Cayenne Peppers Explode in Super Soil

Well, not explode as in Ka-Boom!, but explode in numbers. Take a look at our harvest of peppers from two plants. Two bowls or colanders full from each plant made for a healthy harvest, wouldn’t you say?

bowls of peppers
Two bowls of peppers harvested from each cayenne pepper plant.

On one plant I started counting the peppers and lost track after 180. The plants grew to 5 feet tall and that’s certainly the biggest I’ve ever seen them. Probably won’t be planting any cayenne peppers next year as we’ll have enough dried peppers for the next five years!

Huge Cayenne Pepper Plant
Huge Cayenne Pepper Plant

large pepper plant stem
Girth of this pepper plant stem is over an inch in diameter.

These bountiful plants grew in a brand new section of the vegetable garden where we had a truck load of super soil dumped. In the mountains we definitely have to amend the soil as it’s mostly clay and rock. And I mean there are LOTS of rocks in that dirt.

cayenne pepper plant in front of garage door
Harvested cayenne pepper plant laid in front of garage door.

I’m going to find out exactly how the super soil was made so we can replicate that for next year’s growing season. Compost is one component for sure, but what other ‘ingredients’ and in what combination is unknown at this point. Next year we’ll have to pick up a tumbler composter and make our own compost to amend the soil that’s already in the garden. So far, the Compost Wizard Dueling Tumbler and the Envirocycle Original Composter look very promising. I really like the idea of capturing compost tea with these tumblers.

We already use compost in the garden and flower beds, but since we have the room we just dump everything in a couple of piles near the edge of the yard and let nature take its course. Some ‘black dirt’ can be shoveled from the bottom of the piles, but the roots of nearby plants tend to grow up into the compost piles. Not the best solution for getting enough compost, but the price is right. However, if we could do away with pouring on fertilizers, like MiracleGro, then the cost of a composter would be insignificant.

Here’s to making our own Super Soil next year! BTW, tomatoes did awesome in the super soil, too!

Don’t Eat Chinese Garlic Grow Your Own Instead

Garlic is one of the most easily recognized flavors and it’s loved by many. Late summer fun includes garlic festivals where one can enjoy garlicky foods you wouldn’t ordinarily think of, like garlic ice cream or garlic funnel cakes. There’s still time to plan a trip to garlic festivals on the East Coast, like the Pocono Garlic Festival in Pennsylvania.

Where ever you get your garlic, don’t buy it from the grocery stores as that stuff comes from China. No kidding! Check your shaker of garlic powder and see what it says in the small print…Made in China! Evidently, you have to buy the gourmet version from McCormick Spices to enjoy California-grown garlic.

Instead of buying food that comes from the other side of the Earth, get some locally grown garlic. Garlic grown locally will have the freshest taste just like all the other vegetables at the local fruit stand. Supporting your local farmers keeps your money in your community and that’s something worth the drive.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind getting in the dirt, grow your own garlic. It’s very easy and you’ll have enough to share with your neighbors and friends.

  • Pick an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day.
  • Prepare the soil by adding compost or organic materials until it can be worked easily.
  • Break apart a garlic bulb into its separate cloves.
  • Poke holes in the soil, one for each clove, about 2 inches deep and six inches apart.
  • Insert a clove in each hole with the pointy end up.
  • Cover the holes and mulch well with leaves or straw for winter protection.

Some garlic may sprout before the winter, especially if planted right after harvesting the garlic in the heat of summer. That’s ok because any sprouts that grow big enough can be pulled up and roasted or chopped and added to vegetables or salads.

Where Does Your Garlic Come From?

Garlic is one of those kitchen staples that we can’t seem to do without. Rice stir-fries, steamed veggies, pasta, seafood, steaks, potatoes … all these dishes go better with garlic, don’t you think?

We grow garlic in our garden because we love to eat it, but I have a revelation for you. We also enjoy growing it because what is offered in the grocery stores now comes from China. Surprised? Probably not as so many other things we buy come from there.

I found Made in China labels on packaged garlic bulbs in the produce section and also on powered garlic in the spice aisle of my local grocery store. Knowing that California grows lots of garlic, I was quite surprised about this so I called McCormick, the spice company, to ask them about it.

The young-sounding customer service person did a fine job reading the canned responses to my simple questions, but he was stumped when I asked him why did they sell food products from China?

When pressed on this issue it was offered that a gourmet version of garlic powder (the one with the black lid and glass container) contained California-grown garlic. The garlic powders and garlic salts with the red lids were…Made in China! So, if you don’t want to eat garlic produced halfway round the world, you’ll have to buy the more expensive gourmet spices from McCormick.

Alternatively, get to a local vegetable stand and pick up some locally produced garlic. Ask the people there where does this food come from? We all should strive to know more about the foods we eat and where they come from. If we all consumed more food that is produced locally, more of our dollars would stay in our communities and not disappear to lands so far away.

Buying foods locally helps to reduce the burden of transportation on the Earth by reducing pollution and the use of fossil fuels, not to mention the impact on global warming. Local produce is the freshest one can get and that’s got to be healthier for us. Support your local farmers and buy fresh, local produce. ‘Tis the season!

Gardening Greener with Natives, Perennials and Grasses

Interested in growing greener? That would include growing plants native to your local climate, plants that are naturally adapted to the local conditions.

Reducing water consumption is important to many of us, especially for those in dryer climates. A fantastic resource for you guys in the deserts is High Country Gardens. From Santa Fe they offer a nice selection of native plants that require less care and attention than the tropical imports and the highly hybridized annuals that are pushed at garden centers every year.

If you have an interest in any of the following you should sign up to receive the Xeriscape Gardening Newsletter.

  • Xeriscape Perennials
  • Hardy Garden Perennials
  • Groundcovers
  • Ornamental Grasses
  • Shrubs & Conifers
  • Native Plants
  • Cacti and Succulents

The past few weeks I’ve seen beautifully illustrated emails on the topics of using ornamental grasses, gardening with color, perennials, dahlias, thymes and salvias, and even one about Blue Orchard Mason Bee Nest Tubes for Spring.

The online catalog is handsome. Clean lines, not too cluttered, yet full of information. Tool tips pop up with item specifics when you hover your mouse pointer over the large-enough thumbnail pictures. Each item details page gives plenty of details on the particular plant and its growing requirements.

Herbs are not too plentiful in the High Country Gardens Catalog. Only 6 herbal items, and they’re potted plants:

    Artemisia abrotanum ‘Tangerine’
    Hyssopus officinalis
    Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’
    Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Irene’™
    Salvia officinalis ‘Minima’
    Thymus sp.

Like I said though, if you’re interested in gardening with a green intent, then subscribe to the newsletter. It will give you ideas on how to use native plants in your gardens, especially perennials, ground covers and grasses.

Going Greener: How To Make the World's Best Compost

Getting ready for planting season is a time of preparation and reading up on techniques and new plants that you might try this year. Have you decided to go green with your gardening efforts this year?

Composting is a major part of reusing materials. Yes, our mantra reduce, reuse, recycle can be put to work in our gardens. Avoiding the purchase of fertilizers and insecticides is a side benefit of making the best compost. Read on to learn more in this great resource, World’s Best Compost.

Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll discover in Worlds Best Compost:

  • The method of feeding plants in a totally natural way that results in the most tastiest, divine food you and your family will ever have.
  • Why do you use much less water in your garden now using colloidal humus compost? (and how you will be saving money and effort and the environment)
  • What’s the sheep mentality that almost all agriculture and garden advisors suffer from that costs you time and money on dangerous, toxic gardening and horticulture practices. (and is killing our planet in the process)?
  • How to achieve a soil that “feeds itself” so you always get consistent results!

Read more about composting!