Late Season Peppers

The beauty of your own pepper garden. Ours is on its last legs, but these came out last week. Check out the colors on these as they range from hot, to oh my god hot. Our pepper garden is 6'x6' on the side of our driveway hiding behind our lemon tree. We jammed over 40 starts in that area and have been rewarded all summer with fresh peppers ranging from bell to jalapeno. Urban Gardening at its best.

An Incredible Urban Herb Garden

Just a short note to pay homage to one of the incredible herb gardens. It has survived 100+ degrees this summer in direct sunlight. Now it did get watered twice a day and pampered by Mrs. Thumb who dearly loves to cook with fresh herbs.

This particular spot is about 5'x 3' and we planted sunflowers and pole beans at the very back against the wall.. The sunflowers are long gone now, but did there job providing shade during the heat of summer. Look close and you will see six, yup count them six herbs getting long in the tooth but still proving money saving, fresh produce. Let me name all six: Italian Parsley, regular Parsley, Oregano, Sweet Basil, Perennial Basil, in the background with purple flowers, and Cinnamon Basil in the foreground with purple flowers. That is the meaning of Urban Gardening.

For those of you that don't know what this flowering plant is, it is an herb called Cilantro. We started these from seeds and transplanted them between the tomatoes, that were shaded by, you guessed it, Giant Sunflowers. Not only are the sunflowers long gone, but so are the tomatoes, leaving this lonely little Cilantro plant left. It is late in the year for our garden, but to watch the last remnants is fun, and reflects the layering that goes into Urban Gardens.

2009 Highlights

We always try a few new variety's, usually from starts but sometimes from seed. This year was no exception and the results were great. The first crop is always radish's and we planted the traditional Cherry Belle, and a new one called Watermelon Radish. They are slower to mature and develop a much larger top, but what a pleasant surprise when you harvest them. A mild radish heat and typical texture, but with a 2" to 3" diameter and an interior color you won't believe. ***** Stars

These are officially called Armenian Cucumbers. We grew these from seed in morning sun mixed with regular pickling cucumbers and pole beans. We actually forgot about them as the plants grew and mixed in perfectly with the other cuc's. When we discovered them, they were already from 16" to 24" long and 2" to 3" diameters with a nice pale green color. We peeled and sliced them to eat raw with a mild to sweet taste and a little more crunch then regular cucumbers. ***** Stars.

New to our garden was a Crookneck Squash. Planted a single start in full sun by itself that grew rapidly into a huge 5' diameter plant. We did spay this plant for aphids as it had it's own Eco-system inside all the huge leaves. We were also careful not to spray the entire plant, but watered a lot at the base of the plant. The effort was worth it as it produced at least 100 of these nice sized squash. From barbecued to stuffed and baked or eaten raw these were great. This plant did require some extra work with watering and bugs. **** Star

The rest of this years Urban Garden was for the most part standard vegetables and herbs that we are familiar with. With limited space it's best to utilize your areas with the regular old standby's you can count on and calculate what your crop size will be.

The Herb Garden

Well, it's late in the year for this urban garden. The tomatoes, squash, beans, zucchini, are all done and mostly have been removed from the garden. There are a few things still hanging in there, but the herbs are the bright spot. If you look close there is five different herbs in a small 3'x3' area that gets full morning sun. This little area includes Basil, Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, and Oregano. Basic herbs to grow for a healthy diet.

Middle Eastern Cucumbers

These are a little different in looks, taste, and texture from conventional cucumbers. This is our first time growing these and would highly recommend them. No problem with the plants, awesome texture, mild cucumber flavor, with very small seeds. On a five star rating system with five being the best, we would give these a five.

We planted them from seed in a very small 4'x1.5' planter in the front yard with direct morning sun. It is amazing what will grow out a very small piece of dirt in an urban garden setting as long as that dirt is very enriched with fertilizers and nutrients.
They were hiding in the foliage of beans, peas, herbs, and pickling cucumbers, as well as some herbs Mrs Thumb planted on the right hand side.

The Last Batch

A nice bunch of ripe tomatoes that are going to be turned into stewed tomatoes. The bowl in front is all Romas. If you have never grown them, they are real meaty and flavorful. They develop into a larger plant and seem to take longer to mature then most of the other varieties. Also notice the oblong shape to these. There is a few Lemon Boys left that are a low acid variety and really good eating. The two bowls in the back are just a mixture of Celebrity, Champion, and Beefsteak.

We didn't grow any exotic varieties this year. Just the regular standbys and they came through with over 800 tomatoes. A huge crop for a small urban garden.

Peppers in a Pot

I planted three un-known pepper starts in this rather shallow pot just for kicks. There is a bunch of small peppers developing, and the plants seem to be healthy, but it is like they are dwarfs. The dirt is potting soil, so I am guessing they need more nutrients to really develop into full size plants.

The little peppers are yellow and some on the other side are green.

A Tired Garden

Looking out from the back deck you can see the giant sunflowers are starting to give into the heat and bow down. The entire tomato garden has stopped growing and seems to be putting their energy into the remaining fruit. I don't know how many pounds we have taken out of these plants but my guess would be around 175 with another 50 pounds still on the plants.

The pickle/cucumber plants are really slowing down also. Although there is still a bunch hiding in the foliage. This was our best year ever with this type of crop. We always grew enough to eat but the plants always ended up moldy and were never really healthy.

The sunflowers always look sad to me when they have matured. They served their purpose providing shade, and if you look close you can see the healthy bean plants behind this giant sunflower. It won't be long and the birds and squirrels will be eating the seeds.

Here is the mighty crookneck squash. Definitely an incredible plant that surprised us with the amount of squash it would provide. The 100 degree heat and old age is starting to get the best of this plant now. Look closely at the bottom right hand side and you will see it is still cranking out squash. Mrs. Thumb made 24 large loafs and 12 small loafs of bread, 6 pints of pickles, as all we could eat this summer. This plant produced more food then any other plant in the garden this year....hands down.

Basket of Peppers

Mrs. Thumb has been so busy canning tomatoes and making pickles out of the of cucumbers, that we neglected the peppers. This morning we took a look, and this is about half of what could be picked. This is a good sized basket and has Bells in green, yellow, and chocolate. Also Hungarian, Anaheim, and yellow chilies. The two white ones are Japanese White Eggplant. If you look closely on the right side you can see a strange looking creature.

This is the first time growing a Japanese white eggplant. We planted two on the outside of the pepper garden and I'm not sure that was the best place with the proper PH level. They have a nice milky color and I'll do a post on the flavor and texture after we cook them.

Strange Looking Tomato Bug

A strange looking creature caught at night sitting in the bowl of cherry tomatoes.

This little bug has revealed his name, but seems to have affected a couple of the pickles by turning them a funny yellow color. Seriously, we have never found any other cucumbers or pickles this color. I don't know if its just an anomaly or if we somehow planted some hybrid without knowing it.

Check Out These Colors

We like to try different varieties every year. Some work out and some don't but nothing ventured nothing gained. (my Dad told me that) We always try to grow some yellow tomato's but this is a Lemon Boy Tomato that isn't producing a lot, but enough to eat. It has a great color with a thin skin and the flavor is really mild.

The bell pepper is call a Chocolate Bell and this is the first one out of the garden. It feels and looks just like a bell pepper with a nice dark brown color.

The Watermelon Radish (cut in half) is about 2-3" in diameter with a mild radish taste. The texture is the same as any radish and we have not had any pithy or bug problems at all.

The bright red pepper is a jalapeno (usually green) that was on the plant to long. It doesn't seen to hurt the flavor or texture at all.

The fun of gardening for us is not only all the great food but trying something new every year. We would find room in the garden for all these variety's next year.

Tomato Update

Mrs. Thumb picked a bunch of tomato's today and we wanted to show what we call sun spots versus nice ripe tomatoes. The three on the left were exposed to direct sun and you can see the damage that was done. Remember it gets over 100 degrees here and this damage isn't caused from lack of water, they are just burned from the sun. The three tomato's on the right were either in partial shade from the sunflowers or the tomato plant it's self. We cut the bad spots off the damaged tomatoes and use what we can. Double click the picture for a better view.

Here's a picture of the sunflowers towering over the tomato plants. The two tallest are over 10' and as the sun gets higher they start providing a little shade.

This picture is just to the right of the sunflowers and you can see the baseball sized tomatoes starting to ripen up.

One of my favorites is the Sweet 100 Cherry and they are starting to ripen up also. This amazing plant is still producing new clusters.

DRUM ROLL......ripe tomatoes on 7/2/09....before the 4th of July.

We are within days of getting more ripe tomatoes then we are going to be able to handle.

The plants look great and there is a lot of tomatoes. It appears they are just about ready to start turning color. This is a nice cluster of Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes.
Another nice looking cluster of Cherry Tomatoes.
I am not sure but I think these are Beefsteak Tomatoes. They look so nice in the morning sun.
There are hundreds of tomatoes hidden in the folige.

Update-More Then We Can Eat

We have never in ten years of gardening had such a tremendous amount of food to try and keep up with. The pile of pickles on the left side of the picture is going into pint jars tonight and the tomatoes are going to be cooked down tomorrow for chicken wing sauce. Mrs. Thumb has made over 25 loafs of zucchini and squash bread so far that are in the freezer, and six half pints of strawberry jam. Check out the monster zucchini (10lbs plus) in the middle of the picture that was hiding in the garden.

A really nice example of the amount of food you can grow in a small urban setting. One zucchini plant, one squash plant, and twenty different tomato plants jammed together. Double click the picture and you might notice some small Roma's with the Cherry's in the small basket. This is approximately 50lbs of squash, tomato's, and zucchini.


Ever had the urge to eat a pickle. Well Mrs. Thumb had a huge two quart jar and found a cucumber hiding under all the bean and cucumber leaves. Here you have it a pickle in a two quart jar. Double click the picture to see this giant up close.

This is one plant we never had great success with. We always managed to get some cucumbers but the plants would develop some kind of leaf mold. This year the plants seem to be developing a little slow but they are very healthy and nice looking plants. Today (7/2/09) we found four nice size cucumbers worth about a buck a piece in our grocery stores.

Mrs. Thumb planted four hills of bush cucumbers on the side of the house with nothing but morning sun. If you double click the picture, you will notice some dark green zucchini leaves on the left, in the back some pole beans, and on the right is the prized dill patch.

This is a pickling cucumber we think. It some how got started in with a patch of pole beans. On the left it has started climbing up a trellis. It's also taking over some parsley and bush peas. We decided to just let this one have its way and go where ever it wants. To us, its not to have law and order in the garden but to have fun with it and get a lot of veggies.

For You Meat Lovers

Couldn't resist taking a shot of this bird on the rotisserie. It was Sunday afternoon (7/5/09)in the back yard. Mrs. Thumb marinated this fat little hen in lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, cracked pepper, and kosher salt. A big sprinkle of Penzeys 300 and about 2 hours later, here she is done and ready for slicing.

This family not only loves fresh veggies, but a big chunk of red meat is welcome on the grill also. We got our hands on a nice prime rib and couldn't resist using the rotisserie. Double click the picture to see a fine piece of beef.
A mixture of cracked black pepper, kosher salt, fresh thyme, and 6-8 garlic cloves get ground to a paste and applied to the meat. We used a meat thermometer and cooked until we had an inner temp of 140 degrees. Took off the grill, wrapped in tinfoil and let stand for about 10-15 minutes. Double click the picture and see if that doesn't make your mouth water. Prime rib on the barbie, a truly religious experience.

Pressure Caner Update

Here we have a progression from "itty bitty" to really big, from left to right is a quarter pint of Ortega Chillies, half pint of strawberry jam, pint of pickled mixed vegetables, quart of bread and butter pickles, and a huge two quart dill pickle. Yup, one huge pickle!

Happy 4th of July

We are hanging out inside the house as it is about 100 degrees outside. Nothing to real earth moving to post, but we did find four nice sized squash hiding at the back of the plant. The crookneck is starting to decline, and is desperately trying to send out squash to seed. It is definitely on the downhill side. We wish everyone a really nice safe fourth.

All That Hard Work

7/2/09 What a day for The Urban Gardener. Double click this picture to see what can be grown in small areas. If you noticed the small cluster of grapes, that's the result of that darned Blossom the possum. Last year we had 2lb clusters of unbelievably good grapes. Well....I guess Blossom has to eat too.

The Pepper Garden

Today (7/2/09) we poked around in the peppers and found these, but there is hundreds more where these came from. Any suggestions out there?

We decided to improve on our pepper garden this year. It's a 6'x 6' area that gets morning and mid-afternoon sun. After testing the PH at 8.5 the girls at the Do-It Center recommended a couple bags of Azalea dirt to lower the PH. We also tossed in some Lilly Miller Aluminum Sulfate for kicks. Double click this picture to see over forty happy pepper plants.

Little baby green bells...Aren't they cute.

Some store bought tomato's but our peppers getting blistered for salsa.

And the end product. A quart of Mrs. Thumbs awesome salsa. Not because its hot but I think it has to do with roasted garlic. There has been fights over the last scoop of this stuff.


We feed the birds in the winter and they love pecking at the big sunflower heads.

They actually serve several purposes for us and the birds. They provide some much needed shade in the dead of summer but also act as support for the pole beans too. There seems to be a lot of variety's of sunflowers and these ones are about 5-6' tall, but the ones planted with the tomato's are over 8' tall.

Here you can see they are in front of a patch of pole beans growing up the trellis behind the sunflowers. There is herbs scattered all around the base of this bunch of sunflowers too.