Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pepper Population Boom

I knew many of my plants would bounce back once the rains returned and the temperatures cooled...but my peppers have something else in mind. I think they intend to take over my gardens.

Not that I would mind. After the dismal summer we had - especially for virtually any kind of veggie gardening - my booming peppers are a welcome presence. Here's the rundown of who's doing what. The seed sources I used are linked for each type.

Antohi Romanian, an Eastern European frying pepper. Gorgeous pale yellow color turns to orange and then flaming red. First prize for production, strength and longevity, even through the hot, dry summer.

The Merlot sweet bell also did pretty well, but really stepped it up when the weather cooled. Stunning purple color fades to red as the fruit sweetens. I ate one today that had a reddish blush to it and my heavens, it was like candy.

Anchos/Poblanos always do fairly well in the Texas heat, if given enough water. Mine's growing in a half whiskey barrel, so adequate irrigation was a constant challenge. With all of this recent rain, it's really kicking butt.

I love the so-called "bull's horn" sweet peppers like Marconis and Cubanelles - they are easy to grow, generally, you get a lot of pepper and not a lot of seeds, and they are extremely versatile in that they can be eaten fresh, baked or fried. These Biscayne Cubanelles have really come on strong lately, although I hope they get just a bit bigger.

Here's a rare site: purple jalapenos growing next to purple cabbage. The jalapenos should be done by now, right? Uh, no. This variety is especially handsome and I'm so glad to see them re-emerge after the rough weather.

Yes, go ahead and ask "So, where are the peppers in this picture?" They're coming, believe me. This is the beautiful, variegated Fish pepper - the fruits are striped too. Unfortunately, this plant got totally munched by a hornworm caterpillar but is now making a remarkable recovery, with flowers starting to emerge. Read a fascinating story about the origin of Fish peppers here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Family Member

I've long considered Dotty Woodson to be somewhat of a rock star. She is - after all and officially - Dr. Dotty Woodson, and has appeared on numerous locally- and nationally-televised gardening shows to share her expertise and great advice. She serves as Dallas' Extension Program Specialist for Water Resources and lectures frequently around the metroplex.

In mid-September, the City of Allen sponsored a water catchment and rainbarrel-building course that I enthusiastically attended, knowing it would be both fun and a good way to get more Master Gardener hours. I also knew that, for $50, it was an economical way to add to the two existing rainbarrels I already have around my house, which cost nearly $100 each several years ago. Plus, you know...I'd get to meet Dr. Dotty.

After speaking for 30 minutes or so on the interesting and sometimes scary facts surrounding local water usage and conservation, Dotty got to work. I watched with combined horror and fascination as she drilled holes, applied caulk and pretty much built my barrel for me from start to finish. (I felt compelled to tell her I was a Collin County Master Gardener, which didn't seem to raise my acclaim any, but that's ok. It's like introducing Bon Jovi to Beethoven, you know?)

Anyway, with Dotty's "help," my barrel turned out beautifully and, with recent rains, it appears to be functioning perfectly as well. These barrels start out as ugly, dirty bright blue food containers and then find a new life as water catchment systems. Dotty advised decorating them by lightly sanding, priming and painting to better fit into your landscape.

The best part about the new barrel is that the City of Plano will recognize my water conservation efforts by offering a $25 credit to my next water bill...so that means the total cost was only a couple of hours and $25. But I got to do something worthwhile and meet a legend in the meantime.

Here's Dotty doing what she does best: educating.

Catch Dotty's next water conservation and rainbarrel workshop this Thursday at the AgriLife Extension Center at Coit and Campbell. More info