Hot Peppers & Mellons

Helena, MT

Just received my 2010 Irish Eyes Garden Seeds catalog yesterday and was reading about hot peppers and mellons. Two comments are made in this catalog which I found interesting:
(1) On page 71 - Refering to hot peppers, "Should be planted close enough that leaves touch, not more than 12" apart."
(2) On page 51 - Regarding mellons, "To raise soil temperatures, either place partially rotted manure with straw 8" under seed or transplants, and/or use a plastic mulch or row cover.

I have even considered using straw bales on either side of a double row of hot peppers planted as described above since clouching is impossible in our frequent 50 plus mph winds.

I have not had much success with either of these crops in our short season and given these two comments, it gives me new hope. I have used the plastic mulch by itself with little improvement on the mellons. This is the first time I have come across anything like this so I thought it would be interesting to see if any Rocky Mountain gardeners have tried either of these methods.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

You forgot what I learned about mellon seeds last year. Keep the chickens out of the garden. They love them.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

No luck with peppers outside with our cool nights :( Some here get melons if grown against the south wall of their house.

Calgary, Canada

Both are greenhouse crops in zone 3 Calgary.
I have grown small green peppers in my grow rack.
There are some varieties of melon more suitable to short season areas.
I have not had any success so far ,but keep trying.
Caroline

Santa Fe, NM

Even in zone 5 or 6, where I live at 7,000 ft., nobody I know of has successfully grown melons. Our season is too short. Chiles are another story and generally do well. They seem to require less water than melons and to take cool nights better.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

i'm going to try melons in a cold frame next year, to allow for the short growing season.

The practice of growing thing with hot manure decomposition to warm the soil is more ancient than you might think. 90% of the fresh vegetables served in Paris during the 19th century were produced this way, using horse manure from the streets.

Helena, MT

Your right greenjay, I should not have been that surprised at that one. I have decided however to add a couple of twists to this method for hot peppers. Strawbails, black paper mulch, a floating row cover or window panels from the recycle center, and a soaker hose instead of a drip feeder hose. A double row planting on either side of the soaker hose on 12-inch centers would allow me a hundred plus plants in a 60 ft row. That's three times the plants for the same amount of area in the past. The strawbails on either side of the double row and at the ends would produce a min-hot house. The hay bails would providing ancorage for the black paper mulch and the floating row cover if I chose that over the window panels.

Your concensus on mellons seems to be pretty much what I have seen and heard here. Muskmellons...maybe. I tried Edens Gem and Sugar Babys a couple of years ago and neither ripen by harvest time. I may try deep trenching semi-compost horse manure/hay plus black paper mulch with night time covers. I made up some 1-gallon plastic milk jug covers with the bottoms removed and two coat hanger wire stakes for anchoring them down. Will still need to add a 5-gallon bucket with a heavy rock over the milk jugs to keep them from blowing over. I'm hoping a 30 day jump start with this night time double cover method would allow sufficient time for short seasoned mellons to fully ripen. I direct seeded mellons in the past, but I may try transplants next season to see how that works.

As you can tell from the pic, R.J. was not too pleased with grandpa's previous attempt. I promised her I would do a better job next season.

Thumbnail by mraider3
Santa Fe, NM

Nice picture! I wonder if melons could be grown in a small hoop house, in hot manure, started early and then take the cover off as the weather permits? I have seen tomatoes do well with that method.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

Why don't you grow potatoes. They are a carbohydrate source that does well in Montana. LOL
I am going to try muskmellons now that you guys say that it is so difficult. Why do we gardeners push the zones we live in? I am going to build 2 cold frames in my raised bed garden and start both water and musk mellon to see if our warmer longer days can do it here. I have placed my veg garden where it gets about 12 hours of sun.

Santa Fe, NM

One of my gardening friends here is a huge potato planter! l.o.l. Actually, she is very skinny, just plants a lot of potatoes. Lots of varieties.

Helena, MT

Dean, how many four year olds do you know that would choose a potato over a ripe watermellon! We have the perfect climate and soil for potatoes and every year we produce an abundance for seven families. Aside from french fries which is our third generation's favorite form of potato, our corn is the next most prefered crop. That little girl in the pic has been know to eat six ears in one setting. Let me know which variety of musk mellon you choose to plant and we can compare notes.

morgan

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Doesn't Mulch grow some type of melon in her hoop house? YOO YOO Mulch.

Santa Fe, NM

We haven't heard from her forever and I have D-mailed her, too. ( Mulch ). I'm getting worried.

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

I do hope all is well with Mulch!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I'm worried too :( I hope she's busy painting as she had to take a break when she was so ill? This is from her website http://www.energiesofcreation.com/paintings/beginning-anew/

Santa Fe, NM

Thanks for the web site. I do have her gallery contact stuff somewhere, too. She is probably painting away!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Mulch posted on the New Year's Resolutions thread started by roybird. She is apparently alive and well and promising to get healthier in the new year.

I have grown melons successfully here in Los Alamos if you consider the fact that the melons were very small but sweet, success. They were Sugar Babies and Bright Lights ( or something like that). I will say that I only did it on a lark and didn't work very hard on the soil where I planted them, so, I am not sure the weather was the problem.

I read a great article in Tauton's Fine Gardening a few years ago about a lady in Maine who was able to grow melons by growing them with row covers -- those things that let light pass through but that keep the temperature about 10 degrees warmer. She opened up the row covers when they started to bloom, just until they were pollinated then closed them down again. I guess that is pretty close to cloching though. Maybe the row covers would blow away for you. Maybe you could bury the edges in soil with rocks on top? Sounds like a pain.

For melons as with all squash, add as much manure and organic matter as you can get your hands on. They never have too much.

I have grown many peppers here but there are a couple that seem to find our growing season too short -- Ancho Peppers ( darn) and serrano peppers seem to find it too chilly here. The tiny thai hot peppers and jalapenos and cayennes and thai dragons do great, though. Bell peppers come out kind of smallish but with lots of fruits and good flavor. I guess I have followed the 12 inch rule because I don't have that much good garden space -- not out of any special knowledge.

Santa Fe, NM

If we can get concrete removed in the front I may be able to have enough sun for a small vegetable garden. I'm thinking beans and squash. I have had good luck with beans before my currant bushes became giants but not any luck with squash. Jalapenos have done well for me and sometimes eggplants. It would be nice to have tomatillos, too. We'll see. First I would need to work on the soil.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Squash want lots of organic matter. Lots.

Santa Fe, NM

That's probably why it does so poorly for me! I need tough plants that don't take too much coddling. Who knows, maybe I'll just plant more native stuff.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I couldn't grow squash worth a darn until I added lots of manure and dug it in each year for maybe 3 years. Or manure and compost. And then I mulched with manure. It grows like a weed here if it has enough organic matter in the soil.
And, as you know, I don't use that manure that comes sterilized in a sack. I think the real stuff, aged a little or a lot with plenty of bacteria is what the doctor ordered for almost everything around here. Alfalfa pellets every year -- lots of them, not this 1 cup stuff. That may even be better than manure.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Melons are even a challenge here. Mostly its making the soil fertile enough, but they don't do as well in a cool summer. Peppers grow really well. I don't understand the < 12" spacing unless the plants are really small. Note my pepper plants were 3' tall last year. I do think the row covers will help warm things up, including the soil. I wouldn't use black plastic as the plastic will prevent air penetration of the soil.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I am down on black plastic except for spinach. Spinach can be planted under black plastic with holes at certain regular distances apart -- pre-made holes from the manufacturer. Put the seed in the ground and it will germinate through the hole in rather cold weather -- which spinach loves. The spinach then grows without weeds -- thanks to the black plastic. Other crops can be grown the same way, but, in general, I agree with you about black plastic.
Part of the challenge of my current gardening situation is that under a some of my gravel is black plastic. Groan! Water doesn't soak into the soil with plastic there. It runs off. At least landscape fabric allows the water to penetrate. And, of course, the plastic breaks down after a while but only when it is in sunlight. Under a few inches of gravel it seems to last forever.
t

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

I buy bales (2 or 3) of alfalfa each year from a dairy nearby and use it to layer it into my compost after shredding. I also pick up any old bales they have in the winter and compost them to be shredded and used on my spring compost dressing over my beds before I put the mulch back on. Very cheap source of alfalfa.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Alas, there are no longer any dairies withing 100 miles of me. I buy the alfalfa pellets, they are expensive compared to bales ( I think), but I haven't tried shredding any. But the last sack of alfalfa pellets I bought was from the local pet store and it turned out to have molasses in it. Don't know how that will do in my compost so I haven't put it in. I imagine it is okay if beer is okay but someone on DG once warned of getting the kind with molasses.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

the molasses is frequently a recommended additive when you are using alfalfa pellets for a spring compost tea treatment for roses. It probably feeds the bacteria, so I wouldn't expect it to be a problem. It is good for roses because of the sulphur content also.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Okay, then I will just go ahead and mix it into my compost pile. I wondered what harm it could cause. I add rotten sweet fruits to the compost and that works just fine.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

I am adding molasses to my compost this year again. It does help to keep the pile cooking. Bacteria thrive with small amounts of it added. Here especially in the spring to get it "heated" up.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Hmm. This is sounding like a lucky accident. I have a lot of pine needles that could use some umph in the compost process. Perhaps that is where I will put these.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

My needles are put through a shredder but it only cracks the surface and chops a few so then they compost in under 3 years. I feel that it gives good acidity and soil texture. I have lots of clay in my soil so soil can compact with out wood or pine needles.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

The needles I have piled up have not been shredded. They are already partially composted so they probably just need a little nitrogen to finish the job. I now have a shredder and in the future I will shred all my pine needles and all the ones I can scrounge from neighbors -- which will probably be a lot. People around here don't use their pine needles which is a shame.
I am embarrassed to say that I haven't tried my new shredder yet, but the day is coming when I will start shredding everything I can get my hands on.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

The efficiency of a shredded carbon and nitrogen allows the bacteria to inhabit the material to decompose sooooooo much quicker, I must shred. The waxy surface of pine needles is a package that is very slowly penetrated by bacteria and fungal constituents.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Agreed. The plan is to shred.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Warning: do not try to shred needles with the leafvac. It will gunk up. The food processor works like a charm but takes some time though as it only does small batches.

Santa Fe, NM

That endeavor ( with the food processor ) could take quite awhile if you have very many pines!

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

I have hundreds of bushels of needles and I primarily use a debris loader and a 10 hp Chipper shredder. My needles are composting in a few months and continue to compost after I spred the contents onto my raised beds each spring and fall. Hence the soil structure remains healthy for the various worms and bugs.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Someone on DG once suggested that I consider making charcoal out of the down wood on my farm in Mississippi after Katrina and returning it as such to the soil. The article they sent me showed a guy doing it using a charcoal oven and his home blender. I had to laugh at the idea of doing the same with 120 acres of down wood.
I have just been piling up my needles and wetting them down everytime I go by with the hose. That is very slow, but does work. Now that I have a shredder, I will start shredding them, but not until it warms up out there.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

The natives in Brazil who originally did this piled up the wood, covered it with mud, and then burned it. The mud caused the pile to burn slowly, at the right temperature, and not to the point of ash - ie it created charcoal.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Oh, that might have been possible. Not sure I could have done it anyhow. It takes a lot of bulldozers for that and my people in Mississippi who help me out with free bull dozing are pretty conservative and would think I was a) a woman who, by definition, doesn't know anything. b) I was crazy.
Mississippi is physically beautiful but politically benighted. But I have friends there who are starting to move into the 21st century. There is hope.

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