Monday, September 1, 2008

Soil Coverings

I've been looking at my chilies for a while now thinking I ought to pick the ripe ones. Today I finally got around to it. It really isn't as important that I pick them now. The rains are gone so they won't rot on the plant. In fact they would probably dry beautifully on the plant. But I like to string them. They decorate my kitchen until I use them. This string was much longer than the last. There were quite a few peppers to pick. The photo shows only half my plants.

I've been watching my peas slowly grow. I was hoping for snap peas, but I think that I have snowpeas once again. The first pea pod is almost ready to pick. And the second one (toward the bottom of the photo) is not far behind.

The big work of today's garden was ripping out the plastic under the peppers and tomatoes and planting the fall cover crop. With the lack of sun, they are all slowing down except those super chili peppers that will keep it up until they are truly frozen. Nothing stops those plants. But I think my garden will get more out of a cover crop than having plastic on the ground.

Plastic sucks as a ground cover in a lot of ways. It harbors slugs. They love to live under the plastic. The slug trail I mentioned a few days ago came from the plastic sheeting under the tomatoes and went to my beans and Asian greens.

It also seems to mess up my soil structure. The ants take up residence and turn the top into a fine powder that won't soak up water. The worms hate the over heated soil and go away. So why do I use it? Well it helps prevent blight in our blight ridden corner of the world. Blight is transmitted by soil splashing up on the leaves. If you prevent that you can prevent blight. You can also do it by putting on a very thick mulch, but tomatoes like heat. Mulch keeps the soil cool and the plants don't grow as well.

Now that the tomato season is winding down, I want to fix my soil before the salad crops get rotated in next year. A cover crop is a great way to do this. My cover crop is a mix of hairy vetch and oats. I inoculate the vetch before seeding it. It uses the same inoculant as peas. I could probably get away without this. I didn't inoculate my peas this spring and they still set nodules on their roots. I think that the Rhizobia bacteria is in my soil already. As long as you have wet soil it will live for a long time. But I still like to make sure, so I inoculated them. And while I was doing cover crops, I seeded some in the summer squash area. The plants have wandered out of their beds and the old leaves have died. The soil is bare, but not for long.


  1. I did not know that the slugs like to hide out in the black plastic. Too bad it doesn't bake them!

    I am also planning on starting some hairy vetch as a cover crop here soon.

  2. Those peppers look very good and spicy. What will you do with them?

    Hmm, interesting about the plastic cover tip.

    Is it cold where you live? It's still summer weather here.

  3. If you do your plastic correctly they don't. The edges are all buried under the dirt. But I use a 4' wide plastic and my beds are 4' wide and I have nothing left to bury. And they love the moist protected environment. I had a nice slug killing fest as I removed the plastic.

    It is getting cooler here. Currently we are in the mid 70Fs and around 60F at night. Very pleasant weather. But by the end of the month it will be in the mid 60s and the lows will be in the mid 40s, past good tomato weather especially since the plants are all in shade by then. This will give the cover crop a good month to sprout and grow. It won't be big enough to take much water and nutrients from the tomatoes and peppers for a while yet and I want the oats to get a good start. They die over the winter around here (zone 6b). I think they are hardy until around 20F. I want them to get enough growth to make a good protective mulch before they die.

  4. Those chiles are gorgeous. I love making ristras myslef, I have been doing that with our cayennes as they ripen. What type of chiles are these? I am a pepper and spice fantatic, so I am always concerned that there are good peppers out ther that I don't know about and need to grow. ;-)

    The snowpea looks gorgeous! And that other little guy appears to be moving along nicely as well.

    Thank you for the information about the blight! I'm a newbie gardener and did not know that. Very interesting.

  5. They are a hybrid called Super Chili. I treat them like cayenne when I cook, though I think they are only 20,000 shu. So about half of cayenne.