Thursday, July 1, 2010

Get Growing in July

Get Growing

Welcome to our eighth Get Growing entry. This series will span 12 months, and is designed to help aspiring vegetable gardeners get out of the kitchen and into the garden. On the first of each month, we will discuss one garden project for the novice vegetable gardener. Because we are located in Houston, Texas, our growing conditions differ from many parts of the English-speaking world. To help guide gardeners in cooler climates, our Get Growing partner is Daphne of Daphne's Dandelions. Daphne gardens in Boston, and she will be providing monthly advice for Northern gardeners (although her excellent site is a wonderful resource for gardeners everywhere). This month, Daphne discusses insect control.  Regardless of where you live, her advice is invaluable.

 Zone 9 in July

July and August are the hottest months here in Houston.  Daily average temperatures top 95° and the low is rarely below 70°.  It takes a hurricane or tropical storm, like Hurricane Alex that is fast approaching Texas, to cool things off here.  This extreme heat is hard on most vegetable plants with a few notable exceptions.  We've already recommended eggplant and lima beans, both of which are thriving in our garden right now.  Another vegetable that loves our July weather is chile peppers.

Chile peppers are in the eggplant and tomato family, and are highly productive when it heats up outside.  We have had excellent results with Anaheim (above) and Jalapeno (below) as well as Cayenne, Poblano, and Serrano chiles.  The plants need little care or attention, and will produce small flowers that are attractive in the garden.  In fact, ornamental pepper plants are quite popular here in Houston even though the fruits are inedible.  Why not grow the real thing instead?

Pepper plants are easy to start from seed.  The seeds are quite small, so we prefer to start these in pots rather than direct sowing.  Transplant when the seedlings have four or more leaves, keeping well watered before and after transplanting.  Try to shade transplants during the hottest part of the day to avoid scalding and killing the plants.  And don't go overboard with seedlings.  Only a few plants are enough for the whole family because the plants are quite productive, and fresh chiles are extremely potent.   If you haven't already started your seedlings, it's not too late, although next year we suggest you get an earlier start.  We've been harvesting peppers for months.
Chile peppers can be used in any number of tacos, quesadillas and salsas.  We often use them to season pasta and vegetable dishes as well.  And any extra peppers are easy to dry and save for later.  
We were still using dried cayenne peppers from last summer almost a year later.  We dry ours indoors because the humid weather here tends to rot everything that is left outside.  In more arid climates, it is recommended that the peppers be left to hang outside in a sheltered spot until dry.

Growing Lima Beans


  1. Great series - thanks! I found you through Daphne's Dandelions. It's great for me that you and I are in the same zone - I'm in Central Florida.

  2. beautiful pics of the chillies :)

  3. Interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you.

    Organic Gardens


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