Peppers - From Sweet to Fiery
Peppers are among the most pesticide-ridden foods according to the Environmental Working Group, so they are always high on my priority list for growing in my own garden. Peppers, however, can seem like a complicated clan once you delve deeper into them beyond "hot" and "sweet." If you would like to know more about the different types of peppers, plus climatic requirements, seed and seedling care, transplanting tips, fertility, irrigation, and plant supports, then download the PDF Peppers - From Fiery to Sweet at escholarship. The 6-page paper was written by Orin Martin, manager of Alan Chadwick Garden at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz. While you're at the website, also click on the "For the Gardener Series" for links to other useful papers on various aspects of the vegetable garden.
Favorite or New Plant
Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica), is a shrub that has been used in gardens long enough to often be referred to as "old-fashioned," yet it's bright flowers and ease of growth make it perfect for today's gardens. Michael Dirr writes of it, "Its tenacious constitution allows it to thrive where other plants disappear." Kerria grows as a somewhat rounded shrub, reaching 5 to 6 feet tall and wide. Both the stems and leaves are bright green. For three to four weeks in April and May the plant is covered in 1- to 2-inch wide, bright yellow flowers. As summer progresses, a few more flowers are produced. The flower color holds best when kerria is grown in partial shade in Zones 4 - 9. If it becomes unkempt or overgrown, just cut it to the ground. The biggest fault of kerria is that it does spread by runners, so give it plenty of room or site it where you can mow or string-trim around it. The species has single flowers with five petals. The variety 'Golden Guinea' bears larger-than-normal flowers. Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' has double flowers.