Planting – peppers, oranges, spinach, blackberry, eggplant

In the past when I’ve planted beans or corn, my crops have failed.  So I’m always looking for something new to try, something that will provide calories and be good to use and store.

Eggplant & blackberry

Two eggplants in the foreground, the blackberry canes are tied to a wood support in the corner.

Last year I tried eggplant.  Just one, to see what it would do.  What it did was get much bigger than I expected it to get!  It was huge, and it took over part of my garden.  And from that I got one single perfect eggplant.  That was a disappointment.

But it was a hardy plant.  The ants left it alone, and it didn’t seem to have many other predators.  So after my reading, I decided that the problem was that it produces better when there is another eggplant nearby.  Going from this theory, I got two eggplants and planted them in the North garden.

I fully expect these two eggplants to take over in that area of the garden, so I’ve not planted anything else there.

But there was still an empty spot in the Northwest corner of the north garden… and I decided that was the perfect spot to move my blackberry plant into.

The blackberry plant had disappointing results.  It failed to thrive, and it failed to produce.  That’s mostly due to my fault since I had placed it in a pot with an automatic drip watering system applied, and then failed to notice when the drip was dislodged by cats, and the blackberry stopped getting water during the heat of the summer.

No wonder it failed to thrive!

So I replanted it in the unused corner of my garden, and have reused the pot for pups off of my aloe vera plants.  Aloe is much more forgiving of missing a watering period during the summer.

There are only two blackberry canes, and I tied them to a wood support.  We will see what happens next.

Fruittrees

White Peach in the front, White Nectarine in the middle, and the Pluot in the back

The fruit trees on the north side of the yard are doing well.  They’ve all lost their blossoms, and are now in full foliage.  This is the first I’ve seen of how they really look.  In the last two years these trees were basically just sticks, and I couldn’t get a good idea of what they would turn out to look like.

Now I know that the pluot is tall, with a strong trunk.  The white nectarine is almost like a willow tree in how it droops.  I will have to prop up some of its branches with additional supports.  The white peach is reaching out in all directions like some sort of crazy tree made out of pipe cleaners.  I’m constantly “pinch pruning” new growth from it, and for a lesser extend from the white nectarine, in order to discourage growth over my fence and over the sidewalk.

At the end of the season, when these trees go dormant, I’ll be very aggressive in pruning them into an espalier pattern.

Oranges

New oranges

The orange tree is doing well, as always.  The oranges are already starting to get bigger than a grape.  It’s nice to see.

I spent some time giving the orange tree fertilizer.  Instead of using Jobe’s fruit tree spikes, this year I went with a liquid fertilizer from Jobe’s.  I like Jobe’s.

grapes_peppers

The Jasmine is in bloom. The grapes are too, but you can’t see that here.

I planted 6 different pepper plants this year.  Three of them are Anaheim chili – because they go so well with everything.  I can’t wait to start adding fresh Anaheim’s to my food.

The other three peppers are bell peppers (yellow and green) and gypsy.  The gypsy pepper is a more mild pepper that goes through several colors as it ripens, yellow to orange to red.  All stages are edible, and the spiciness is related to plant stress.  (In general, peppers get spicier if you allow them to wilt a little before picking them.)

I chose the gypsy pepper because I liked its looks, and my wife will enjoy eating something that is only slightly spicy.

I didn’t plant Serrano peppers this year because I’ve already harvested a LOT of Serrano peppers, and have almost a full quart of Serrano ground chili pepper to use as seasoning!  Maybe next year.  Actually, I think I’ll be investigating the peppers offered by the Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University.  I’ll be looking for flavor, heat, and how well they store.

As you can see from the image, I’ve also got Star Jasmine planted, along with my grape vine.  The grape vine has taken off again this year…  and I’m giving it extra water to see if I can keep up with its demands.  Its in flower right now, and I expect there to be a LOT of grapes.

Next up is the plants in containers.

spinach

Kitty proofed deck planter filled with spinach!

This year I moved my deck planter off of my porch, and just in front of the southeast corner of my house.  It gets full sun here until about 1pm every day.  I’ve added a little fertilizer and planted spinach here.  Nothing but spinach!

The first day after planting, I stepped out of my house and found one of my cats lounging on the planter’s soil, in the sun.  She was clearly enjoying herself, and happy with her new “bed”.  Luckily for me, she didn’t dig anywhere, or leave anything behind.

This has taught me that I can’t leave a planter unprotected, so I used a little chicken wire and some stakes to cat-proof the planter.

No worse for wear, the spinach started poking out.  I’ve planted it VERY dense, and will be looking for ways to use up a lot of spinach very quickly.  I’m also looking for ways to store spinach.

As a reminder, you can download plans for this deck planter here.

Last, I’m taking a look at my “potted forest” from the back yard.

The honey tangerine trees DID actually produce last year, but they have not flourished.  They’re weak and wimpy.  The cherry tree didn’t get enough water last year and the main trunk died.  There are some suckers that are living quite happily, but I think I will just let the whole tree go.

honeytangerine

Honey Tangerine

But I still want to try to save the tangerine trees.  So after doing some reading, I have come to the idea that the pots are too small, and the soil is incorrect.  Citrus trees need soil that is more sandy.  They need something more like what I use for my aloe plants.

So I made a quick trip to the home improvement store, and after some consideration purchased a bag of soil designed for potting citrus and succulents.  I then re-potted one of the tangerine trees to a 28 gallon planter made out of half of a 55 gallon barrel.  There are drainage holes on the bottom of the barrel, and it is sitting on paving stones in the SE corner of the garden.

It looked pretty bleak just like that, so I added a mix of flower seeds around it.  The mix is to attract butterflies.  I hope it works out.

I may replant the second honey tangerine, but I’m not sure if I’ll do that just yet.  I may wait to see if there are any improvements on this guy first.