Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back at the Ranch: Pepper Harvest

Chiles Serrano and Bell Peppers © Tyler Storey

Peppers and chiles are gratifyingly tough plants in the Desert Garden. For weeks after the tomato plants are protesting the heat and the intense Summer sun, pepper plants — given adequate irrigation — continue to put out and maintain fresh green growth. The fruits themselves may need a little more care.

One of the questions I hear with great frequency this time of year is: "Why do my peppers (or chiles) have light tan patches on them? What can I spray on them?"

No spraying necessary.

Those light tan patches, usually sunken, and sometimes slightly soft, are sun-scald. They form in areas where the fruit is subject to intense mid-day sun. If you look carefully, you'll find that they appear almost exclusively on the top or West side of an individual fruit, and in a place where there's a break in the foliage cover.

If you catch the fruit early, you can go ahead and eat it; just cut out the tan area. If you wait too long, you'll find that rot will set in and render the fruit inedible, but keep in mind that the rot is secondary to the scald and not the cause.

To prevent sun scald, keep your pepper and chile plants well-irrigated so they continue to form leafy canopy growth to shade the fruit. If you see scald anyway, construct a light frame over the plants and drape it with light shade cloth to block the most intense sun from overhead and the West. Be certain the frame is well-anchored in the soil and the cloth is well-attached; sudden monsoon winds can — and will — send your frame and cloth flying.


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