Growing Peppers in the Home Garden

Peppers aren't as massively planted as the tomato plant in the vegetable garden but those who do plant peppers have a passion that rivals any other fruit or vegetable from the garden.  Some gardeners love the heat and grow the spiciest peppers they can find, while others love the flavor of a sweet red bell pepper.  I find myself somewhere in the middle.  I like the flavor and taste of a spicy Jalapeno pepper on a juicy hamburger but I also love the flavor of a sauteed red bell pepper with garlic.  Raw peppers are good too. A red pepper dipped in humus is delicious! Either type of pepper is worth growing and there is a pepper variety for everyone in the garden. Jalapeno peppers forming I've found peppers to be very trouble free vegetables in my garden. The pests and diseases that other plants seem susceptible to don't bother…

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Homemade Ollas to Irrigate the Garden

The world is full of creative ideas and this ancient method of watering plants is a very cool one.  An olla is a clay pot that is buried in the soil near plants.  The non-glazed clay pot has a watering hole in the top that allows the gardener to fill it with water when needed.  When the soil is dry around the pot it pulls moisture through the clay through osmosis into the soil.  It gradually pulls the water to where it is needed.  The theme for Lowe's Creative Ideas this month is irrigating the garden so I thought I would try to put together my own DIY ollas to help with watering the vegetable garden. Here's what you need: Un-glazed clay pots - I used 6 inch pots and 4 inch pots. Clay saucers for the pots. Silicon Caulk A caulk gun Make sure that the clay saucers line…

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A Garden Update: The Tomatoes

We have tomato weather but no tomatoes! That's not surprising for June here in TN as most tomatoes don't produce ripe fruit until July.  Knowing that fact though doesn't diminish the desire for that first fresh from the garden homegrown tomato! Our plants are doing very well so far, healthy and strong with stout stems and trunks.  At this point in the season that is all you can ask for!  We have flowers forming with the promise of fruit to come. Most of my tomatoes are in cages.  There are a few that will need tied to stakes to keep them up.  I'll be weaving some to stakes in another area.  The raised bed in the next picture has about 10 tomato plants in it. I companion planted marigolds between a few of the tomato plants but they are not large enough yet to show up nicely in the picture.…

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5 Common Garden Insect Pests

Every garden experiences pest issues form time to time.  Insect pest can be frustrating and sometimes when you discover what is damaging your plants it's already too late to do anything about it.  Here are five common insect pests that you may see in your garden for today's Friday Five post!   Pest #1: Flea beetles You'll first notice flea beetle damage when you start to see tiny holes in the foliage.  Mature plants can resist flea beetle damage but younger ones are very susceptible to it.  In my garden they target eggplants more than any other type of plant.  I'll see them on tomatoes and potatoes but the damage is not nearly so dramatic. To deal with flea beetles try using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or diatemaceous earth.  A combination of those treatments may be necessary! For companion planting consider planting catnip. Just don't let the catnip go to…

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Mid-June Garden To Do List

Here is a quick list of things that need done in our June garden.  Keep in mind that we're located in Spring Hill, TN in a zone 6b-7 area and these chores may not correspond with the growing season in your area.  You'll need to do many of these tasks too but at different times. Sucker those tomatoes!  Removing the suckers focuses growth on the other stems which allows for larger fruiting.   Pinch the tip growth on basil to keep a bushy plant growing.  Every pinch of the leaves at the growing tip will send growth hormones down into the stems to encourage other branches to grow. (See more on growing basil here.) Sequentially plant squash and zucchini.  My crop of zucchini has been nibbled on by deer.  I've covered them but the damage was done and our crop will be delayed.  Starting new seeds will ensure a second…

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A Few Facts and Tips about Growing Basil

Corsican Basil Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of the easiest herbs to grow. Here are a few growing facts about basil in the garden! Dark Opal Purple Basil Basil grows well from seed.  You can sow it in the garden or start the seeds in pots.  It transplants well.  Keep basil seeds moist until germinated and established. Basil is a great companion plant to just about everything.  My favorite companion planting combination with basil is to pair it with tomatoes or peppers. There are lots of different kinds of basil.  The flavors can range from lemon to cinnamon to the traditional Italian basils. Different flavors allow you to pair your basil with different types of foods making it an extremely versatile herb. When growing basil pinch the stem tips to encourage a bushy plant.  It also delays the flowering. The flowered are edible and make an interesting addition to salads! Basil…

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Planting a Tomato Garden

For my farmer's market business I grew a lot of tomato plants.  In fact I grew more than I think I can sell over the next couple weeks and after that no one will be looking for plants.  Gardeners will be wanting to harvest their tomatoes instead of planting more.  I planned a few weeks ago that I would take a portion of what I can't sell and grow them myself to bring the tomatoes to the market.  The problem is I didn't have a good spot inside the garden to house another 30 tomato plants.  There just wasn't enough room so it was time to make a new bed exclusively for the tomatoes.   I chose a spot on our property that wasn't in a very well used area.  Our slope tends to just be another area to be mowed so I took a 4 foot wide by 25-30'…

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A Few Notes on Summer Heat and Watering

The weather has turn hot and humid, of course this is normal for summers in Tennessee.  We are blessed with a very long growing season but our summers can be extremely warm.  Last year on a record setting June day we reached over 110 degrees.  Which also happened to be the day our air conditioner decided to quit!  We spent that day making snowcones with all the curtains shut just to stay cool.  Our plants don't have the ability to make snowcones though.  They don't need air conditioning either.  What they do need is good watering.  Not too much and not too little.  Too much water can drown the roots and introduce fungal diseases among the branches.  Too little water and they won't be able to survive.   So far this year I haven't set up my garden's irrigation.  I haven't really needed additional water very much.  We've had good…

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Homemade Plant Tags for Hybridizing Plants

Last year I began to experiment with hybridizing.  I'm hoping that the plants I cross together result in something really nice but it takes a few years to get something from the crosses.  So far I've experimented with daylilies, echinacea, and irises.  Hostas are on my list but the deer keep getting to the flowers before they've had a chance to produce seed.  One of the issues I've run across is labeling.  It's very easy to get mixed up on your crosses.  I came up with an idea recently to make my own plant tags/labels that I can put on each crossed flower.  Here's what I did: The plant label is made from a plastic plant tag I cut into a 2 inch rectangle.  I punched a hole in it with a standard hole puncher and added a bit of garden twine to hang it on the plant.  If you…

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4 Tomato Growing Tips!

The tomatoes are coming along nicely in our garden which means it's time to do a few important things for them to maximize their growth.  Here are a few quick tomato tips to help you grow your favorite backyard vegetable! (It's really a fruit though!) Stake your tomato well.  Whatever method you use to stake your tomatoes make sure it will hold the plant.  A good stake or cage will prevent the tomato from coming in contact with the soil and allow good air circulation around the plant to minimize fungal diseases.  Traditional tomato cages will eventually become too heavy with the weight of the fruit to stay up so another method is better.  Try using heavy duty stakes, heavy gauge wire cages with T posts to stake them up, the Florida weave method, livestock panel 'A' Frames or overhead supports with string lines for support. Fertilize appropriately!  I always…

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