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I’m always gardening – even when the snow flies.

Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

ripen tomatoes before killing frost, ripen tomatoes

It’s the last full week of August and the first frost that will hit my garden is less than a month away. I need the space tomatoes are in for spinach and other greens to keep us supplied with fresh vegetables over the winter. It’s time to ripen tomatoes before first frost and get the job done quickly.

Snip New Growth

ripen tomatoes before first frost, tomatoes, prune tomatoes

You know the first frost is coming and you still have a lot of green tomatoes but what can you do? Jump start the ripening process with two steps. The first step is timing consuming when you have more than a few plants.

You need sharp scissors. Snip off each new growth tip and all flowers. The plant’s energy will be forced into ripening rather than growth. Continue to prune suckers and snip off new growth until you have all the ripe tomatoes you’re going to get. This photo shows you the new growth that must be removed.

Sever Roots

spade, Next, you need a sharp spade. Force the space into the soil 12 inches from the stem of the plant. Continue all the way around the plant to sever the roots. Now give the stem a tug to loosen some of the roots. Stop when you hear the roots ripping.

Stems break occasionally but no worries. Hang the plant in a dry sunny place. Remove the tomatoes when the plant shrivels and wrap them in newspaper. Place them in a box and check on them every four or five days. Or, use them green and be done with it. Fried green tomatoes? Yes, please.

Each year I tell myself I should stick to determinate varieties of tomatoes so that they ripen within a short time and then the plants die. I can’t convince myself to give up varieties like Juliet or Pruden’s Purple tomatoes. They’re worth the extra effort, especially when the grocery store tomatoes return to hard, pink, dense, unripe, tasteless, disgusting imposters.

Row Covers – What are they and how do you use them?

Row Covers – What are they and how do you use them?

Row Covers

Row covers serve several purposes in my garden. I sometimes purchase row covers by the yard off a big bolt, or I raid the linen closet for old sheets. No need to be too fancy, the plants don’t care. Covers hold in a few degrees of warmth at the beginning and end of the growing seasons, can provide shade from summer’s extreme sun, and block insects from tender seedlings.

I like Agribon. It’s tough enough to be used multiple years but light weight. It’s available in a variety of weights/thickness.

spund bonded polypropylene

Spring Planting

Floating row cover is the simplest cover to use. It doesn’t need to be supported on a frame. It’s so light weight the plants will lift it as they grow. You can start using a floating row cover in the spring while plants are still small but watch to be sure the cover isn’t bending the seedlings over.

Some covers are thick enough to keep seedlings protected from frost down to 24° and let you start hardy seeds from peas, spinach and beets unusually early. The down side of heavier covers is that let only 50% of sunlight through instead of the typical 85% so switch to a lighter cover as soon as possible. Place the row cover over the row and weigh it down on the ends. You can purchase U clips to push through the cover and into the soil, use odd pieces of lumber (which will also make picking up slugs and other pests simple each morning) or use rocks. Any heavy object will do.

Seed Germination

Row covers aid in seed germination by keeping the soil moist. Tiny seeds such as petunias or carrots can dry out quickly and die. Moist soil protects against crusting, something that happens when the soil dries out and becomes hard and thick at the surface.

Pest Control

Prevent a problem with spring pests by using row cover as an insect barrier. Keep sides and ends closed and weigh down the cover all around to block the insects from crawling under. Look for pests that have emerged from the soil underneath the cover so you don’t trap in what you’ve worked to keep out. If you find pests you can pull back the barrier, remove the pests, apply the appropriate insecticide, and replace the barrier. Be sure to check again the next day and continue to check while the row cover is being used.

Summer Use

I use floating row cover to control cabbage worms (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage), carrot weevils, Colorado potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles (not as much of a problem in summer as in spring), leafhoppers, leaf miners, squash vine borers, birds, rabbits, woodchucks and even an occasional goat that has escaped through the pasture fence. You need to continue to check for insects trapped under the row cover. Avoid a heavy row cover that will hold in too much heat during the summer. Stick with a light weight spun bonded polypropylene.

If you use a heavier row cover like slitted plastic you need to check the temperature under the plastic daily. Even heat-loving plants can get too hot under cover.


Shade helps protect the plants and soil from the sun. In this case, place three foot wide row covers over low tunnel ribs and secure with clips. Air flow won’t be blocked but the sun won’t be quite so harsh.

Fall Protection

When the temperature is above 60° during the day I recommend pulling the sunny side of the row cover up to allow for air circulation and avoid over heating the plants. When the temperatures rise to 80°, such as during an Indian Summer, push the row cover all the way off to one side for the hottest part of the day.

If it’s windy you should tack the cover down in a few places. A flapping cover can do a lot of damage in a short time. Replace the cover in late afternoon so that the ground stays warm. I use row covers in the fall on lettuce, peppers, bush beans, squash, pumpkins and other plants that appreciate the extra warmth. For radiant heat add large rocks between plants to absorb heat during the day.

Beware of Frost

Frost protection is very important once the night time temperatures start dropping. It won’t hurt to cover your flowers and vegetables “just in case” there might be a frost. If you don’t hear a frost warning until the 6 o’clock news don’t worry. Grab your extra sheets! They’ll fit over tomatoes in cages, patches of squash and pumpkins and just about anything else you might need to cover. Save your covers for the frost sensitive plants. You don’t need to cover broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnip, kale, spinach, rutabaga, carrots and other cold hardy plants. They’ll take a light frost and sometimes a heavy killing frost without being damaged.

After the frost melts and the air starts to warm you might remove the cover, but it may not be necessary. If the cover is light weight and allows sun and water through, and the temperature isn’t going to be too warm, you can leave the cover on.

Low Tunnels

Agribon, row covers

You might have heard of high tunnels being used by commercial flower, fruit and vegetable growers. Backyard gardeners often use another version called low tunnels. They’re around four feet wide and up to four feet tall.

Use slitted row cover, heavy-weight poly with pre-cut slits, in early spring and fall. Support it with No. 9 wire cut to the appropriate length to match the height and width of your tunnel. Each end of the wire is pushed into the ground to form the hoop. The slitted cover is stretched out the width of the row plus an additional three feet on each end. Weight one side to hold the plastic down. Stretch it over the hoop and cover the other side. Close in the ends. As the plastic warms and becomes flexible it will relax, opening the slots and releasing heat. If the temperature rises too much you need to open the end to increase circulation or lift one side of the poly. clip the plastic onto the wire with clothes pins.

Heat Lovers

Low tunnels are particularly helpful with heat-loving plants like tomatoes and okra. Keep in mind that slots don’t close completely. A lot of heat is lost through the top during the night. If it’s going to be too cold over night you should use a sheet on top of the tunnel. It doesn’t have to cover the entire height of the tunnel. You can cover six inches below the slots. Again, clothes pins will attach the second cover for the night.

Vine Crops

Cucumbers, melons and squash can be transplanted into the soil and covered with a low tunnel to give them an early start in the spring. These are plants that don’t like cold feet. The soil temperature needs to be warm enough to keep them happy before you transplant the seedlings. You can warm the soil by spreading strips of clear plastic over the row and anchoring it down tightly. Clear plastic allows sunlight through to warm the soil faster than black plastic. Black plastic absorbs the sun’s heat then warms the soil. When the soil has warmed you can roll your plastic up and store it for next year’s use. Make your low tunnels and transplant your seedlings at the same time you remove the plastic.

End of Season

Inspect your row covers carefully. Cuts in poly covers can be repaired with greenhouse patch tape. Make a straight cut the entire width of the cover at the edge of a rip  You’ll have a shorter piece of row cover but you’ll be able to save and reuse it next year. Store cloth covers like spun bonded polypropylene in hard plastic containers to protect it from rodent damage.


Throw away row covers if they covered diseased plants. Better safe than sorry.



Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

Sheet Mulching – What, How, When, Why

What is Sheet Mulching?

Timing is everything! I have “research sheet mulching” on my to do list. I’ve been told a couple of times in the last week that I should be doing it. Dan went into great detail and answered a lot of questions. I like the idea but I’m not sure I have the time. If you use sheet mulching how much time does it take you do an area about 10′ x 10′? Do you spend a lot of time gathering the materials? Is it worth it to you? The timing was right on – I was asked to share this graphic and I happen to think it’s pretty great.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to plant a garden outside next year. I’ll be relying on the high tunnel for everything I grow and a local farmer for a few things I won’t grow. I have to get control of the weeds. It seems like sheet mulching might do a good job of this while improving the soil at the same time. I can’t possibly sheet mulch the entire garden at once but I’ll most likely give it a try in one spot.
sheet mulching

Gardening at Sunrise

Gardening at Sunrise

Gardening at Sunrise

Tree tops swayed in a breeze before sunrise this morning. I watched them while still curled up beside Steve, reluctant to leave my cozy spot but eager to go to the garden. It’s August in Maine – hazy, hot and humid. Today’s forecast calls for 85°, the dew point around 60°, and the humidity at 80% and rising. Ugh. We’ve had a welcome break from the humidity that sparked a yearning for autumn, but it moved back in under the cover of darkness. Gardening at sunrise in the summer is soothing. Later in the day, when the plants have dried and the sun is high, picking beans and other work is, well, work.

Herbs in the old but newly designed herb garden by the back porch needed a good weeding. The soil needs a lot of help but overall it’s doing okay. Crabgrass, Creeping Charlie and plantain are the worst offenders. Everything but the Charlie goes into a bucket to be composted and fed back to the soil. Right now there’s more empty space than plant and the weeds are taking advantage. There’s a bit more to do but coffee was my butterfly this morning. “Oh look! A…butter…cup of coffee is ready.” The aroma of fresh brewed coffee met me at the corner of the porch and drew me in.

Later this morning

After coffee and breakfast I’ll get chores done. Later, when I’m not gardening at sunrise, I’ll at least be in the shade for part of the day. There are beans, cucumbers, zucchini and oregano to pick in the high tunnel this morning. And then I’ll find my heavy duty gloves and tackle the perennial flower garden in front of the house. I’m taking the wheelbarrow to fill with weeds. Yes, it’s that bad. Embarrassingly bad. I’ll have it under control by the time I’m done, hopefully before the sun makes its way to the front of the house. While I’m weeding I’ll be thinking about what new plants I want for that garden. I added a rhododendron this year but nothing more. Vegetables? Mastered that garden and the high tunnel decades ago. Flowers? Not so much. I’m taking time to think it through and have what I think I want. And if I screw it all up and it’s not beautiful? I have a spade and can move it all around, but I’d rather not.

What’s going on in your garden? Any words of wisdom you can share about perennial garden planning? I have an acre to develop over time.
Sage, gardening at sunrise
catmint, gardening at sunrise
lavender, clay pot, terra cotta pot, gardening at sunrise
gardening at sunrise, bumble bee, sunflower



Garlic Harvest, Curing and Storage

Garlic Harvest, Curing and Storage

Garlic Harvest

Tuesday was garlic harvest day and I was eager to see how well the German Extra Hardy Hardneck Garlic produced. It was supposed to rain so I was up and out early to pull the bulbs…under bright sunshine and without a cloud in the sky. Timing the garlic harvest is tricky. I pulled one head last week to give to my uncle and thought it looked just about ready, and another last night that was perfect.

Tips on Harvesting Garlic

These few tips will make 11 months of waiting for your garlic worth the wait.

  • Tops need to be dying and turning brown. Some of the tops, not all. If you wait until they’re all brown and dry it’s too late. The bulbs will be separating to prepare themselves for next year’s growth. If you pull too soon the immature garlic won’t store well.
  • Withhold water for ten days when the majority of plants’ tops are turning brown.
  • If the soil is too compact to pull the bulbs without breaking the greens, dig them out with a spade or garden fork. Shake the soil off but don’t wash the bulbs.
  • Immediately, and I can’t stress immediately too much, get the garlic out of the sun and into a shady, drafty, cool spot to dry. Spread it out so the bulbs aren’t piled on top of each other, or hang them in . It’s alright if the tops touch.
  • Garlic is cured when the paper covering is dry. You can remove the tops now.
  • Store your garlic in a dark, dry, cool space. Properly cured garlic bulbs don’t need refrigeration.

garlic harvest
harvested garlic, garlic harvest, how to harvest garlic, when to pick garlic

Curing garlic, storaging garlic, garlic harvest

split garlic, curing garlic, garlic harvestTwo heads split, not bad out of 60.

The garlic isn’t too strong in its garlicness. I used a clove of garlic and two shallots in sauteed green beans last night and was very pleased with the rich flavor. It carmelized and became almost sweet. I’m making more for lunch every day until I run out of fresh beans.

Best heads will be set aside as next year’s crop. I’ll amend the soil in a new spot in September and plant twice as many cloves as I did this year. This will give us more scapes to devour as garlic scape pesto, and heads to give away.






Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

I spent last week in the Adirondacks, tucked away in Cabin 3 at a women’s writing retreat. There’s always something to learn, and learn I did. A lot. I don’t have Pam and Deb giving me ideas on what words to write in the next five, ten, 25 minutes so I have to create or find my own prompts. There isn’t anyone to cook three meals a day for me now. But then there’s the garden. The garden had a to-do list waiting for me when I pulled in the drive at almost ten o’clock Friday night. Coming home to food we’re growing re-grounds me.

Walking through the yard, garden and high tunnel early this morning was a nice way to slide back into homesteading. The raspberries were ripening when I left. I picked two and a half quarts Saturday morning before being stung by a yellow jacket and quitting for the day, and today there are three or four or more quarts waiting to be picked. I picked one cucumber, sprinkled it with sea salt and promptly devoured the whole thing. I pruned most of the cucumber vines Saturday morning but more are waiting for me. Coming home to food re-energizes me. I’m ready to get back to the garden today.

So Much Food!

The zucchini will have to wait until Tuesday; growing another inch or two will give us more to eat in Tuesday night’s supper. The peas, well they’re not waiting. I’ll have to pick them today. I’m over peas, thank you very much. I’ll pick them one more time, throw down some lime, climb up on the tractor, and rototill the weedy, pea viney mess into the soil like I planned to do last week. Next week I’ll plant the fall peas…or not. I’m not sure I want to deal with more weeds this year.

Come for a walk around the homestead with me. We’ll start outside the high tunnel.

Watching Food Grow

July in the High Tunnel

The high tunnel is my favorite garden. It provides food year round when I keep it planted for winter, as I’ll do this year. We’re about to tear apart a raised bed that isn’t raised anymore, rebuild it and fill it with good soil that we’ll amend in the process. Seems like we grow as much food in 1,000 square feet as we do in the wide open garden. I’m experimenting this year. Corn in the high tunnel? It’s growing, and so I think it will work.

Tomato Variety Reviews – To grow again or not to grow again

Tomato Variety Reviews – To grow again or not to grow again

Tomato Variety Reviews

These tomato variety reviews appeared as a post in the old blog. It’s worthy of updating a little and giving it a spot here.

Tomato season should have some sort of national event and cause for celebration. It takes months to get from the tiny seed to a ripe tomato. Planting, watering, transplanting to larger pots, transplanting into the garden, more water, weeding, staking and tying, pruning. It’s a lot of work. It’s worth it when that first tomato is ripe and ready to pick. This is the only time of year that I’ll eat tomatoes. I’ll wait, sometimes impatiently, for really good tomatoes. My tomato variety reviews should help you choose and maybe avoid varieties for your garden and kitchen.

Bobcat Beef Steak Tomato

Bobcat is a big favorite. This F-1 hybrid beef steak variety has a lot going for it. It’s an easy to control determinate that has done very well in the high tunnel. I wasn’t going to plant any tomatoes outside this year but had a few extras and plopped them in the ground. They’re not ripe yet but the sprawling plants are growing well. The tomatoes I’m picking average 8-10 ounces and are ripening evenly. I won’t need six plants next year. This variety, as is typical of determinates, is producing a lot of ripe fruit at once. They’re so prolific that I used them in the stewed tomatoes I made and canned over the weekend. A slice and a half is all you need to cover a sandwich. This is as close to perfect as a tomato can be and deserves second place in the tomato variety reviews.tomato variety reviews, JetStar tomato, Bobcat tomato

Vilms Heirloom Paste Tomato

Vilms is an heirloom paste tomato. It’s a little more tart than I like for a paste tomato but very good. I knew I had more tomatoes ripe than I had time to can over the weekend so I relied on the information I read and left them on the plant. The claims that Vilms holds well are true. Three days later, the tomatoes show no signs of over ripening or stress. A fun aspect of Vilms is its mismatched shapes. Some of the plants are producing pear shaped fruits while others are plum shaped. I thought I’d made a mistake by mixing up seeds of two varieties but that isn’t the case. I went back to read the description. Vilms hasn’t shown any signs of blossom end rot in spite of a very dry July that limited how often I could water without stressing the well.

Luci 2103 Tomato for the High Tunnel

Luci 2103 is a great F-1 hybrid variety for high tunnels. It lived up to Fedco’s claim of being able to replace Buffalo. The seeds are less expensive than I used to pay for Buffalo. Luci ripens uniformly, has strong stems that do well with clipping to strings, is easy to control to two main stems with pruning and not at all fussy. A few tomatoes cracked when I over watered but that was my fault. I like Luci a lot but I’ll stick with Jet Star.

Casady’s Folly Heirloom Paste Tomato

Casady’s Folly is a huge failure. If I’d started growing heirlooms with this variety I would have given up the first year. Fifty percent of the fruits were small, about an inch long, and all but a few had blossom end rot. I’ve never grown a tomato as susceptible to blossom end rot as Casady’s Folly. No other variety in the high tunnel has BER. This variety has thick, tough skin. During a hot spell, the blossoms dropped, something I don’t often see in tomatoes. The flavor is great but this variety is too fussy to deserve a spot in my garden. tomato variety reviews

I grew my favorites this year, Jet Star is my all time favorite for a small, found, red, always dependable tomato. I like it better than Early Girl and other “choice” varieties. And Opalka, the paste variety I can’t do without. Opalka peels easily without being dunked in hot water. It’s meaty, has excellent flavor, is a large tomato at 3” x 5” and a heavy producer. If water stressed, it might have a little blossom end rot but that seldom happens.

Old Favorites

Juliette is my dependable grape tomato that is excellent in salad, stewed, and in sauce. If it were larger and peeled easily it would replace Opalka as my favorite paste variety.

Tomatoes haven’t been planted in one of the tunnels for the past two years but they’re growing this year. An orange cherry tomato, smaller than most cherry varieties, is blocking a wide path in the tunnel. I stopped stepping over it and started walking on it when it was wider than my legs can reach. Abuse hasn’t slowed this plant. I have little idea of what it might be. I grew Sun Gold for several years but that’s a hybrid variety that wouldn’t grow “true” as a volunteer. The fruits are half the size of Sun Gold. This tomato isn’t prone to cracking. I didn’t plant it, don’t need it and don’t take care of it, yet it’s doing exceptionally well. I water it when I think of it by tossing the hose to it. I’ve over watered many times and not one tomato has cracked. tomato variety reviews

I never tire of tomatoes even though I don’t eat a lot of them. I love to grow them and am fascinated by what I get when volunteers grow. What’s your favorite tomato? tomato variety reviews

Self-Seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-Seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-seeding vegetables are probably more common than you knew. We’re usually pretty good about cleaning up the garden at the end of the season so we don’t give self-seeding veggies a chance to replace themselves. Most gardeners who grow tomatoes have missed one or two during fall clean-up. When that happens, you find a clump of seedlings commonly called “volunteers” in the garden the following year.

If volunteer seedlings are offspring from hybrid plants, you won’t get the variety of the parent plant. If you grow a single heirloom variety, also known as open-pollinated varieties, your volunteer seedlings will be the same as the parent plant. If you grow more than one variety you’ll probably get hybrid seedlings.
self-seeding, tomato, tomatillo

Tomatillos are self-seeding and so good at it they can become weeds. One missed tomatillo can lead to dozens of seedlings. I planted them in the high tunnel in 2010 and haven’t had to since. I let one volunteer grow to give meenough tomatillos to make salsa verde, and pull the rest.

self-seeding, tomato, volunteer tomatoes

Garden Tip: Self-seeded tomatoes will tell you when to plant the rest of your tomato seedlings. If the soil is warm enough for volunteers it's warm enough for the seedlings you grew or bought.Click To Tweet

This spring I have beautiful seedlings in the grass in front of a high tunnel thanks to a self-seeding lettuce in the tunnel. A thunder storm moved through with wind strong enough to blow seeds out the door.  Lettuce is great for school gardens because you can start a cold-tolerant variety in early spring, eat the lettuce before the school year ends, and leave it to self-seed over the summer. Kids can enjoy lettuce again in the fall, and I’m sure there’s a science fair project in there.

Onions, leeks and scallions (alliums) are easy to let reseed. They are self-seeding biennials that will overwinter, break dormancy in the spring and put their energy into flower to produc seeds. The flowers are beautiful in shades of white, pink and purple. They require little care other than weeding and watering. Mature seeds are located in the flowers. They seeds will scatter when the breeze blows. I let my onions grow where they fall and thin as needed. They do well in the spot they’re already growing so I leave them there year after year, amending the soil with compost before the seeds drop.

Self-Seeding Root Crops

self-seeding, beetsBeets are another biennial that will self-seed if the beet root survives the winter. I let one or two overwinter in a high tunnel. The plants get big and fall over so they’re in the way. But for a short time, I don’t mind stepping around them.  They’re hardy and germinate while the ground is still cold. This spot in the high tunnel hadn’t been watered for weeks. I planted the oregano, Spicy Globe Bush Basil and sage, watered them well, and a few seeds germinated. They’re crowding the plants I put there but they aren’t hurting anything. I’ll pull the beets to eat soon.

Radishes are one of the simplest vegetables to self-seed. The radish root will probably split as the seed stalk begins to grow. Don’t pull the radish, it will be fine. The flowers are small and pretty. They stand out in the garden and attract pollinators. Each pod on the stalk has seeds.  After the pod dries you can crack it open and shake the seeds onto the ground.  I haven’t found that any of the varieties of radishes I grow need cold stratification.

Carrots are biennials I let self-seed, but it’s a longer process than the other plants I use. The plant resumes growth, sends up the seed stalk, flowers and is pollinated, and the seeds are collected from the flower. I tend to forget about them, my enthusiasm for seed collecting waning later in the season. I’m seldom disappointed when a hybrid reverts back to the parent.

Self-Seeding Vine Crops

Pumpkins, zucchini and squash are my favorite self-seeders. It’s fun to watch them grow and figure out what the parents might be and what they’ll look like, how big they’ll be and whether they’ll taste good. If they aren’t worth eating, they’re at least an interesting fall decoration.

Cucumbers are self-seeding if you leave them on the vine to ripen. We pick them when they’re long and slender and typically green when we’re going to eat them. If you want to let them self-seed or want to save seeds, let a cucumber grow. It will turn from green to yellow and possibly to orange depending on the variety. This is the third year I have seedlings resulting from the original seeds I planted two years ago.


July Gardening Tips

July Gardening Tips

July Gardening Tips

July is another busy month in the garden. My peas are producing now so later this month, when they’ve worn themselves out, they’ll be replaced. It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? One of the first seeds to be sown, watched and waited for, cheered over when they broke through the soil’s surface, and then unceremoniously ripped out or rototilled under, and replaced. These July gardening tips should help you get focused and cut down the time you spend walking in circles. What? That’s a middle-aged forgetful thing? Well I can’t deny that!

July Gardening Tips, broccoli side shoots
july gardening tips, plant peas in july, summerJuly’s Garden To Do List

Here’s my list for July. Some things will be done weekly or as necessary depending upon the weather.

  • Weeds – Catch up and keep up. No weed is too small to pull immediately.
  • Mulch – Does anything need more mulch now that it’s had time to settle? Is there anything that hasn’t come up through the mulch that you need to check on? Pull all weeds from the mulch and drop them on top, making sure the roots can’t reach the soil. They’ll die and add to the mulch and eventually add to the soil.
  • Hoe up the potatoes. Pull more soil over the plants for as long as possible. Eventually they’ll get larger than the amount of soil you have available.
  • Prune and tie tomatoes to their stakes. If you haven’t mulched the base of the plants, do it now. Mulch (oat straw, for example) creates a barrier that prevents some blight spores from splashing onto plants.
  • Look for pests in and around the garden and then deal with them. Look for eggs on the underside of leaves and holes, wilting and other damage on leaves.
  • Fertilize as necessary.
  • Build a compost pile. You can use cardboard (rip it up), shredded paper (newspaper, junk mail), spent hay from livestock, and straw.
  • Lay down a two inch layer of large sheets of cardboard on a new garden spot. Weight it down and leave it until next year to kill grass and weeds.

lettuce seedlings, july gardening tipsBigger Projects

  • Replace early crops. The root crops planted in early spring are probably about done by now and leave empty space. Add a compost to the soil and replace them with another crop. Peas with a short amount of time to maturity are an option. They’ll grow during the hottest part of the summer here, bloom as its cooling down, and produce in the cool weather. They tolerate light frost and snow. Is the broccoli producing enough side shoots to warrant keeping them or are they ready to be pulled?
  • If you’re not going to plant something you’ll harvest in emptied space you need to cover the soil with something. Dutch white clover will help fix nitrogen in the soil and can be turned under later. Forage radish will grow, go to seed, and then die. You leave it there for the winter. The root (radish) that’s grown 12-18″ down will die, feed the soil, leave open space for rain to drain, and improve the soil for next year.

Do you have July Gardening Tips?

Do you have July gardening tips to share? Please leavJuly Gardening Tipse them in comments and I’ll add them to the post along with a link to your blog.

Growing Peppers in Your Garden

Growing Peppers in Your Garden

Growing Peppers in Your Garden

One of my favorite parts of gardening is growing peppers. I don’t favor them because they’re one of my favorite things to eat. When it comes to eating, peppers are good but they don’t agree with me, something I try to not take personally. I love growing peppers. There are so many shapes, flavors, uses, sizes and even colors that they never get boring, and peppers aren’t fussy.

Growing Peppers – Tips

  • Pepper seedlings don’t require drastic hardening off. Hold back a bit on water and move them outside in dappled sun to adapt to sun and breeze.
  • Pepper plants are more susceptible to cold early in the season than later, so don’t rush planting. Transplant them into the garden after the danger of frost passes and the soil warms.
  • Peppers like to be crowded. Plant them 18 to 24 inches apart depending on variety.
  • Give them fertile soil, sufficient magnesium and calcium, water deeply once or twice a week, and let them grow.
  • Don’t give peppers too much nitrogen. You’ll get a lot of plant with few peppers.

We often have a killing frost in early September followed by several weeks of warm, frost-free weather. A sheet or other cover over the plants is usually enough to protect the plants from frost. This will help you continue growing peppers into the autumn season.

I start pinching blossoms off the plants in mid to late August. The plant will put its energy into growing peppers already formed rather than making more.

I always grow Revolution bell peppers. Their thick walls, heft and wide bottoms make them perfect for stuffing and freezing for winter meals. The pepper doesn’t disintegrate before the filling is thoroughly cooked. It’s excellent in salad, salsa and spaghetti sauce. If I’m using a bell pepper rather than a hot variety when I make and can spaghetti sauce, I choose Revolution. It holds its shape during the canning process. On the Scoville Heat Scale, Revolution is a 0. This one is not a hottie.
revolutionRevolution requires approximately 72 days to maturity, a short amount of time for a mammoth sized pepper. Revolution is Phytophthora Blight and Bacterial Leaf Spot resistant. Grasshoppers and flea beetles like peppers but don’t seem to want to do enough damage to Revolution to kill the plants if you choose to avoid using pesticide.

Hot Peppers

Poblano Pepper, growing peppers
I was reminded of the heat some of the peppers I grow can pack. I weeded around and pulled a few Poblano peppers that had blossom end rot. I touched my finger to an open spot on the pepper and touched my finger to my tongue. Hot. Holy cow hot. I finished weeding the Poblanos then moved on to the Jalepenos and Serranos. I brushed a mosquito off my cheek. Instantly, my cheek stung. I hadn’t swatted the mosquito, just a light brush against my skin, and then I quickly realized the stinging sensation was burning. My face didn’t have protection of latex gloves.
growing peppers, Serano pepperAccording to Scoville, Jalepenos are mild. They rate 2,500 to 8,000 units. I withhold water to my peppers. I want intense flavor for the Mexican recipes the peppers will be used in.
Jalepeno pepper, growing peppersGrowing peppers – everyone can do it!