Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts!

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.

Ground Prep

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.


{codepiece 8}Watering can be tricky with bell peppers. Due to the fact we place them 4” from the tape, you need to water heavy to start, until they are established (a week or two). It may be necessary to hit them with the watering can also. Once their roots start to move, you need to back off to make those roots stretch and seek moisture. This will develop a larger root system for later, when trying to develop a large canopy to protect the fruit. Peppers are lazy with respect to root development. Give them lots of water all the time and they will be happy with a small root mass. You want a big root zone, especially when fruit starts to set and temperatures rise and they need to seek water and lots of nutrients. Over-watering can also lead to Phytophera root rot. Plants will just shrivel up and die with this disease and it probably will attack many plants down the row. A little wilting of the leaves, late in the day, is nothing to be alarmed about. If they are wilted early in the morning, it’s time to give more water.


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.

Cultural practices

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.

Seed purchase

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Happy gardening!!

Roy Wilburn

Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.  Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year.  Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.  We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care.  I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray.  I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months.  In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed.  We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.


As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce.  I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs.  We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers.  Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants.  Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.


At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch.  Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge. 


Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world.  On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production.  We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home.  They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them.  After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS!  It’s a beautiful thing.


We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”.  The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go.  They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-


Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower

Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape

Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower

Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower

And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.


Let’s go through these crops one by one.


Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower.  Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color.  For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character.  The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral.  In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal.  Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.  This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels.  Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!!  Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids.  The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.


Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress.  They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.


Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color.  It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters.  It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants.  The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese.  The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels.  It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads.  This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color.  Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.


To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained.  Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way.  To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.


Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.


Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots.  Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties.  As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days).  These are no-brainers.  Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions.  These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.


For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care.  We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents.  Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards.  So bring a friend and come on by.


Call me, Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture (858) 472-6059 or e-mail me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations (858) 752-8197 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , for more info and to RSVP.If you can’t make it, we would be happy to show you around anytime at your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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