Peppers, this year and last year.

Last year was a fantastic year for peppers and I think this year will be even better.  I got almost all the plants I am going to grow into the ground yesterday:

34 plants in this 4′ x 10′ bed

The one plant I overwintered went in as well.  This is a sweet pepper called ‘Yum Yum Gold’ from Territorial Seed.  It wasn’t my favorite variety of all we grew last year; it was just the one plant that was easiest to get at to dig out of the ground and transfer to a pot for the overwintering experiment.  It continued to flower and fruit throughout the winter.

Yum Yum Gold

It tended to go in batches.  Just finishing one up now:

Ripens brilliant orange.

Of GREAT INTEREST to me is that when I first set pepper plants out, ostensibly to harden off to both direct sun and cold, I usually have to be quite careful especially with direct sun or leaves will get sunscald.  The ONLY plant that experienced any scald at all was this one I overwintered.  And you know what? I barely protected them.  Their first day out was a mostly sunny day and all I did was throw some shade cloths (okay burlap sacks and old patio mats) over the hoop house for a few hours midday.  Their second day was all-out sun.  No scald.  Remarkable? I think so!

Eggplants, and peppers for distribution

The plants above are all 10 of my eggplants and all the peppers I’m hoping to find homes for.  Look, NO sunscald! I attribute this to my new T5 light in the garage. That thing is clearly as bright as the sun! Or damn close.  Also, when the light goes off in the garage at night it gets cold – almost as cold as outside.  So this year’s hardening off process was made much, much easier by that setup. The same thing happened with the tomatoes, by the way; I just didn’t document it.  I’m thrilled.

The one plant that did get sunscald is the overwintered one – it was in my office grow-closet under a (much further away and smaller) T5 and a red/blue LED.  That apparently didn’t prepare it as adequately for direct sun – here’s the result:

It’ll be fine – it’s a big plant and can afford to lose some leaf.  Those little guys just don’t possess the photosynthetic real estate for this.

Another fun happening is that ALL the peppers from the garage are flowering, and some are already fruiting.

BIG flowers on ‘La Bomba’ Jalapeño
Flowers and a tiny fruit! This is ‘Alma’ paprika – new one this year and I’m excited about it.
Unbelievably early fruit on ‘Sarit Gat’ which is one of my favorites. Ripens brilliant yellow and hot as hell.

Here’s where I was last year with this lovely family of plants – as you can see, things are ahead this year.  I sowed earlier this year and they grew much better under the garage T5.  On the far right, top, all those little peppers are the super-hots (Carolina Reapers and such).  I gave all those to my pepper-fiend friend shortly after this and he said he didn’t have much luck with them.  So this year, I’m growing them out…

Solanaceae and some melons, May 3 2017

And here are the super-hots this year:

L-R: Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion, Chocolate Bhutlah

Here’s what they looked like on April 9, less than a month ago; I was just up-potting them:

Lookit this gorgeous thing.  The leaves of these plants smell like Habanero pepper fruit!  Capsicum chinense hybrids are very different plants than the standard C. annuum we’re all familiar with.  This the first time I’ll be growing them all the way to fruiting…

Chocolate Bhutlah

I may grow the super-hot peppers in pots – or maybe some in pots and some in the ground.  If you caught my “almost all the plants” at the beginning of this post, these are what I was talking about.  Oh and these pimientos, most of which are for another friend.  I’ll give him the six big ones and keep the two smaller ones.

‘Ashe County Pimiento’, seed from Baker Creek

Peppers are almost entirely pest-free for me but interestingly, I have had to deal with aphids and slugs(!) already! These little green aphids have been increasingly problematic in the indoor grow areas.  A new one to me in the last couple years, these are foxglove aphids AKA glasshouse potato aphid. Here they are on this eggplant, which they really love. I’ve been simply washing the plants with water repeatedly, and hand-squishing.

They seem to appear in conjunction with some leaf curling and “savoy-ing” on peppers.  You can really see it here – savoyed/curled on left, mostly normal on right.

I expect the plants will grow out of this because these are foxglove aphids and high temps will kill them, HAHAHAAA! I’ll get this hoop house up to 100F easily and fry their asses.

After leaving the peppers in their pots over two or three nights, when I went to plant them in the ground yesterday I was surprised to find slug damage on ONLY Habanero plants!  What’s up with that? All the Habaneros had lots of slug damage while there was next to no damage on any other pepper.


As you can see I put some sluggo down just around these.  And these girls will help, too.

Ramona and Carmen on slug patrol right after I planted the peppers.

This week we have such fantastic weather, and I am so relieved because that means a) plants will finally actually grow and b) we can finish painting the house!  The house painting project has stalled out a lot of gardening plans, because I don’t want to plant things anywhere near where they would get power-washed or trampled or painted.  Bigger plants are easy enough to tie up and/or wrap in plastic, but new little plants are much harder to watch out for!  And I really can’t wait to get the patio finished so I can get all the patio furniture out of the dang garden where it’s sitting around being an obstacle course, and back to the patio.  And my patio plants, of course, which are all over on the north side of the house for the time being.

A list of all the pepper varieties for 2018:

  • Ashe County Pimiento – a small, heart-shaped pimiento (yeah like for stuffing olives)
  • Alma Paprika – round, thick-walled, no heat
  • Feher Ozon Paprika – longer tapered and ripens from sticky-note yellow to brilliant vermilion
  • Yum Yum Gold – small orange sweet pepper
  • Gatherer’s Gold – sweet banana type, ripens orange
  • Mellow Star Shisito – thin-walled, no heat, for frying
  • Carnival Bell – old seed from Burpee and they ALL came up!
  • Padron – thin-walled, definitely heat, for frying
  • Habanero – slug magnets apparently
  • Habanada – zero heat Habanero, also slug magnets
  • Early Jalapeño – small Jalapeño supposedly earlier than others, this is the only one I’ve grown until this year
  • Purple Jalapeño – which ripens red and has purple leaves, very pretty!
  • La Bomba Jalapeño – I hear it’s a taste-test winner among Jalapeños
  • Sarit Gat – bright yellow scimitars of pain
  • Hatch Valley Red – standard med-hot New Mexico type, seed from my friend in NM!
  • Guajillo – also from same friend, I’m not sure he labeled this right, we’ll see
  • Ancho/Poblano – yey rellenos!
  • Golden Ghost – brilliant yellow ghost pepper do NOT confuse this with shisito they look the EXACT SAME when green (ask me how I know this is a problem)

And from the inedible department:

  • Carolina Reaper
  • Trinidad Scorpion x Trinidad Douglah
  • Chocolate Bhutlah

We’ve decided we like to prioritize a wide variety over an abundance of a single type, so I’m really interested in trying even more new ones for next year. I’d love to hear what are your favorite pepper varieties!!

Wednesday Vignette: New tree!

It looks flippin awful right now but just you wait.  There’s so much going on here – hoop house is up with tomatoes NOT in it (what? I don’t know, I don’t work here), there’s fencing and other crap all over the place to keep birds and dog out of the garlic, there’s a big ol’ feverfew that I’m going to put in the ground (it volunteered in that pot and went crazy), grapes that need to be pruned (in the big pots) and of course the big obvious red highlighter mark which is the hopeful eventual outline of a Eucalyptus parvula.

For a long time I’ve been wanting an evergreen tree on my side of the fence right there in between those two Styrax japonicas on the other side.  I’ve considered oak, Arbutus (unedo?), cypress, and various others until it finally occurred to me that (I think) Eucalyptus feels right.  So then it became a matter of selecting the species.  As luck would have it I had a conversation about this with Paul Bonine of Xera Plants while in the car, and not only does he have a lot of experience in growing Eucalyptus, he also knows where they all are around town.  So he took me on a little tour and showed me E. kybeanensis, E. parvula, and several others.  E. parvula won the race handily once I saw the gorgeous one on N. Delaware Avenue just south of Sumner.  Street view here.

Yet another stroke of luck – another friend just happened to have a little E. parvula and he gave it to me.  EEEEEEE!!!

Lastly, If I say it out loud do I HAVE to follow through? I think I’m gonna take out the raspberries.  They are thirsty, hard to harvest, and I have those damn spotted wing drosophila.  Relatively new arrivals to the area, these assholes are responsible for significant impacts to commercial fruit growers.  They are damnear impossible to control and I just don’t think it’s worth it.  I’m halfway though an experiment to see if allowing chickens to forage under and around the plants will reduce populations or eliminate them (adults overwinter in/on ground) so I’m going to see that out but even if it’s successful, I’m still not all that keen on growing these.   Maybe olives…

Wednesday Vignettes come to us from the genius of Anna at Flutter & Hum, so go check her blog out too.

Winter Vegetable Garden, February 2018

The vegetable garden is always a year-round affair for me.  That doesn’t mean I actually harvest and eat things every month, but there is always activity.

I started these on January 18.  There are Walla Walla onions, two or three varieties of storage onions, two varieties of lettuce, leeks, and shallots.  There are also a few spinach plants in here too out of the picture frame.  Both lettuce varieties are particularly cold-hardy; later in the spring I’ll transition to different varieties that don’t need to be cold-hardy, and eventually in the summer we’ll get into varieties that are actually bolt-resistant and tolerant of heat.


In my 2nd seedling tray I have almost all peppers.  This one row is eggplant, and they’re up first! I sowed these seeds on January 26.


Outside now, in the back yard, we have some broccoli! I’m almost positive this is variety ‘Rudolph’ which is a purple sprouting type that doesn’t require vernalization, so it matures earlier, and slightly more uniformly? With more of an actual head? This is how it seems to me anyway, compared to regular purple sprouting broccoli which really doesn’t make a central head at all.  These plants are flipping beautiful, too.

yeah, this is the same plant as the first picture above. I really like this one!

I’ve had a much easier time growing Brassicaceae plants this year than ever before.  I attribute that to a couple of garden helpers you’ll meet later in this post.

On to cabbage.  This one is ready for harvest anytime! The variety here is ‘January King.’  This is my favorite winter cabbage variety – if I had to grow just one, it’d be this one.


I’m not sure, but this may be ‘January King’ as well. But this one doesn’t look like it’s going to head up.  I always think that when they’re at this stage, and usually they prove me wrong.  We’ll see.  It looks like ornamental kale, kind of, doesn’t it?


Here are some other cabbages – these came from an overwintering cabbage blend from Territorial.  So who knows what the actual varieties are.  I don’t really care; they change what’s in their blends every year anyway.

See all the evidence of something eating the lower/older leaves on these?  All these Brassicaceae family plants have that to some degree or other.  It’s about half slugs and half birds.  Earlier in the fall, before the ducks were coming over to this side of the garden, the slugs and probably cutworms were having their way.  I’m happy to report that I have done absolutely nothing I mean NOTHING to combat slugs and cutworms this year.  The ducks eat them all!

This next one is a crappy picture, sorry! But this shows the cabbage on the far right in the above photo.  You can see that it’s heading up very nicely and should be ready later this month.


I just harvested three plants’ worth of Brussels sprouts. I thought this one could go a bit longer so I left it. Again this is from one of those winter season mixes from Territorial.  Nordic Winter Blend Hybrid, it says.  Three different varieties apparently.  So maybe those others were earlier-maturing.

I have to put a plug here for growing these Brussels sprouts over the winter.  You might find yourself hosing off aphids a couple times in September, but then once the cool weather hits, the aphids split town and you’re golden.  It’s a million times easier to grow all these Brassicas in the cool season, I find.  If you haven’t done it, I encourage you to try next year.  Get varieties bred for the cool season, or for overwintering, sow your seed indoors in mid-June, and set plants out in August.  Watch ’em for aphids and spray with Bt for those cabbage moths.  You’ll only have to do that until the cool weather of fall comes.  They don’t need any protection from freezes, I promise.


Here’s my helper Ramona, digging slugs and worms out from under the 2″ layer of wood chip mulch in there.

These plants are tall enough that she can easily walk under and among them and keep everything tidy.  Sure, she nibbles a leaf now and then, but mostly the ducks are after insects.  I feed them grain every day, too.


These next plants are the cauliflower.  In this pic, the large plants in back are the ones I’ve been calling my “ornamental cauliflower”  — they were started from seed in July of 2016.  Yes, 2016 and that is not a typo.  They just didn’t flower – not in the summer, not in the winter, not in the spring… I think it’s just a combination of a lot of factors that prevented whatever triggers their flowering process.  Compare their size to the plants in front, which were started in June 2017.


And it turns out, one of them is actually a broccoli! I had no idea.  It can’t be purple cauliflower because I didn’t have seed for that in 2016.


This is the stalk on the purple broccoli plant above.  Can you believe that? This plant was originally more upright, but a few weeks ago it fell over.  And of course kept right on going…


Here are the trunks of the other two plants.  If you look closely you can see the plants’ first year of growth mapped out in the leaf scars.  From the bottom of the stalks, it goes from summer, then to winter, and then summer again where the scars are more spaced out.


I have really loved these plants and I’ll be sad to harvest them.  I might actually try just cutting the flowers and leaving the plants, to see just how long they’ll go.  Will they bolt eventually? Will they just keep growing? Are they truly perennial or will they someday actually die? I find them quite fascinating and beautiful.


Lastly we have nearly 300 garlic cloves planted in this bed.  Well, cloves-turning-into-heads.  The ducks nibbled our garlic quite a bit last year too, but they haven’t done that this year.  I really do think it’s because of the wood chips.  A few of them are a little smashed – that’s because Ramona landed directly on them the other day when she flew over. The ducks roost at night in the coop with the chickens, and when I let all of them out in the mornings, the ducks fly over the 5′ fence out of the chicken run and into the garden, where they hang out all day until I let them go back and roost at night.  They’re not super accurate fliers, so a smashed garlic plant on occasion is just part of the deal.


Next week I’ll be starting my tomatoes indoors.  This year, I’m trying a completely new-to-me thing with them: grafting! You can bet I’ll document that whole process here.

That’s it for the vegetable garden highlights.  This has been a remarkably mild January, and overall a zone 9 winter, but mild winters aren’t really a requirement for winter gardening in the Northwest; you can still grow brassicas and garlic over the winter in zone 7.  That said, here’s hoping February turns out to be as kind as January has been!