July in the Garden - Inland Southern California
Written by Roy Wilburn
I am a bit tardy with my blog due to the fact that we have been harvesting like crazy so far this month. Our residents here at Sunshine Care, Assisted Living Homes, have been enjoying the bounty of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, green beans and of course tomatoes. We get local special- needs volunteers along with some of our residents to help harvest. July is the month we gear up for and things are going as planned. In just the first two weeks, we have harvested about 1800 lbs of tomatoes for the staff, residents and the needy in the community. Stock piling of marinara and tomato soup is in full swing for consumption next January through June, when tomatoes aren’t available on site. Got to love July!!
As far as seeding, you still have time for peppers, squashes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, and melons- but don’t wait much longer. Funny as it sounds, it’s time to think of those cole crops for fall production. We just finished seeding the first batch of broccoli and cauliflower for our Sept 1st planting. It’s been a very busy month so far.
How about we talk BELL PEPPERS this month?
Red bell peppers have more nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, such as lycopene, than green peppers. Carotene levels are 9 times higher and Vitamin C levels are twice as high in red bells than green bells. One large red bell pepper contains over 200 mg of Vitamin C, three times that of an orange.
At the end of March, we took our first transplants of bells to the field. I opted to order bell pepper transplants from Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply in San Diego County (4 locations) for my first planting. It was getting late and I was having difficulty finding the variety I wanted. I start my bell pepper season with Big Bertha. This variety of sweet bell pepper is elongated, not spicy or pungent. It is among the largest type of bells available and can develop an ample canopy to protect the fruit from sunburn. This variety has thick walls and can grow to be 7” long and 4” wide. Big Bertha, given enough time on the plant, will go from green to red. We started harvesting mid June as green and will pick the first red ones next week. We will start a green clean-up on our May plantings this week. Our rows, for the most part, are oriented from east to west. In the summer, with the sun traversing in the southern sky and the fact that the temperatures can get into the high 90’s, I am fearful of sunscald on the bell peppers and tomatoes. Covering the rows with black shade 50-60% netting is a definite advantage. I also try to get the fruit on the south side of the bed off as greens and leave the northern, shaded side for mostly red bells. The transplants are placed into the ground about 4” from the drip on both sides and 12” apart down the rows. I know this sounds very close, but to get red bells, you need them positioned to help shade each other when temperatures get too high. We will plant a row of bell peppers once a month from March to July. This will give a great supply of fruit from July through November. Peppers love the heat and things start to really slow down when temperatures get to be around 50 degrees at night. Bell peppers will not handle cold weather, let alone frost.
We start, as usual, as we discuss every month, with fluffy beds full of rich organic material and fertilizer. We toss out our organic compost made here at Sunshine Care, EZ Green, worm castings and Dr. Earth 4-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food. All these products can also be found at Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply.
You will want to fertilize heavily with any organic products high in nitrogen to develop a large canopy to protect the fruit from sunscald. Alaska Fish Fertilizer is a 5-1-1 product, high in nitrogen. Weekly applications are not unheard of throughout the growing season. Once fruit starts to set, you need to think of a more balanced fertilizer either alone or in conjunction with the fish food. We have been successful with our worm compost tea, Growmore Seaweed Extract and side dressings of Dr. Earth 4-4-4 or Bioflora 6-5-5. Again, nitrogen means green, lush leaves for protection against sunscald when red fruit is desired. If all you want is green fruit, you probably can be less persistent with your fertilizer applications.
You will definitely want to stake your peppers, if planted densely like we do. Two to three ft stakes are pounded into the ground every 4 plants, just outside both plant lines by an inch or two. This type of staking is different from what we talked about two months ago with tomatoes. All you are trying to do is to prevent loaded plants from flopping over and exposing the fruit to the sun. Go down both sides of the row with string or twine, wrapping around each stake about 1 ½ ft above the ground. There is no need to wrap around the plants themselves. You just want a barrier so the plants don’t open up.
You might want to try some type of shade netting if you are in an area where temperatures get into the 90s. We use a 6 ft wide material that diffuses about 45% of the suns rays. Most farm and garden suppliers can point you in the right direction when purchasing this material. If you have difficulties, give me a call. We lay this material over the stakes in July and August, depending on the size of the plant. Taller stakes might be necessary to support the netting.
Disease and Pest Control
Big Bertha has resistance against Tobacco Mosaic Virus. TMV is vectored by sucking insects, usually aphids. Sucking insects deplete the plants of vital fluids. Organic soaps and oils should work just fine.
Cutworms can be a problem right after planting so use Sluggo Plus.
Other lepidopthera worms can bore into your fruit or defoliate your peppers. Use any BT product every 2 weeks. The worms will eat this bacteria and die. It is totally organic.
All these products can be found at you local farm and garden centers.
This is a no brainer. Look for smooth green fruit that is firm when squeezed. If you want red peppers- wait until red. I prefer to use clippers, because if you get a little aggressive, you can pull off the pepper and the branch also.
You can find Big Bertha seed online from Generic Seed Co (25 seeds for $4.89). You can also do as I have done in the past and order transplants from Grangettos.
So you have just a couple weeks left to plant your peppers. They are a challenge however, rewarding when done right. Harvest those red peppers, oil ‘em up, add salt and pepper, toss them on the grill or gas stove, char the outsides, put them in a paper bag or covered in a bowl, wait 10 to 15 minutes, peel off the char, pull out the seeds and stem end (no running water) and you have delicious mouth- watering red peppers.
Don’t forget that every 3rd Saturday of the month, we offer a free garden lecture on a variety of horticultural topics starting at 10:30 with food, refreshments, door prizes and informative experts in there field. This month we will learn about Gogi berries and Pomegranates. Next month-Citrus and Avocados. Check our website for more info on our special events, www.sunshinecare.com. Feel free to call or e-mail me for more info or a tour of the gardens and our cutting-edge facility.
Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care, Assisted Living Homes in Poway CA. (858) 472-6059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org