How to optimize pepper production with sub-irrigated beds

This past summer was our second time growing peppers in our sub-irrigated raised beds. This method of growing peppers isn’t awesome. It isn’t magnificent. It is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE way of growing delicious capsaicin filled peppers as well as bells and pimentos. Our first year we tried to mix peppers and tomatoes in a 12×4 sub-irrigated bed:

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That was a mistake. Tomatoes need a lot of space and even with constant pruning the tomatoes eventually started shading out the peppers. So this year we devoted an entire bed to peppers and boy was it worth it. We were hauling in bowl after bowl of bell, pimento and jalapeno peppers and we had little to no pest issues. Look at these bad boys!:

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We used Jalapenos in numerous recipes and were able to put back a ton of poppers, hot sauce and jelly. We turned our bells into delicious stuffed peppers, used them in fajitas and still had plenty to freeze for winter. Our Pimentos made some of the best pimento cheese on earth (a favorite Southern tradition)! I’m looking at the various seed catalogs now to see what I want to plant in the pepper bed next year. I’m thinking about adding Thai chili, Hungarian Wax and Santa Fe peppers to the mix. Um, um good!

Great place to find tomato seeds

I came across a link to the Tomato Fest website a few months back. I’ve spent quite a bit of time perusing their collection and trying to find tomato varieties that will work well in our area. I’m specifically trying to find varieties that have been bred to deal with the hot humid summers we have, and the blight that comes with those conditions. Last year we had to do a fair amount of pruning to protect our tomatoes from blight, and I’m hoping I can find a few varieties that won’t require so much babying. I’ll make sure to post my trials to the blog this summer

My failed attempts to grow potatoes in potato towers and grow bags

A year or two back I built a couple of potato towers. Various magazines recommended this approach for growing red potatoes so i decided to go all in. My two attempts to grow potatoes this way failed miserably and resulted in a handful of potatoes during each growing season. Not being one to accept failure I decided to try once more this spring. This time I went with a smart pot and used their suggested growing method.

At first I thought I hit gold. My seed potatoes put on massive growth and I was quick to back fill over the potatoes to allow more tubers to form. Then it got hot and my red potatoes succumbed to heat and disease. I ended up harvesting about 10 potatoes at the end of the season and this is definitely the last time I try to grow them in towers and smart pots.

My sweet potatoes on the other hand did fantastic and they appear to handle heat and pests much better then red potatoes. I pulled up roughly 40lbs of potatoes this fall and these will definitely be a yearly addition to the garden. If you’ve had success growing potatoes in towers / smart pots please let me know what you did to succeed. After three attempts I’m throwing in the towel.

An update on my hugul pot experiment

I previously discussed my hugul pot experiment. Well it’s been a few months since my seeds went in and I’m finally starting to see some results. We’ve been picking approximately one squash a week from each hugul pot, though we have been getting roughly the same production from the non-hugul pot as well. Here is one of the yellow squash pots:

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I have definitely noticed that the hugul pots have more yellow leaves than the pot that contains just planting mix. This is most likely caused by the wood taking up the available nitrogen as it decays, and supplementing this with fertilizer hasn’t really made a difference. I’m starting to think that hugul pots may take some time to get established, so I’m not fretting things quite yet. It’s great to be able to pick squash, and hopefully we will see our production pick up in the years to come!

Lessons learned growing sweet corn

Like most people, I love the taste of fresh sweet corn. My parents used to get fresh batches of Peaches & Cream each summer, and there was nothing better than having some steak and biting into a freshly picked ear of corn! Hoping that I could re-produce that experience at home, I decided to dedicate part of my 8′ x 8′ raised bed to sweet corn. While some of the corn is coming up and producing ears:

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I didn’t get nearly the production I would have liked. 🙁 There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. I didn’t plant the corn kernels deep enough so their support structure wasn’t able to develop. The first big storm made me aware of this requirement.

2. The squirrels have been climbing the remaining ears and feasting on my treats.

While I haven’t seen the production I would have liked, there are a few positives. The sweet corn fertilizer I side dressed my plants with seems to be working well. My stalks are strong (just not rooted deeply) and the ears are developing nicely. I also haven’t had to water the bed since it’s got a wood core full of rotting wood.

Next year I plan to push my kernels down a good inch or two into the soil to allow the roots and support infrastructure to take hold. I will also make sure to keep applying cayenne pepper, coffee grounds and blood meal around the base of my plants after each rain to keep the squirrels away. I’m also hoping to experiment with shake away fox urine over the next few weeks. If it works, then I’ll make sure to add this to the list of non-lethal squirrel deterrents I put out after each rain. Hope I actually get to enjoy some corn this year!