Gary L. Simmons  rev 01/04/07
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Chili Pepper Gardener's Diary

Crossed chilies

Nothing speaks louder than actions so I've decided to start a Chili Pepper Gardeners Diary. What I'm going to do is to keep an online journal on how I proceed through the growing season by chronicling a year's worth of gardening activities. Maybe more than one year if this seems worthwhile and you guys don't make my head asplode .   If you have any questions or suggestions then I'll be happy to hear from you. Keep in mind that I've had tremendous success over the years with the process I use and I'm a cantankerous old fart set in my ways. I'm able to keep myself and my friends in chilies and hot sauce with plenty to spare by farming only 24 five gallon pots.

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MARCH 2006

3-27: I've already obtained seeds for this year, I've opted to buy Burpee seeds. This year I'll be growing Thai Dragon Hybrid and Caribbean Red Habañeros. Now normally I'd buy some 3" peat pots and fill them with fresh potting soil then seed them, and sprout them in small plastic green house trays. This year I've done something a little different although along the same line. I saw a nifty little setup at Home Depot that I wanted to try out, it is a Jiffy brand greenhouse 72. It is much like my old system, a 3" deep black plastic tray with a clear 4" plastic cover, only this system uses peat pellets. Peat pellets are mesh wrapped peat moss that is compressed into a pellet and dried. The Black tray bottom has recesses for 72 pellets and a system of small troughs to distribute the water under the false bottom the pellets rest on.

I like the number of pellets, 72. That's just the number of pellets I need for two years worth of gardening. Today I planted 2 seeds apiece in 18 Habañero pellets and 18 Thai Dragon pellets. I can sustain a failure rate of 66 percent and still have enough sprouts to plant 24 five gallon pots. Any extras I can give away to friends. I set the greenhouse on my garage bench and have hung a plant light over it at a height that will warm the greenhouse to 85 degrees at the warmest portion of the day and 70 degrees in the coldest portion of the night.

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APRIL 2006

4-4: I have sprouts! 14 Caribbean Red Habañeros have sprouted! Wow, that was quicker than I expected. Normally the peppers start sprouting at about 2 weeks. Guess I'd better start getting busy cleaning out the pots and amending the soil. Good deal. Hopefully this will be a good year.

4-7: I tried to find some chicken manure today but all I could find at Home Depot or Lowes was steer manure. I don't want to use that stuff because of all the salt they feed those animals. Tomorrow I'm going to try a local nursery. It is much further away but they say they have the right stuff. I have enough peat moss and Amend brand soil amendment from last year to complete my list of ingredients for enriching the soil in my pots.

4-8: All 18 of my Caribbean Red Habañero peat pots have now sprouted giving me a total of 31 sprouts on the Habañero side. In addition I now have my first Thai Dragon Hybrid sprout. Today I have taken the seedlings out of the garage and set them in the sun for a couple hours. Time to start getting them toughened up a bit and to keep them from getting too gangly under the plant light. My wife picked up some of the chickens finest contribution to society yesterday and I spent the afternoon amending 5 pots.

4-9: I've spent a great deal of time today amending the 5 gallon pots and weeding the pot bed. Last year I laid down a double thickness of thick black plastic sheeting on the ground and covered it with redwood bark. It work great! Weeding the bed turned out to be minimal work. Most of the weeds were coming in around the edges as usual but there was NOTHING for the roots to dig into so they lifted right out like picking up feathers. I had to knock the bark out of a few clumps but I am forever going to use the solid, non-permeable black plastic bedding to keep weeds out. I amended a mess of pots today too, about 12 of them. I'm pooped.

4-10: I finished off the last of the 5 gallon pots, did some finishing touch cleaning around the pot bed and watered all the pots thoroughly. They are ready for the sprouts, which aren't quite ready for the pots but I beat the rain that is coming tonight and this week. I don't want to plant the sprouts until they have their first primary leaves. No more new Habañeros sprouts, I think they are all sprouted but the Thai Dragon is showing signs of activity with 2 more sprouts.

4-15: I've gotten 9 peat pots sprouted on the Thai Dragon side of the sprouting tray so I took advantage in the break in the rain for the coming week to plant what I have so far. I now have the full 12 pots of Caribbean Red Habañeros planted and 7 of the Thai Dragons were big enough to plant. By big enough I mean having the start of their first secondary leaves. I want them to be mature enough but not so mature that the roots have grown too far out the bottom of the peat pot. With peat pots in this Jiffy brand greenhouse kit so small, that means the they go into the 5 gallon pots earlier than the years I use the potting soil filled planting pots. I put the remaining peat pots back under the plant light in the garage. After planting the peat pots I sprinkled Metro All Purpose Bug-Bait over the soil of the 5 gallon pots. This will control the snails, slugs, earwigs and sow bugs. I'll probably reapply this lightly once again until the plants are big enough to not be eaten though in one night. For sure I'll reapply it if it rains again between then and now. After that I don't care if bugs eat some of it, I've built the garden for them to enjoy too but I want to control them while they can destroy my crop.

4-16: I went out this morning to check on the seedlings first night "in the wild". The Bug-Bait took out a platoon of millipedes! All the sprouts are alive and they look to be untouched. When I get a sunny day, I'll adjust the flow of the drip lines, however to date the drip lines are not yet actively watering the pots. I wait for a sunny day because I get sprayed by water from other sprinklers that go off during when the pepper drip lines are activated. I suppose I could wear a rain coat but where is the fun in that?

4-17: I planted the last of the Thai Dragon seedlings into their 5 gallon pots today. More Thai chilies have sprouted now than I need so I have the safety net of extra seedlings in case a critter swoops in and eats a sprout or two.

4-18: We are starting to get some hot days so I took the opportunity of today's 85 degree weather to set up the drip system on the pepper pots. They are set to get 5 minutes of drip each night. I can cut that back if it gets cooler, or increase it if it gets hotter.

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May 2006

5-3: Back from a vacation in Hawaii and pretty much all seems to be well in the garden. Most sprouts have secondary leaves even with the cool cloudy weather it experienced. Now that I'm back I've set the drip system to every other day. I noticed that two seedlings in one pot were chewed up by something, possibly by an earwig or a millipede. Fortunately that was the pot that had 3 seedlings! I freshened the invaded pot and the ones around it with a little more Bug-Bait. During my absence a number of weeds started sprouting up, including peppers from last years crop! These have to come up so I spent a little time yesterday sending the weeds on their way to meet their maker.

5-6: It was probably a mistake to set the seedlings out so soon, I probably should have left them in the greenhouse that extra week. I planted the seedlings, left the remaining ones in the greenhouse, then after I came home I set them out on the back porch with partial sunshine. They now have their 4th level leaves, the ones in the pot are still working on their second level leaves. I wouldn't have done it this way normally, but the vacation forced my hand and I didn't want to leave them unattended in the greenhouse without water. Turns out that would have been OK. Very low water requirements in the covered greenhouse as the water drips down from the cover and is recycled into the peat pots.

5-10: I've been weeding the pots at regular intervals. Too bad I'm a chili head and not a weed head. Insect damage is minimal though present and kept in check by the Bug-Bait. The weather this last week has been very mild and overcast. Weather is the biggest factor affecting the poor growth of the seedlings. The neighbors trimmed, back to the stump, the giant ash tree that blocks the morning sun in our yard. This will help this years crop VERY much. It is getting sun now starting at 7:30am rather than 11am and that 3 and a half hours of sunlight will be a major boon to such a sun loving plant.

5-18: The more I think of it the more I wish I would have waited until after I returned from vacation to plant the chili peppers. I'm sure I set them out too early. I couldn't depend on them being watered while I was gone so I set them out in the post way too soon with a drip line. I should have waited because as it turned out they had enough water in the green house to survive while I was gone. Some of the Habañeros look totally beat down and fried looking. Some of them are still only a couple inches high, though now with secondary leaves at least. The Thai Chilies look much better. Some of them are 5 inches tall and most of them 3 or 4 inches.

5-25: A couple of Habañeros bit the dust. Still alive yet only barely. I'm going to move a couple of the backup Habañeros from the open greenhouse into a couple of the Habañero pots this evening. They look much better than some of the ones that went out into the pots. No backups are needed for the Thai chilies though and this is fortunate because there is only one backup plant for the Thai chilies. The moral of this story is that it pays to over plant your greenhouse peat pods and to keep them around for a while after you plant the seedlings.

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June 2006

6-7: All the peppers are thriving, no more shriveling, which is good because I don't have any more replacement seedlings. The tallest Habañero is about 4 1/2 inches tall and the tallest Thai chili is just over 13 inches tall which is just about right as far as length into season and relative plant sizes. Thai chilies grow up to 6 feet tall where as Habañeros are low and bushy at only 3 feet max. Best news of the day... One of the Thai chilies has a flower already! I weeded the pots again today, they are still sprouting grass, spurge, oxalis, and spearmint! I also weeded the bed the pots are setting on. This is a solid black plastic lined bed with 3 inches of rough redwood bark covering it. The only weeds I have are those growing between the plastic and the wall. Nothing can grow through it and it has been a huge work saver for the chore of weeding. I haven't needed to sprinkle Bug-Bait in about a month, though some of the leaves are a little chewed. There is enough for everybody in my garden just as long as you don't hurt the plants. Ants aren't welcome as they farm and protect aphids and this sort of joint organization is too harmful to the plants. Alone, aphids aren't a bother so I just try to kill the ants. Other insects thin the aphids enough to keep them from overwhelming the plants ability to feed them and produce fruit for me.

6-23: How did I go so long without making another entry! I haven't been ignoring them and so much has happened. The weeds have just about stopped sprouting in the pots, I go out every couple of days looking for a weed to pull. The last few trips have been unwarranted. The types of weeds seem to vary each year, last year it was mostly grasses, this year most of it has been spearmint. The tallest Thai Dragon tops out at 25 inches and all of them are flowering. The tallest Caribbean Red Habañeros is just over 9 inches with no flowers yet. The relative sizes of the two plants seem right on according to my experience from the last 5 years. Eight of the twelve Thai chilies are bearing fruit, the largest is about an inch and a half long! I estimate that in about 3 weeks I'll be eating fresh green Thai chilies every day with my lunch. Can't wait to taste this new variety.

6-25: Two of the Caribbean Red Habañeros now have flower buds! I weeded some yesterday around the edge of the potting bed. The thick solid black plastic sheeting covered with redwood bark has done a 100% perfect job of keeping weeds from growing up between the pots.

6-28: An update quickly before I publish this week's entry. SIX of the Caribbean Red Habañeros now have flower buds! All twelve of the Thai Dragon plants are producing fruit! Many of the Thai chilies are big enough to eat. I'm going to hold off on harvesting any fruit until I see how big they get before they start turning red. This is strictly out of curiosity, I could eat them now as any green Thai chile is ready to eat no matter how old, but I've not grown this variety before and I have no idea how big the fruit gets. Also, as a matter of course, I would want to eat only Thai chilies that are mature enough to have seeds because it is the placenta the seeds grow from that makes the chilies hot.

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July 2006

7-12: All twelve of the Caribbean Red Habañeros now have flower buds. Still no fruit on them yet but the Habañeros I've grown have always been slower to fruit than the Thai chilies. I live out on the dessert so the weather has been very hot for the last month, ranging from 95° to 105°, and the plants have been loving it. I've been going out each day at around 3PM and spray all the plants with the hose. The idea is to keep the leaves clean, the air humidified and the yard a tad cooler after the heat of the day. The plants have plenty of time to dry off before it gets dark, some 5 hours later, and that avoids mildew.

7-16: I had a cheese omelet with chopped homegrown Thai chilies in it this morning. This is the first time I've eaten any of this year's crop. Although they were respectably hot, I've had hotter Thai chilies. Maybe later in the season they will pick up some spiciness, as the soil matures and receives some fertilizer. Also, I can't make a true determination until I eat some chilies alone, some foods such as high protein, sugary, and oily foods diminish the burn. The cheese omelet was both high protein AND oily thanks to the spray coating in the pan and the cheese. Also of note, while I was harvesting the Thai chilies, I noticed that one of the Habañeros has fruit!

7-19: I have the latest stats in the garden for you today. All the Thai Chilies are bearing fruit, 3 of the Habañeros are bearing fruit. The tallest Thai Dragon plant is 34 inches, the tallest Habañero is 17 inches, this size ratio is normal. The plants were measured with a yardstick resting on the soil at the base of the plant and extended to the highest leaf tip. Several of the Thai chilies have ripened. They range in size to 2 and a quarter inches to 3 inches in length. Starting today, I will be eating fresh picked chilies every day! I'm not sure how tall either of these varieties will grow. I will of course keep you informed.

7-26: Good news on the gardening front! Nine of the Habañeros are now bearing fruit as of this morning. One of the fruit is 3 quarters on an inch in diameter. As is normal, the Thai chilies are way ahead of the Habañeros. Last evening just before dark I harvested my first batch of Thai Chilies! 63 Thai chilies in all were harvested and today I have removed the stems (Peduncles) and fleshy cap (calyx), washed them under running water, drained them and set them to dry in the oven. You can read about how to harvest and dry your chilies on the Chili Pepper Gardening page.

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August 2006

8-2: One more Caribbean Red Habañero started bearing fruit, giving me 10 out of 12 plants willing to produce this year. The other two are flowering like mad, it's just that nothing is happening with them, the flowers wilt and drop off while the Habañeros to each side of them bear fruit. This is actually a very good year for the Habañeros, I've had a couple of years where only 3 plants have borne fruit. We are getting massive amounts of sun this year because my neighbor drastically trimmed the tree in his yard that blocked the morning sun and the city removed a tree in the street that partially blocked sunlight in the afternoon. The Thai Dragon chilies are producing like crazy. This morning I harvested another 79 chilies from them, this afternoon, I'll remove the stems, wash the fruit and set to dry in my oven. It takes a couple days at 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit to make them crunchy dry. They must be completely dry before sealing them in a bag or they will rot. It's about time I fertilized all the pots, I'll probably do that this weekend.

8-8: I fertilized the chile pots today. I used Miracle Grow for Tomatoes (and all vegetables). The ratio breaks down something like this:

Nitrogen - 18%
Phosphoric Acid - 18%
Soluble Potash - 21%

I mixed the fertilizer in 2 gallon sprinkler buckets. The first few buckets were sprinkled over the leaves of all the plants, then I went back through and filled each pot to the brim once with fertilizer mix. I've waited this long in the season because when I started the pots out, I had mixed in a double handful of chicken manure into each pot. I'll probably continue fertilizing with Miracle grow every 2 or 3 weeks now.

8-9: I did a little weeding today in the cool of the morning. Although I have a solid black plastic weed barrier covered with redwood bark, weeds still grow up between the black plastic and the wall. I spent a little time, about 15 minutes, carefully pulling up long runners of St. Augustine grass and leafy plumes of spearmint. Because the redwood bark is insubstantial compared to the soil of the ground, the rooted runners come up effortlessly making this chore a matter of pulling it up once at the source rather than repeatedly everywhere it puts down roots. If you are doing a potted garden, a solid plastic barrier and redwood bark is the way to go.

8-13: This evening just before dark I harvested 316 Thai Dragon chilies. I like to wait until they are a deep red before picking them. I use a pair of sharp nosed scissors that allow me to reach in between the leaves and stems and snip just the stem of the red pepper I want. While harvesting I checked the Habañeros and noticed that one of the two holdout plants was finally bearing fruit! This is the best season yet for Habañeros!

8-19: OK, that makes it official. For the first time EVER in the 6 or so years I've been doing this, every plant in the chili garden is producing fruit! I credit the full sun the garden is getting now that the two trees that shaded it are either removed or pruned back to the bone. What a difference! I'm not just blasting that out my cornucopia blow hole, I'm basing this on direct observation. The first plants to bear fruit were the ones that got the most sun. The last bush to fruit was the one that was getting the most shade.

8-22: Today in the relative cool of the morning I fertilized the 22 chili pepper pots again. This is two weeks to the day after the last time I fertilized them. I didn't do anything differently than the last time.

8-25: I did another harvest on the Thai Dragon chilies today. In all I gathered 559 chilies. They are currently relieved of their stems, carefully washed and drying in the oven at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. I choose that temperature because I think it is hot enough to dry them quickly before they spoil yet cool enough so that they are not cooked. Cooking would change the flavor and consistency, something I want very much to preserve. Some good news with the Caribbean Red Habañeros, 4 Habañero chilies have color now. It won't be long before I start harvesting them!

8-26: I did some weeding in and around the pots in the cool of the morning today. Anything that tries to grow in the bark covered solid black plastic bed pulls up as easily as picking a fork up off the floor. This solid plastic sheeting system just plain beats the pants off of the permeable weed barrier plastic sheeting. I can't recommend it enough. The pots have been weeded several times before but still the occasional bit of grass, oxalis, or spearmint appears in them. I don't want to give them the time to put down roots as pulling them up will damage the peppers roots, so I check the pots regularly.

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September 2006

9-3: Those 650 chili harvests are just to much work so I've started harvesting a little more often to cut down on the amount of time I'm twisted up like a yogi in the over-under-sideways-down position of harvesting chilies out of a low bush. Still, I had a good haul of 265 Thai Chilies which is nothing to sneeze at... unless you are grinding them of course, but I'm not. I cleaned the stems off and washed them and they are drying in the oven as I type. Also for the first time, I have harvested some of the Caribbean Red Habañeros, 13 in all. They range in color from a deep red to fiery red-orange and are the same size and shape as a typical plain Jane orange Habañero. I'll have a picture of some from the first harvest on the main page soon.

9-6: Time to fertilize the chilies again. I spent about 45 minutes in the cool of the morning today fertilizing the chili pots.

9-7: Another harvest today. This time I snagged 23 nice big Caribbean Red Habañeros and 165 Thai Dragon chilies. The last batch of Habañeros was not quite dry yet so I have two batches drying in the oven now. Because of their large size Habañeros take considerably longer than the Thai chilies to dry. Where a colander full of Thai chilies will oven dry in a few days, Habañeros can take up to a week. I think I'll try cutting them open on one side to see if that will help speed up the process. Just a small slit in the side to let the hot dry oven air circulate inside the hollow interior of the Habañeros. I'm just going to do that once with a single bag of chilies though, until I find out if cutting them open interferes with their ability to be stored for a long while. One bag this year and I'll wait to see how it goes before ruining an entire crop with this new technique.

9-12: There has been a leak somewhere in the watering system, possibly even from water coming from under the concrete slab the house is built on. In order to isolate the problem I've turned the automatic sprinklers off so that I can eliminate a faulty valve or feeder line. There is still standing water in the backyard after a week, it must be coming from under the house. The chilies are in no danger. Because they are in pots set on top of the ground, they are not being flooded and there is no chance their roots will become rotted. I've taken a little extra time out of each day to hand water the 22 chili pepper pots. They are doing great, ready for another harvest tomorrow or the next day.

9-15: I had another good harvest today. The last batch finally dried out in the oven leaving room for a new batch. This harvest I got 264 Thai Dragon chilies and a mere 6 Caribbean Red Habañeros. The Habañeros will have their day, they are much much slower to grow and ripen than the Thai chilies but they are gigantic in size in comparison to the Thai chilies. Also, the Habañero bushes are laden with fruit, the branches starting to hang heavily. The small amount of fruit that has ripened are just forerunners to the flood to come. Like I've said before, this is the best year yet I've had, I credit the extra sunshine this year due to the city removing a tree blocking the afternoon sun and a neighbor trimming his invasive tree that blocked the morning sun.

9-18: Another batch of chilies have dried in the oven so I harvested again today. I got 229 Thai Dragon chilies and 11 Caribbean Red Habañeros. One was green but I accidentally knocked it off so... it's harvested! These have all been de-stemmed, washed and set to dry in the oven.

9-19: It's fertilizer day again today. I've switched up a bit on the fertilizing. Rather than half strength, I using full strength as I did last time I fed the pots. It's later in the year and the compost is used up, you can tell by the way the soil in the pot has receded by several inches. I think they appreciate the extra food. I am using 1 tablespoon Miracle Grow for Tomatoes per gallon as a mix. 3 pots share 2 gallons of mix. After I've finished, I sprinkle 2 gallons of mix over all the Thai chilies and then 2 more gallons of mix over all the Habañeros. The Habañeros look incredibly lush and luxuriant. The Thai chilies are sort of runts, I'm not sure if this is normal or not. They are giving me chilies as fast as I can dry them so that's not a problem, it's just that a couple of years with a different variety, they were growing twice as tall.

9-22: I found ants swarming over several of my pepper plants. Big deal you may think, they won't hurt anything. Strictly speaking you are correct, but they will "farm" aphids and the aphids will harm the plants. Just aphids alone aren't really a nuisance as the other insects and spiders will feed on them keeping their numbers down. When ants tend them however, they are a genuine threat to the health of the plant. Ants tend the live births of aphids and carry the newborn to a the tenderest new shoots. Ants will also protect the aphids from predators, swarming over those who threaten them. In return the ants feed on the honeydew the aphid repay them with. To counteract this threat I used Ortho Ant-Stop probably now known as Ortho Ant-B-Gon. Rather than sprinkle the toxic dust directly on the plants or in the pots where the plants would absorb it through the soil, I put it on the ground around the pots and on the drip lines that they were using to climb up into the pots on.

9-23: This morning the ants were gone! They didn't go home to their children either! Muah hahahaha!

9-24: OK new problem, one I just now realized was a pest problem. This morning I was investigating why most of the leaves had fallen off one of the Habañero plants. There was nothing to see with the naked eye so I checked it under a 10X magnifying glass. I saw tiny white specks. I broke out my 30X hand microscope and was horrified to see that the leaf was covered with tiny white oblong worms! I have no idea what they were, there was nothing that could have been adults so I don't think they were larvae. First off I moved the infected pot away from the other plants. I mixed up some Safer Insecticidal Soap, 5 Tbs to a gallon and saturated the infected plant as well as the plant next to it. I hope this is effective against the pest. I'll have to wait and see.

Also today, the last batch of Habañeros has dried so I stored them and harvested a new batch of chilies. 10 Habañeros, 278 Thai chilies. De-stemmed and washed, they are now drying in the oven at 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

9-25: The insecticidal soap appears to have been effective. I only found a couple organisms alive this morning amongst a killing field of dead. I will reapply the spray again in a couple of days so as not to burn the plants. To recap, they are invisible to the naked eye but they are a light cream color, comma sized and shaped under 30X magnification. They are not curved like a comma but they are oblong like one" blunt on one end, pointed on the other. Upon re-observation, I have noted some things new about the parasite. Originally I said they were tiny worms but I don't think they are worms now. They have a cluster of tiny hairs on the large blunt end. It appears that they use these hairs to move with, I can see them waving especially when they move. The blunt end is the anterior end and the pointed end is the posterior according to the only direction I have seen them move. If anybody can identify this animal for me I'd be very grateful.

9-27: Another batch of chilies were ready to harvest already! The Thai chilies from last time were dry but the Habañeros were not so the half dried Habañeros goes into the small colander and the new fresh 292 Thai Chilies AND the 8 Habañeros go together into the big colander. I think the harvest is speeding up now.

9-28: After a spot check on a number of plants, I've discovered the mystery pest on all the plants checked. I'm going to up the ante and tackle this thing head on. I've purchased a 2 gallon pump pressurized sprayer from a local hardware store. It is an RL Flo-Master with a 10 year Warranty, it only cost $29 dollars and should be well worth the price in time and energy saved spraying so many plants. Tomorrow when it is cooler I'll spray all the plants with insecticidal soap.

9-29: Gave all the Habañeros a good spraying today. The Thai Chilies seem to be OK.

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October 2006

10-1: I got another great harvest from the chilies today. 17 Habañeros and 314 Thai chilies. It looks like both the varieties are starting to ripen faster now. Lots of Habañeros are starting to turn color! I have filled one quart bag with Habañeros so I am going with the new experimental plan of slitting open the big Habañero pods for a faster drying time. I sprayed another gallon of insecticidal soap on the Habañeros today after the harvest. Insecticidal soap is fairly benign, you can spray vegetables before you harvest them on the same day you spray. Still I opted to spray afterwards.

10-2: OK I spoke too soon. I have detected the same pest on the Thai Dragon leaves! I'll spray another gallon today... criminy. At least it has stricken so late it doesn't seem to have impacted the quantity of chilies and the chilies themselves look beautiful. The pest is also kind enough to roll over and die when sprayed with a relatively innocuous (to humans) substance.

10-3: Slitting the large Habañeros open did the trick. Allowed to dry like this, they dried 50% quicker. I'm only going to do one bag this year to see if the slitted chilies do not spoil during the year long storage they will be required to withstand. I just polished off the Habañeros from 2003 several months ago, so you see, they need to be able to last a long time. I'm afraid that opening the pod for faster drying will void its natural seal and allow mold, mildew and bacteria into the pod. Time will tell. I'm only willing to risk one bag with this experiment.

10-4: Here come the Habañeros! I had another harvest today, 53 Habañeros and 306 Thai chilies. One thing notable about this harvest is the dark residue that was left on my finger tips where I handled the chilies during picking. Have you ever used a grease pencil? It had a consistency much like that. I was able to rinse it off with water without a problem but I'm sure it was from the insecticidal soap. The solution basically consists of soap and potassium salts of fatty acids which is the active ingredient, I'm pretty sure that soapy residue is what is accumulating on my fingertips. I washed the peppers normally with the exception of including a very mild mixture of water and dish washing detergent in the process. The rinsing was more extensive to accommodate the change in cleaning process. All the fruit came out squeaky clean with no discernable after taste.

10-6: My wife brought home a new bottle of Safer Insecticidal Soap concentrate. They've changed to name to "Safer Insect Killing Soap". It's the same stuff, I suppose the name has been dumbed down so that the latest group of politically correct intellectuals coming out of college can understand the label and not damage their huge self-esteems with fancy dancy words that taunt them with their own ignorance. Yea! I ranted!

10-7: The old chilies have dried and I have harvested another batch today. 203 Thai Dragon and 82 Caribbean Red Habañeros. It a great looking batch of Habañeros too: big, red and plump. putting a little slice in the end of the Habañero dries them faster, but it also fills the air in the kitchen with a smell that is a little too peppery. I've turned on the oven's exhaust fan and will keep it on for the first 24 hours. The residue I spoke of earlier was barely present this time.

10-9: The peppers got another gallon of insecticidal soap. The new bottle was easier to read, the sun not having the chance yet to bleach out the instructions. It said to use soft water which makes sense because it IS soap after all. I used the distilled water we drink. There were some suds this time while spraying. I wonder if the residue on my fingers was soap scum from the extremely hard tap water we have here. I'll see, next time I harvest.

10-11: Another big Habañero harvest today after storing the last batch that just dried. 109 Caribbean Red Habañeros and 179 Thai Dragon chilies. That is half a year's worth of boiling hot eating in that Habañero harvest alone! I'll be able to brew up potions of pain for my friends and better yet... my enemies! Muah ha ha ha ha!!

10-15: Another great harvest today! 162 Caribbean Red Habañeros and 271 Thai chilies. Because the chilies are ripening so fast, I don't have room in the oven to slow dry them so I am continuing to slit the Habañeros. I cannot dry them in time for the next harvest unless I divert from my original plan to slit only one quart bag. Hope I don't regret this a year from now.

10-16: Time to spray the plants again with Safer Insecticidal Soap. I am not able to destroy the pests with this weak insecticide, but I can keep their numbers limited enough so that these pests are not too detrimental to the plants health, but I can still see the harmful effects they have brought to the garden. After I've finished obtaining fruit from the garden, I'm thinking of spraying something very noxious that will wipe them all out for good.

10-17: It's that every other Tuesday today, time to fertilize the plants with more Miracle Grow for Tomatoes. The garden is at the height of it's productivity, I don't want to start slacking off now!

10-19: Another harvest. 143 Habañeros and 168 Thai chilies. It just keeps on coming.

10-22: Yet another harvest! A doozy this time. I have to break out a 3rd pan to dry them all. 253 Habañeros and 286 Thai Chilies! I have more chilies dried this season so far than I harvested in the last 3 years!

10-29: The bounty keeps coming! Thanks to the warm weather here on the edge of the Mojave Desert the garden keeps on giving. I don't remember a Halloween here where I didn't melt my monster makeup off. Today is typical of the season, 85 degrees. Today I harvested 118 Red Caribbean Habañeros and 240 Thai Dragon chilies.

10-30: Another dose of insecticidal soap for the chilies. I'm not winning but I'm not loosing either. The mystery pest seems to be held in check. The first plant to start loosing its leaves are starting to grow back new leaves on the bottom half of the plant. I'm thinking that after the harvest is over I should spray the plants with something genuinely noxious before I pull the plants up so that this affliction doesn't carry over to the next year.

10-31: The plants got another fertilizing with Miracle Grow for Tomatoes and Vegetables. As long as these plants keep giving, I'm going to keep giving back. Each pot gets two thirds of a gallon of fertilizer.

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November 2006

11-1: Not a great harvest but a respectable one. 153 Thai Dragon chilies and 83 Caribbean Red Habañeros. I'm not complaining mind you, but I'm running out of room to store this years harvest!

11-4: Another harvest about the same as the last one. 85 Habañeros and 122 Thai chilies. I've decided that since the harvest is slowing down I'll take this opportunity to NOT slit the Habañeros for drying. If slitting them turns out to ruin them, then I don't want to ruin a whole season's worth of Habañeros. I already have one bag unslitted, now to bulk up with some more. I'm sure I have another months worth of harvesting left in the season (it is 87 degrees here today). I should get several more quart bags of unslitted peppers during that time. Meanwhile I'll make sure to eat the slitted chilies first. I've marked each bag as to not only their content and date but as to whether they have been slitted or not.

11-6: I'm not going to spray or fertilize this week. I may not fertilize any more this year. It's pretty late in the year and even though the weather is still warm, it was 92 degrees here yesterday, the plants know that it is at the end of the season. They are hardly flowering and there is no new growth other than to replace any leaves that have fallen off from the pests.

11-7: There are still many hundreds of chilies on the plants, I should have a great harvest coming up tomorrow because of the slow drying time of the non-slitted Habañeros. Many have ripened during the wait. I may have to engage the lower oven.

11-8: Man, talk about a bumper crop. The old batch dried so I harvested another and was rewarded with 221 Thai Dragon and 224 Caribbean Red Habañero chilies. This is a monster harvest, requiring another temporary shelf to be installed in the oven to make room for it all. I don't see how these bushes can produce so much fruit.

11-12: Another bounty harvested today. 107 Habañeros and 159 Thai chilies. I've been harvesting some of the Thai Chilies green to make Thai Chilies in fish sauce. Good stuff.

11-13: I've compared the weight of a quart bag of Habañeros between the slit and and the unslit fruit. The slit Habañero bag is heavier because the chilies shrink smaller, collapsing down upon themselves. The unslit peppers stay full and round because they have been kept inflated by the air trapped inside. Whereas an unslit bag weighs in at 2 3/4 ounces the slit Habañeros weigh in at 4 1/2 ounces. So the slit peppers dry faster and they pack denser for smaller storage requirements. Let's just hope they last as long slit as unslit.

11-15: Harvest day again. 110 Habañeros and 130 Thai Dragon chilies. The unslit Habañero's seem to be drying plenty fast, perhaps I have overestimated the gains in drying time due to slitting. I can get a batched dried in 4 days as opposed to 3 days. The main benefit seems to be from the compaction of the product for storage. It remains to be seen if slitting them is detrimental to long term storage.

11-18: More of nature's nasty hot boiling bounty is drying in my oven today. 95 Red Caribbean Habañeros and 157 Thai Dragon chilies. I've been giving away batches of hot sauce from my new recipe, Gary's Thai-Talian. It's a hit, people are asking for more. It is easily the best chili pepper recipe I've developed. I surprised myself!

11-19: I've started a new recipe based on Thai-Talian using Habañeros. It's called "Hell's Heaven". What happens when a demon in Hell dies after he repents and manages to live a righteous life amongst the damned? He goes to Hell's Heaven. He sits on a cloud of smoke and plays a harp and it's still hot as Hell, but man, does it ever taste GOOOOOOD!

11-21: Another harvest of 68 Habañeros and 120 Thai Chilies. It has slowed way down now due to the cooler weather and late season.

11-25: The last batch of chilies have dried but for the first time this season there is not a batch ready waiting to be harvested. I'll need to wait a couple of days before I'll have a batch worth harvesting. It just went at breakneck speed and then it was like the brakes got slammed on. I have an amazing harvest this year, the best year yet for my container chili pepper garden.

11-28: Another harvest 3 days late with about the same bounty as the last. 65 Habañeros and 129 Thai chilies. There are still tons of green chilies of both types in the garden. I eat green Thai chilies, I love 'em, but I've not had many green Habañeros. I prefer the flavor of ripened Habs but the green one are monstrously hot, I'm not going to waste them. I guess I'll have to harvest them all before the first frost or they are ruined. I can eat a lot of green Thais but the Habañeros are too hot to eat before they spoil, I'm going to have to dry some green at the end of the season.

11-30: We had a hard frost last night. There was a quarter inch of ice in the birdbath this morning. I checked the chili plants, the leaves and fruit appear to be unharmed. It may be too soon to tell though. The lettuce, chard and cabbages all look fine too so it's possible that no harm came from the frost.

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December 2006

12-6: No damage ever transpired from the frosts however the cooler weather has slowed the growth way way down. Today though I harvested more chilies. 59 Habañeros and 171 Thai chilies. I don't expect to have many more Habañeros ripen but I think I'll still be getting many more Thai chilies. I love eating them green, this last month I've been using the Thai Chilies in Fish Sauce recipe everyday which calls for lots and lots of fresh green Thai chilies. It goes great on rice or anything you need salted and spicy.

12-9: Up until recently. I've been harvesting with a pair of kitchen scissors which are pretty hard on your hands after a half hour but about a month ago while shopping in a Target store I saw some Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snips made for snipping dead flower heads and thought they would be perfect for harvesting chilies. I was right, and I'll never go back to using scissors again. Your fingers are spared because you don't have to reopen the blades using the backs of your fingers and thumb and your hands are spared because you can hold them in a more natural fashion. The snips are very small for getting into those tight spaces in the bushy plant and the points are short and narrow letting you twist around to get just the fruit stem and not the surrounding leaves and stems. If you have a lot of chili harvesting or flower "dead heading" to do, this is the tool to use.

12-12: Another harvest today, small but respectable. I picked 36 Habañeros and 120 Thai chilies. I had a small disaster with the last batch of Habañeros last weekend. I turned the oven up to 350 degrees to bake some homemade cheese enchiladas and I forgot I still had a batch of Habs in there drying! They were almost blackened by the time I found them. 30 perfectly good chilies ruined. I'd turn myself into the police but they would probably refer me to the loony bin.

12-17: We had another light frost last night but I still don't see any damage or effect on the pepper plants. I hope my luck continues as there are still lots of chilies left on the bushes.

12-19: A nice harvest today considering the lateness of the season. 40 Red Caribbean Habañeros and 135 Thai Dragon chilies.

12-20: We had another frost last night, this time I'd call it a hard frost. There was 3/8ths of an inch of ice in the birdbath this morning. That's a lot of ice. Still, there is no discernable frost damage on either the leaves or the fruit of the chili plants. For a crop that is grown in the tropics and hot climates, it is very cold resistant!

12-22: OK, last night's frost did some damage. A number of bushes were showing damage on their tender growing leaves. Both Habañero and Thai chili bushes were affected. The tomatoes in comparison were almost wiped out. I have not seen any damage to any chili fruit yet, so I'm crossing my fingers and leaving them on the bushes. It is supposed to warm up a bit over the next few days.

12-25: Merry Christmas! To all those who envy me for the late growing season I've been enjoying, you can rest assured that the Habañeros have come to an end for the season. I harvested the last 74 Caribbean Red Habañeros from them today and sometime next week I'll be cutting the bushes down. Time, the repeated frosts and the mystery pests have all taken their toll. There is no fruit to speak of remaining on the plants and the leaves are cascading from the bushes. All told, I harvested 2,041 Habañeros! That is a LOT. They sell them in packages of about 10 for a buck fifty so that gives my Habañero harvest a street value of about 305 Dollars American. A packet of seeds costs about 3 bucks, a bag of mulch 5 bucks, a bag of manure 5 bucks, a box of Miracle Grow 5 bucks, a bag of Ironite about 3 bucks... that gives me a profit of 285 dollars. Now if you subtract my wages... crap, I owe me money! But hey, it's a labor of love and you can't put a price on love! Plus think of all my friends who get their mouths flambeaued, how can you put a price on your friends writhing in pain?

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January 2007

1-1: Happy New Year! While most of you schlubs are buried in snow with icicles growing off your noses and hoses, I'm here on the edge of the Mojave desert surrounded by blooming flowers, tweeting birds and flying insects. Although the Caribbean Red Habañeros are now officially exhausted, the Thai Dragon chilies are still producing albeit at a reduced rate. Today I harvested 98 murderously hot Thai chilies and set them to dry in the oven.

1-7: 15 habs, 162 Thai

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