb, one fatali, one fish, one kung pao, one scotch bonnet and one chocolate habanero. I discovered two bulgarian carrot plants, although I only planted one last year. I think that one of the fallen chile pods must have sprouted during the winter. I have not moved any of the plants to new locations, but I want to get more of the bed fixed up before the pepper sale. This way I will have a better idea about additional peppers to purchase at the sale. Now that the chile plants are smaller in size, they will be easier to transplant.

March 06, 2007

Spring Arrives

Outside, the weather has been turning bright and sunny. Temperatures have been steadily getting warmer and my pink jasmine vines are putting forth the most lovely clouds of blooms. I have not done much with my salsa garden, other than be around when the termite exterminator injected the wooden fence with poison. The process was done quickly and now dealing with the termites seems like a faraway dream.

Old tomato plants remain in the front bed, mostly dead and needing to be cleared out. I am going to start with fresh tomato plants this year, hopefully I will find a couple of interesting heirloom varieties at the pepper and tomato sale next week. The soil levels in my raised beds are about half of what it should be. Once I'm ready to begin the March plantings, I'll fluff up the soil in the beds with a claw and then add in more organic compost and garden soil from the nursery to bring the soil levels up to the top.

Most of my overwintered chile plants survived! I'm grateful because this means that I'll have access to fresh chiles in my cooking far sooner than usual. While there are a few chile pods still on the plants, none of them have put out fresh blooms as yet. They are still all relatively dormant. This means that it should be safe to prune them back, dig them up and transplant them into new areas or back into my new beds.

February 13, 2007

Meeting the Termite Exterminator

The termite exterminator from next door arrived as promised and I allowed him to view the common fence in question from my side of the fence. When I opened my garden gate and allowed him into my small side yard he looked surprised and commented about how new the fence was. Evidently, he had not seen this fence when he had inspected the property before. He also said that my side yard was the perfect place for a garden. The fence next to my pepper patch had no termites in it at all. I'm not surprised because it is only four years old and I had sealed the wood after we put it up. It should last at least a good ten years without problems. Just beyond the garden, where the old ten year old wooden fence was, he pointed out the two places that had termite damage. One location was next to my tomato bed.

I explained that I had read about Termidor on the BASF website and that it said to not plant near vegetables. That the product would be toxic. The termite exterminator told me that there had been a change in plans with the neighbor, that he was only going to inject the wood where the termites were and not pump chemicals into the soil at all. This chemical that goes into the wood is a foam and it would not spread into my organic garden, even though the post is inches away from my cinderblocks.

I'm not thrilled about the chemicals being there in the post, but I will accept this as long as there is no injecting of the soil. I don't believe that Termidor soil injection is a good solution for tiny yards such as mine. A two foot "perimeter" is a great deal of space when your entire yard is only six feet deep!

I'm not sure if this is going to be the last dance with the termite problem. Not only was the house next door tented for termites, according to the exterminator, they had also spread deeply into most of the fencing around the property too. The two locations in my fence were the least of the infestations. With so many termites next door, it could be that they have migrated to my home. I might have to do an independent termite inspection of my property as well.

February 09, 2007

Update about Termidor

I had a long chat with the termite exterminator this afternoon. It seems he went to a seminar about his product this morning and was advised there to NOT use the underground toxic chemical near any edible plantings, such as my organic herb and pepper garden! Imagine that. If the chemical was injected, the poison would spread to cover at least half of my side yard....and would poison my entire garden patch. The poison does break down, but it would be probably a year or two before I could safely plant near that fence again.

He asked to come and see my garden area so that he could figure out an alternative way to kill the termites without injecting the soil with the chemical. He would probably drill holes into the wood posts and put the chemicals in there. That does sound better to me, but I still think that I'm going to dig up all my pepper plants and transport them to the opposite side of the yard during the spraying.

I definitely am going to fight this if the neighbor insists on injecting poisons into my yard.

February 08, 2007


I've been informed today that the neighbors are going to spray our common fence for termites. This common fence is inches away from my organic vegetable garden. I've been reading up on the chemical Termidor to see what I'm dealing with. Evidently it is considered one of the leading poisons to kill termites, so the fact that this company is using it is not anything out of the ordinary. It is not that I don't want the termites gone, after all if they are in the fence they can spread to my house, but dealing with all that poison is an issue. When I read more about the product at the manufactor's website, it stated that the chemical should not be injected into the ground where edible plants were growing.


My chiles have been successfully overwintering in my side yard. They survived the brief bout we had with frost conditions and seem quite happy. A few even have pods on them, although there are no new flowers to be seen. I don't want them sprayed with poisons or growing where poison has been injected into the ground inches away, so I'm considering digging them up and placing them into pots as I continue to deal with the termite situation.

Will I even have a garden after all this? I simply don't have enough information to judge this yet.

January 14, 2007

Frost Conditions Arrive

It seldoms dips below freezing here in Southern California. Snow is more a myth than a reality. Yet, last night the temperatures dipped down around 25 degrees. I was worried about my wintering chile plants since I don't have anything to cover the plants with.

I looked out the window this morning and so far, so good. The plants are still green and looking healthy enough. My pepper garden is in a narrow yard between two houses and I think that not only are they sheltered from the wind, but being so close to the house the micro-climate there might be a bit warmer. I think that it helps that although it very cold, it is a dry cold. So far, we have not been touched by snow.

I'll keep my finger's crossed that the plants will make it. Who knew that overwintering a few chile plants would prove to be so nervewracking?

January 04, 2007

Overwintering Begins

The temperatures outside have been steadily growing cooler as our brief "winter" here in Southern California begins. We seldom experience frost conditions, but our eight week winter has a great deal of rain, wind and cool temperatures. Sometime in March, it will all reverse and the warmth with return again.

Most of my chiles have stopped producing pods, the exception being the red scotch bonnet. It still has a number of red pods on it that are ready for harvest. Otherwise, my garden is entering its dormant period where little is being produced.

I've never overwintered chiles before, but I just got an email from a fellow chilehead who told me that his plants would generally live anywhere from three to eight years here in Southern California and all he did was leave them outside in the garden! I'm very interested in this since it is often hard to find the more exotic chiles as starts in my area. If I have a plant, I'd like to keep it! I'm a little uncertain about the techniques involved, but I will simply try and cut them back a little and hope that in the spring they put out new stalks and leaves.

I am going to overwinter the following: Blushing Beauty Bell, Red Corno de Toro, Gypsy, Ariane, Fresno, Bulgarian Carrot, Cherry Bomb Hybred, Fatali, Fish, Red Scotch Bonnet and Chocolate Habanero. By overwintering, I'm hoping to have fresh chiles for my cooking far sooner than the late fall. Only time will tell....