Thursday, July 16, 2009


Hibiscus and Malabar spinach, as well as various herbs being my choice for ornamental gardening (all edible, please note), I find the most satisfaction in ornamental peppers. They are not only are fantastic looking, but edible and can be brought indoors to continuously flower and fruit throughout the winter!

Current varieties I have are:

Tricolore Garda (I grew by seed)

This beauty will grow upward pointing peppers that turn purple, cream, orange and finally red (so much for tri-colors...) Obviously they are still in their early stages, but I am so excited to see all the colors (....Duke!,


Calico (bought from a nursery)

This is a green-white-lavender variegated leaf dark purple-black tiny pepper packs a punch. It's so unusual I had to have it!

I really want to grow Black Pearl (
(Thanks OSU for pic)

Black leaves and red/black pearl round peppers! I had ordered seed from Park seed, but after going out of town at one point, the peppers seedlings kicked it from the heat.

Ornamental peppers are edible, though considered to be extremely hot and somewhat pungent; vinegary is the best way to describe it.

My tricolore is just starting to fruit and I am excited by how the fruits seem to stand straight up. More on their heat when they get big enough. I will probably take a stab at trying them at their various color stages to see if it makes a difference in heat level.

When my husband and I tried the calico pepper fruits, when they were a deep purple black, it was a simple *chewchewchew,* "Man, these aren't that hot..." to "HOOO, okay, they've got some heat!" to "OHWHERE'STHEBATHROOM?"

Needless to say, you can't have a sensitive stomach for these lovelies.

For the longest time I was under the impression that you shouldn't grow peppers by seed and that the plants were the only way to go. I had heard that their heat got killed when you grew them by seed or they needed to be grafted or something odd like that, so I didn't bother. When I saw that the seed was advertised though, I figured they must retain that heat... the ad says so! So I am happy to find that it's working out just fine.

I (un)fortunately found that Park seed has a plethora of ornamental pepper seed and while I don't need so many... maybe I'll give the extras away to friends/family or sell some, who knows?

Park seed ornamental pepper links:



Explosive Ember:

Sangria Hybrid: (MILD though)


Thai Hot:

Purple Flash:

Malabar Spinach, should be renamed Spinach Steak

I have NEVER been able to get real spinach to grow here and discovered this little beauty:
MALABAR SPINACH. More like, Spinach Steak, more like Great Wall of Spinach here:

I was seduced into getting 2 packets of these seeds from Park Seed (, and was saddened when I saw the 50 seeds to look very little, needing about 3-5 seeds per hill it stated on the packet and that germination was "lower" when seeded outside. Hmmm... I needn't have worried.

I am impressed by the reddish color of the stems (it is often grown as an ornamental), and it's vigor... looks wilty in the heat, but perks right back up at night and in the morning. It seems a little upset by the space I've given it and is invading the area I devoted to scarlet runner which I thought was vigorous. Oh woe Scarlet Runner, you may have met thy match!

It's oddly pest resistant, possibly due to its muciliginous nature (good for thickening soups like okra), but the leaves, OMG, the leaves are so juicy and have gotten as big as the size of my head(!) and hold so much water that when you bite into the leaves, or bend the main leaf stem you can SEE water MOVING through the veins/cells!

EVEN MORE EXCITEMENT abounds on my part to find out that this lovely vine can be propagated by cuttings, and I can overwinter it/let-it-overtake-my-home-over-the-winter-instead-and-become-eaten-by-its-sheer-enormousness!

I understand that if mulched well it might return, so... maybe I won't take cuttings...?

For $1.75/packet, I think I've made it back pretty easily. I may need to call in the neighbors though to keep it in check!

(Also, as my husband says, why the hell does anyone eat real spinach if we have this??? It grows vertically thus takes up less space, is relatively carefree, healthy for you, handles heat well, has few pest problems... duh?)

On another note, it is time to once again due battle with the cucumber monster plant:
The base has strawberry plants and between the cucumber and strawberries are okra plants... I hope they are not eaten by cucumber, vegetable cannibalism can be so cruel.

Mini rant on Lawns and possible solutions

So it's been raining gloriously all day, a day without having to water the garden (yes!), a day where the rain barrels get filled (YES!) (and remind me that I really need to get that 3rd barrel up), a day where I have to walk a stupid scared bitch (dog, really) in rain, amidst thunder and a leetle lightning and get my flip floppy toes ankle deep in what I am sure is chemical awashed puddles.

Man, suburbia. Land where all the lawns must be tidy and trimmed, green and lush, pumped up with fake goodness. I got a beef with pretty lawns, just like I got a beef with plastic surgery, it's faaaaaaaaaaake.

Unless you happen to use one of those lawn care services that states and you can attest to researching their practices that they are eco-friendly, most likely you are creating a desert like ecosystem with your lawn.

I don't know if it bothers you, like it bothers me, but those little yellow and white balls that go 'crunch-crunch' underneath your shoes/the dog's feet when you walk REALLY lose their charm especially as the PAVEMENT does not need any fertilization. It's all just going down the drain and polluting the water, y'know? I shudder to think as to what my dog must be picking up as she marches over those things or through the puddles and lush grass she does her biz in.

Lovely lawns also mean chemicals to kill weeds--- and grubs. No weeds, while less to deal with means fewer flowers for bees to survive on. As I overheard somewhere once, immaculate lawns look like deserts to bees, no flowers mean no food. Bad for survival, and aren't we lacking in bees already? (

Also, many of these same chemicals adversely affect the larva of lightning bugs! CAN YOU IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT LIGHTNING BUGS?

To quote what many a politician have invoked:
Think of the children!!! (!!!)

Ahem. Not only are lightning bugs helpful little critters in producing some lovely natural mood lighting (joke), and are entertaining reminders of youth, the larvae are predators of snails and slugs, the bane of many a gardener everywhere.

So, if you see a lil' guy like this:

And you start to raise your hand, HEAR MY VOICE IN YOUR HEAD, "DO NOT SQUISH!"

Here's a helpful site about the buggers:

So, despite my husband and I letting the lawn go to hell, I will NOT say that you must too. I provide (yes, I am a provider!) some helpful links and a helpful summary as to how to keep you lawn in good organic condition DESPITE being a vegetable gardener and not caring in general a squirrel's behind for lawns (and your mother smells like elderberry!)


1) Weeds- don't like them? Hand pull! This is the most effective method of getting rid of weeds. You get some great some exercise (work them abs!) and learning about the deliciousness of dandelion wine, dandelion leaf greens, lambs quarters and more.

(Lambsquarters! Steam like spinach!)If you REALLY don't want the exercise, you can spot treat specific weeds by using this concotion: 5 parts white vinegar, 2 parts water, 1 part dish soap (, or some people reccomend straight vinegar or boiling water, choose your poison.

Further prevention of weeds can be done using corn gluten meal which can easily be bought in some feed stores to be used as a weed pre-emergent preventer. Sadly this is not CORNMEAL, the stuff that your mama makes her famous bread and stuffing with, but that stuff from the store can coincidently be used as an anti-fungicide, good for gardens and lawns too actually. The stats on cornmeal gluten are fascinating too (see prior link)

Also, if you thought Roundup was a safe method, please reconsider:

Yeah, let's stop being a society of simple convenience. It's not always worth it.

2) Grubs- We all hate those Japanese beetles and their nasty grub babies, but an awesome way to prevent for a VERY LONG TIME their existence on your lawn (and from munching on your veggies) is milky spore. This is a natural bacterium that affects only Japanese beetles and after a few treatments is known to last for potentially decades in your soil speciding (word?) the critters for years!
When a grub is infected by the bacterium and dies in the soil, it's a gift that keeps on giving to the other grubs! It's SELF SUSTAINING, whoo!

3) Fertilization- As mentioned before, cornmeal is good, though a super easy method to refertilize your lawn is to leave the grass clippings on the lawn. Remarkable eh? No bagging needed! All that work the grass went into to get tall goes back into the lawn to replenish again, oh Nature, you are brilliant!
Clover is not the enemy. Please repeat that. It's nitrogen fixing, like beans and peas, and that means it self fertilizes and those around it. (It also makes a snazzy green manure for you vegetable gardeners out there).
(thanks to Bruce Lynn, lovely pic)
Those are a few tips, but obviously there is more to learn in the wide world of the internets.

Some interesting articles:
About the background of herbicides:

On fertilizers and Michael Pollan (author of "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food"):