Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Setting Peppers Up for Success

It is so early to be planting peppers here!  But the forecast looks OK and my pepper plants are at the perfect stage for transplanting.  I can already see little buds forming at the top.  They are eager to go and I don't want to hold them back.  When I removed the pots, the white roots had just reached the bottom of the pot.  

I am no pepper expert, but there are a few things I have learned about them over the years.  The first thing is that they like to touch each other.  This has nothing to do with pollination, because, like tomatoes, peppers are self pollinating.  But they get lonely if you space them too far apart.  I suspect this has more to do with dappled shade than anything else.  Which brings me to the second most important point, and that is they don't want full, unrelenting sun, even here in NY where our version of "full sun" is much less intense than most places due to our proximity to the Great Lakes.  We have a lot of cloud cover, and still, my pepper plants do not want twelve hours of sun.  They are much happier on the north side of a fence post, in the shadow of the top rail, where they are shaded from the most intense hours of sun.  And lastly, they do well in containers.  They like warm soil, and what better way to warm the soil than to put it in a black pot?

These containers are about ten gallons.  Sixteen or eighteen inches across.  I have planted as many as six pepper plants in them and they always do well.  I start with some used potting mix, and recharge it with a good helping of Garden Tone fertilizer.  I fill it to about the level where their roots will reach, and mix the fertilizer into the top few inches of soil.

I top off the container leaving room for a generous helping of worm castings, and some Kelp Meal which has an N-P-K of 1-0-2.  I mix that up and we are ready to plant.  The key to growing peppers in containers is to use a container large enough for more than one plant.  Remember, everyone needs a friend!  I use a grow thru grid which will help support them later on when they are heavy with fruit.  Pepper stems are woody and tend to snap under load instead of bending.

Then I top dress the soil with a layer of shredded leaves. I do this with all of my large containers.  It helps the soil retain moisture and prevents it from crusting over on top.  It also discourages the occasional weed.  I water them in well, and they probably will not need water again for several days if not longer.  With containers, it is helpful to use a moisture meter so you don't over water and rot the roots.

And finally, I pin a frost cloth around everything.  This will add some heat during the cooler days, and block the wind while the plants are adjusting to their new situation.  I find it is easier to go ahead and rig a frost cloth right at the beginning.  It is easier to open this up if we get a really hot, sunny day where they may over heat than it is to run around in the evening trying to get everyone protected from a potential frost.

Now my pepper plants are all set and ready to go.  They will soon grow up through the grid and I will free them from their frost cloth.  It won't be long until we have blooms, and then little baby peppers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Update on Relocated Perennial

The little Geum plant that I divided and relocated is happy and healthy.  In fact, it was the first of the Geum to set a bloom.

The portion left behind is also fine and blooming. 

Sunny Day

After several days of cool temperatures, mid-40s at night and mid-fifties during the day, we finally got a warm, sunny day and I can open up the cold frame for more than a minute, inspect some of my plants and give them liquid fertilizer.  The cold frame has needed to conserve every degree of temperature it can so I've only taken quick peeks to make sure nothing was drying out.

First are my Orange Hat Micro tomatoes.  This solves the problem of "cherry tomato plants are so BIG!"

Mature size and blooming
Below are my dwarf tomato plants and the Havasu hot peppers that we enjoy as pickled peppers.

These are ready to transplant but looking at the long range forecast, we are still getting night time temperatures below 55F for the next three weeks so I am not in a hurry.  I may go ahead and put the peppers in their large containers, but I will have to keep frost cloth around them and create a little personal cold frame for each container.

The indeterminate tomatoes have been up-potted one more time and are in no hurry to go in the ground.

And finally, my Large Exhibition Coleus Mix.  This is year two for this packet of seeds an they germinated well.  I am happy that I got two of each color so I can pot up a pair of matching planters.  

I also got extra of the Mosaic color which I will use in the planter in front of the chicken coop.  That solves that problem because I was feeling pretty cheap, lazy and uninspired about that planter.  Why not fill it with what are basically "free plants".  I'll just buy a Sweetheart Lime sweet potato plant to spill over the front and I'll be all done.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Planting Again

 I started my own sweet potato slips for the third year in a row.  They are getting so darn expensive to mail order that considering the amount I end up growing it is not cost effective to order new each year.  But growing slips from my own stock is free.  Last year I tried growing them in 7 gallon containers which proved to be just a little too shallow.  I had a few tubers that were blunted off when they reached the bottom.  So I am back to my large, 25 gallon grow bags.

I took one of my nicer remaining tubers and put it in potting soil under a grow light back in March.  A few weeks ago I broke the slips off of the tuber and placed them in a jar of water and put that out in the cold frame where they could get used to some sun.  If you skip the hardening off process you risk losing all your slips when you plant them out.  The roots look amazing.

When I order slips through the mail all I get is unrooted stems with all of the leaves wilted and dead wrapped in soggy newspaper.  It is always an unimpressive, expensive little bundle.  As an example, below is a picture from 2021 with the same grow bag planted with three mail order slips.  Can you see 'em in there?  Me neither...

My own slips are absolutely superior to those.  I have a few backups in case one of them doesn't take.  The original tuber is still under grow lights putting out more little baby slips.  I estimate I could get two dozen slips from a standard sized tuber.  

These 25 gallon grow bags will support four or five plants with enough room to put on some good size.  There is always a chance that one or more will not take.  I amend the soil with regular Garden-tone fertilizer and Bone Meal which helps develop stronger roots.  And a sweet potato is just a root after all.

I put five in each bag and then mulched them in with shredded leaves.  This is to help the soil stay moist and not dry out on top.  While I was in the leaf bin I got out enough to mulch in the cole crops.

Leaf mulch is important in this situation because of the fact that the bed is covered securely and that makes it difficult to pull a weed here and there.  The leaf mulch pretty much eliminates weeding all season and the insect mesh prevents the leaves from blowing out of the bed.

The peas and lettuce bed is growing well.

I planted carrots in containers (not much to see there) and transplanted most of my indeterminate tomato varieties.  I also finished planting my dahlia tubers.  I got the large decorative ones done in the main dahlia beds the other day but I also have some singles that I put along the walkway to the garden.  The sprouts on the large decoratives are already beginning to peak through the soil.  Since they are getting such a great head start I hope I get some earlier blooms this year.  It is so tough to wait until the end of July to see any blooms!

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

End of Mulching and Dahlia Day

We have finished the last of the edging and mulching.

And now that we are done tracking mud and mulch in the house, we have also shampooed the carpets and mopped the floors.  In the garden I am adding as many items to the bottom of my To Do List as I am crossing off of the top.  Today I planted fifty of my dahlia tubers.  They were all awake and sprouting so it had to be done.  The weather forecast looks OK but if we have a late frost I will have to cover everything.  It is a good practice to place your support stakes at the time of planting, but instead I covered most of them with wire cloches to stop critters digging them up.  To counter the tempting smell of the fertilizer and fresh soil I sprinkled them all with Liquid Fence granules.

Most of my garden chores right now do not make much visual difference.  I bury seeds (and tubers) in the soil and move plants from small pots to larger pots.  I have nice dwarf tomatoes and hot peppers and coleus hardening off in the cold frame.

The indeterminate tomatoes are weeks behind and still under grow lights.

The groundhogs were right, this has been an early spring.  I feel like I am planting a week or two earlier than usual at this point, but I am still holding off planting any warm weather plants in the ground.

Monday, April 29, 2024



The peas are up.

I got good germination on most of the lettuce.  I seeded from three or four mixed packets.

The strawberries are blooming.

The tulips are at their peak.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Not Cool ~ freezing....


The National Weather Service does not start issuing Frost or Freeze Warnings until May 1st.  Until then, you have to keep track yourself.

Yesterday I put a frost cover on the cole crops and the Hydrangea bush.  I hope it didn't get too burned.

Do you see that blaze through the trees to the west?  That not the sunrise, that is the waning Full Pink Moon setting.  I should have hopped in the car and chased it.  I'll bet it was spectacular.

The sun is actually rising over there

It will take the tulips all day to recover.

and the pear buds...

And the apple leaves....