Posts tagged peppers

Plant it and it will grow

    Linn County Master Gardener, Kay McWhinney, sent the following on the 2009 Creative Gardening Series:

 

    Each year since 2003, the ISU Linn County Master Gardeners bring well-known speakers in the horticultural realm to the people of Cedar Rapids and surrounding area free of charge. This year, the presentations will be at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall, in room 234. The first of the three presentations will be 6:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, and will feature Bud LeFevre, a horticulturist and part owner of Distinctive Gardens, Inc. in Dixon IL. The title of Bud’s talk is “Plant It and It Will Grow-Basic Vegetable Gardening.”

     Bud will rouse us out of the winter doldrums and get us almost tasting luscious ripe tomatoes, fat green peppers, and other tasty veggies as he prepares us for the 2009 gardening season with knowledge and enthusiasm on his favorite topic. Bud will speak to the beginner as well as the experienced gardener. Being in the same growing zone as Cedar Rapids, he understands our difficulties and triumphs in growing vegetables. Companion gardening and succession gardening as well as some organic practices will be discussed.

     With the evolution of the “Green” movement, advice from economists and nutritionists to eat food produced locally, what better way is there to feed our families with great, fresh vegetables than planting that vegetable patch in the back yard.

     Come to this first of three presentations. The second program will be Tuesday, April 7, the third on April 14, same time and place. There will be more information forthcoming on these programs.  Come, see how to start a vegetable garden or improve your garden skills as we get fired up about planting those veggies.

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Free plants

For people traveling to the Decorah area in northeast Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange still has some free pepper and tomato plants available.

 

Abe, at their visitor center, said this morning that a few flats of the plants are left. Already, Seed Savers has given away hundreds of plants to people whose gardens were flooded. Keep in mind, if your garden was flooded by rainwater, it should be safe to continue gardening. If the floodwaters were contaminated with raw sewage, etc., discard any produce that was growing, including root crops like turnips. You’ll need to wait at least 90 days to replant (pretty much the rest of the growing season here) and may want to have your soil tested before you proceed.

 

This is the notice Seed Savers Exchange sent after the flooding in Iowa earlier this month:

 

SSE thanks everyone for their concern about flood damage at Heritage Farm and we hope not too much damage occurred in your gardens, farms, and homes.

 

The gardens at Seed Savers Heritage Farm escaped the floods with minor damage, but the landscape down the valley was damaged along with many trails, bridges and fences.

 

SSE has many tomato and pepper transplants left from the spring sale.  Many are very tall but still healthy and in need of a garden.  If anyone is still interested in replanting, the plants are free.  Unfortunately they are to tall to be mailed, but they can be picked up at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Heritage Farm.

 

Again SSE hopes everyone is safe and recovering from the floods of 2008.

 

Please come visit and take advantage of our surplus of transplants at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at 3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa.

 

Best wishes from the the staff of Seed Savers Exchange.

 

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.

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Thrillers, fillers and spillers

        How fun is this asks Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith… my thirty-something daughter has decided for the first time in her adult life to plant (albeit small) a vegetable garden.  It’s for “the kids” (?)  She told me that when she and her brother were kids how they liked to eat things right out of the garden.  She says she liked peas and her brother ate radishes and onions until we caught them and made them come to the house to wash what they had picked.  They don’t seem to be the worse for wear now, though.  And, then we remember putting cages around our tomatoes, not to keep them upright, but because the Golden Retriever loved ripe tomatoes!  Oh!  Those were the good old days. 

       Those of you who don’t have much space for gardening may be interested in the following article from Master Gardener Gloria Johnson on Combinations for Vegetable and Flowering Containers.

        Gloria says:  With the right size container, adequate sun, and consistent watering and fertilizing, many vegetables and flowering annuals and perennials can be grown in pots.   Pick a color theme, culinary theme, or a nonsensical theme and let your imagination run wild. Combinations created in container gardening can be refreshing and magical.  For a great combination remember to have a “thriller” (a tall dramatic plant), a “filler” (a middle size plant), and a “spiller” (a plant that drapes over the sides) in each container.

        Tomatoes make great thriller plants for a container.  Insert the largest and heaviest metal cage you can buy (I attached mine to the deck railing for extra sturdiness).  A great cherry tomato is the “Sweet 100” and it does very well in a container.  For a larger tomato, the “Big Boy” or “Better Boy” does well.  I use my containers on the deck to try out some of the heirloom tomatoes which occasionally require some extra attention.  I have had good luck with “Brandywine” and “Mr. Stripy”.

      For the filler, I use herbs such as chives, basil, cilantro, and bush celery.  I have added annuals such as marigolds, straw flower, and miniature zinnias to brighten and add color to the container.

      For the spiller, I have used trailing herbs, nasturtiums and petunias.  It is beneficial to use plants for the fillers and spillers that can tolerate dry conditions.

      I only put one tomato plant in a container and I do not combine tomatoes and peppers in the same pots.   For the pepper pot, I would use the pepper plant as the thriller and then a complimentary herb as the filler and a flowering annual as the spiller.

     A salsa garden of Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, chives and green onions or an Italian garden with Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano and chives make great combinations.  Or, how about a pot full of mints such as Pineapple Sage, Mint Julep (for that afternoon iced tea), spearmint, orange mint or chocolate mint (great in chocolate chip cookies!). 

     You will enjoy your vegetable garden no matter what its size.  And can you think of a more pleasurable way to spend your summer than eating what you – or the kids or grandkids – have grown yourself?  And by the way, the container perennials can be transplanted into the ground and enjoyed for years to come.

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Legend of the Three Kings

      As back and forth as our weather has been – is it spring, is it winter, is it summer? – it can be tempting on Iowa’s warmest spring days to jump the gun on gardening. While it’s safe to plant perennials and many hardy plants by now, it might be wise to hold off on tomatoes, peppers and other tender plants until May 15 in this area.

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect those tender plants against a possible late frost.

    In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were

frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible this year, at least, to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those seem early, especially for this year.

    A U.S. Climatography report looked more reliable. That placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

 

 

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Got milk? (jugs)

Now is a good time to save empty plastic milk jugs to use as protective covers for your tomato and pepper plants and other seedlings you plan to plant this spring. Rinse out the jugs a few times and let them dry before cutting an inch or so off the bottom. I started saving mine in January and have a dozen ready to go if spring ever does arrive.

Once your seedlings are planted, place the jug on top and put a stick through the hole where the lid had been to keep the container in place. Milk jugs make great little hothouses for individual plants and protect them from rabbits and other critters until they’re past that tempting, tender stage. Take the jugs off when the weather sufficiently warms and when the plants begin to outgrow them.

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