Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sunburned Peppers: How to Keep Burned Spots from Forming on Peppers

When you live in Texas, you experience much stronger solar rays, because of our location closer to the equator.

When I first saw the bad spot on the bell pepper pictured here, I sought information from a farmer. She told me, "Your pepper is sunburned, but you'll be fine!"

Well, that was some consolation. At least my pepper was not experiencing a blight or fungus. But what to do?

There is a product called Cloud Cover, which, when sprayed on the plant or its fruit, acts as a sunscreen, and prevents sunburn. I did try the product (or something similar), but I waited too late. You're supposed to spray it on the young fruit, for the best results.

Below is a photo of my pathetic attempts to shade the peppers on a hot July day. Hint: the shade cloth is great, but different attempts to rig it as you see here were not effective. The wind took care of my "tent". It wouldn't stay in place.

I now have experience, and I will once again try the Cloud Cover product when the plants are less mature.

If products don't work for you, take heart! As you can see, from the picture here, eventually your pepper plants will grow really big. What will happen is the upper branches and leaves of the plants will shade fruit on the lower branches, and you'll have some peppers without the ugly sunburned spots. Yep, it really does work out in the end.

Also, if you let your peppers produce a second time in the autumn, the sun should be somewhat less powerful, indeed.

Beau: Remembering an Old Friend

This is my little friend, Beau, who died two years ago.

I'm feeling nostalgic today, and I always liked this photo of him, which was probably taken in Spring 2007, right next to my pond.

Beau was a schnauzer/Lhasa apso mix and my favorite dog of all time. After I retired, I was finally able to take him on walks each day, and I believe the last six months of his life were much happier. He had my poodle for company, but I believe he also needed humans reassuring him and spending as much time with him as they could spare.

Beau was a calm, sweet, imperturbable dog -- with a temperament far more Lhasa than schnauzer, although he looked like a schnauzer in many ways. The only schnauzer personality characteristic that he seemed to have was making little grunts and groans of contentment when you petted him. Beau was fine around most strangers, but did not offer instant affiliation with them the way Tessy always did. In a large gathering, if my husband or I were around, Beau stuck close to us.

At the dog park one day with Beau and Tessy, a stranger remarked to me about Beau, "That dog is very protective of you." I had never noticed Beau's body language!

Beau died very suddenly at an animal care emergency clinic. Though I was sorrowful at his death, somehow I felt prepared for it. And I can confidently report that a sudden loss is better than a long, drawn-out illness with a pet.

Beau, the circumstances and story of my acquiring you from the animal shelter weren't promising to begin with, but you brought me much pleasure and company over the 7 years you lived with me. I'll never forget being blessed in your love and devotion.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Nylon Trellising for Climbing Garden Plants

Climbing and vining plants -- cucumbers, cantalopes, pole beans, etc. -- can be a problem when you have limited space.

I had heard of nylon trellising from Mel Bartholomew's book, but I could not find any in my nursery stores here in the Metroplex.

I finally went to Amazon, and found Dalen Gardeneer brand nylon trellising. I bought a 30-foot length to experiment with. As you can see from the picture, there is plenty of room in the trellis open spaces to stick your hand in, and start training your vining plants. I have nailed mine to my backyard fence, and fastened the ties to the nails. The picture shown is my yellow pear tomato plants and my one Better Boy hybrid tomato plant.

Particularly with tomatoes, there is always the newest thing that we hot weather vegetable growers must try. In the south, every gardener has his own method of growing tomatoes -- from tomato cages to the "topsy-turvy" tomato of television ad fame.

I have a feeling that my vines are going to be somewhat unruly, but I'll try anyway. Bartholomew says that the nylon trellising is very strong -- strong enough to support cantalopes and large squashes. But be forewarned. For that kind of crop, you're going to need a tremendous amount of strength and support. That means staking rebar in the ground, and slipping electrical conduit pipes over the exposed rebar to form a supporting structure. I think I'll stick with lightweight vegetables.

Here is a link to the nylon trellising product:

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Spring is Here and So Is the String Algae in the Pond

I got my pond cleaned much earlier than usual this spring.

And the string algae also showed up sooner than I would have preferred.

I think that this type of algae is very common in the spring, but some years seem worse than others. 2011 is definitely a year for string algae.

Pond owners shouldn't panic when this happens. In the picture provided, the algae really looks gunky and yucky, but it will not stick around forever! As it gets warmer, it will decline.

There's not much one can do with this algae, except remove it manually. It's awfully difficult to do with your hands because of the slime, but you can get a large net or brush, attach it to a long pole, and then try wrapping the algae around the brush as you rotate the pole. Once you've captured a fair amount, try lifting the pole out of the water.

Is there a use for string algae, pond scum, sludge, or slime? Yes. Pond scum is a living, growing thing, with plenty of organic matter -- especially if you have fish in your pond. You can use the muck and scum as a compost for your nitrogen-loving vegetables. Vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, and chard will like the stuff, indeed.