My actual cactus garden is up the road a little bit and is full of all sorts of prickly things.
Your corner patch look like it is holding up well for being in zone 4b, -20, -25 freezes, so the drooping / redness (stress) should be expected. I would absolutely use it as an excuse to build a heated greenhouse and up pot some pads, or build a cold frame off the corner of the porch! I'm in zone 8a to 9a, I usually bring everything inside before the first frost, and it all goes back outside around the last frost. (Late November to mid-March.) I'm working on building a greenhouse specifically for cactus right now, so I don't have to drag them a quarter mile on a little wagon anymore. (A few years of this will burn just about anyone out!)
I've tried growing bell peppers in central TX east of Austin. I got a few racket ball sized bells, at most. My chocolate bell plants get attacked by pests really bad too, while hot or mild pepper plants don't.
A neighbor of mines that's very well known in Texas organic vegetable growing tells me that our night time temperature is too hot, during the growing season, to grow large peppers. They rely on the corno di toro, an Italian frying type pepper, as their sweet pepper. It is kinda long, but not wide. Maybe it's tough to develop wide peppers in our temperature range?
Last year I grew about a dozen different peppers. All the small and mid size hot peppers did very well. I tried the cajun belle for the first time, and it did ok. It is a very mildly spicy small bell pepper. The pimento type did decent too, but that another with a little bit of spice.
The largest pepper that did well here this year is an Anaheim type, the Numex Joe E. Parker, I think. It was 6 to 7 inches long and about 1.5 inches wide. Again, another not totally in the sweet category.
This year I'm going to try a sweet pepper from Seed Savers Exchange called Apple. They're 3" long cone shaped sweet peppers. They have a broader shoulder than a jalopeno.
I also wonder if I don't have enough phosphorous or potassium to match nitrogen levels. I've read that one of those can affect pepper size.
I have piles of hay that have been sitting in a barn for years, but which has also been inhabited by many creatures. Is there a safety/health issue in mulching with hay that can potentially have old/non-decomposed feces in it?
I know the topic is nearing a year old but I've been waiting a good while now to give a better update on my agro-forestry experiments. Nearly all of the trees have come back from winter, about half were late coming out of dormancy and ended up only growing ~3Ft while the early returns have grown 13-15Feet. They do not provide much in the way of shade due to spacing but each year they should reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation and the intensity of the sunlight more and more. I need to remove the power-line over my garden since the trees will interfere with it by next year, the small water well will be on solar by spring... I hope. They survived the ridiculous flood back in April, lost my dog fence, hugelkultur bed, etc, to it. The trees are very fragile so I'm wondering how a full grown tree will hold up to storms. I need to invest in a good contractors ladder so I can keep the tops cut off, I can't really pull the trees over and pinch them anymore without the risk of breaking the plant. The ones I haven't really been pinching branches off of have flowers on them so we will see where that goes. Pinching the branches and tops off the trees seems to stop the trees from flowering.
I bought some Banana spouts back in spring, Gold Finger, and something I don't recall, and they have grown so well in my area that I'm going to run another agro-forestry experiment with them. The banana plants have been very easy to trim up since its moving into fall/winter, wind damage and a little edge rust on old leaves are the only problems they seem to have here in Texas (8b). One plant casts a good shadow and I'm thinking they will work great for controlled shade if planted in a row. Commercial spacing seems to be 8-12Ft but I may space 12-14 so the plants have extra room to grow root mats. Its 15-20Ft down to water and the soil is very sandy, I've spread about three hay bales between my two gardens and the sandy dirt just disintegrates it! Even wood chips vanish after 1-2 years!
So far nothing seems to be hurting for nutrients under and around the two trees I have right now but I'm also mulching with old Johnson grass(cattle hay), leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, rotten oak bark, worm casting / seed mix, and anything else I can get my hands on. No, I don't have any problems with Johnson grass taking over, when I find it sprouting I pull it up and compost it. The hay is so old most of the seeds aren't viable anymore anyway and the ones that are viable are buried under the mulch.
I have around a dozen Dwarf Moringas in my little greenhouse there to the left (out of view) that I can plant between the banana plants if shade is inadequate due to required spacing. The flood also washed a Moringa root off to the end of my other garden and its growing, otherwise I planted it there when I dumped a pot out or something and I don't recall. Also pictured, my first banana sucker that, so far, hasn't rotted, its even growing a new leaf! Gold finger!
All the news paper is cleaned up, no intentions of trying that again! Sorry for all the broken links, I kinda deleted the pictures from my dropbox, HA!.
I'm also removing my raspberry cabling except for the end row and going back to hog/cattle panels, they worked significantly better. The new cable setup will be on the end posts so I can drape shade cloth over until my Moringa trees get bigger. I'm expecting they will freeze back every year.
Yes, but we do it late(r). We have two large breed dogs. Our female was spayed at 18 months, and our male at 9 months (they are 3 years apart--no risk of unintended puppies). With the male, we did it so much earlier because we wanted to head off marking and mounting instincts. Maybe not an ideal reason or timing, but I'm being honest. We don't attempt to train instincts out of animals. I know opinions on the alternative we chose will vary. Generally, I view sterilization as an unnatural, but eventual necessity. I felt bad for both of them, but we are not prepared or equipped to handle litters in any respect. I know here the rescues sterilize ASAP, even if it means opening up the males to get the undescended bits. I typically hear it "should" be done before 5 months.
As for the larger over-breeding/sterilizing question, we don't participate in that picture because the search goes like this: select breed, select breeder, select pairing, select puppy. We also recognize that we are buying a dog in puppy form, and buying it for life. So we give consideration to whether we want and can accommodate said dog for said life. For example, can we give a Lab frequent access to water to play in? Or enough stimulation and affection to prevent a Boxer from getting bored or lonely? Do we have something for a sheep dog to herd? Do we have little kids that make getting a prey-driven dog a bad idea? It's much more than just food and vet bills. I feel that how and why we acquire companion or working dogs has as much to do with the breeding and sterilization issue as whether or when to sterilize.
Cedar and other growth inhibiting plants may cause issues but usually require being tilled into the soil, can't say for sure if any plants are poisonous. I used regular grass clippings from the lawn to cover up my moringas for the winter, the only green parts left are below the height of the grass where the bugs, snails, and frost can't get at them. They all look like dead sticks but should sprout back up in the spring from the green part/root ball thing. The plants in pots are a different story, tiny dead sticks but barely alive at the soil level.
I encourage king snakes and blacksnakes around here as both kill and eat venomous snakes. Blacksnakes will occasionally raid the chicken house for eggs, but I don't mind a few lost eggs in return for no rattlesnakes or copperheads.
Nick, great looking rocks there. I go for stonework, too. The only thing I can think of is if this works, and you solidify the rocks, (which I think eventually is a good idea) leave the ends not solidified so you can add on. You may find you want the whole thing in the shape of a big circle, (sort of a Permaculture shape) or wider, unless your space is limited.
I've found that space between stones collect snails and slugs, just keep an eye out for them. Several smaller beds, unless you are doing some kind of a design, can have a space between them that if planted with plants gives shade for the snails to not only be in the rocks, but hang out in between the beds, and have safe cover to go back and forth, lay eggs, etc.
I was using cinder blocks to grow strawberries, the snails were in love with the cinder blocks. I had to make one straight line of them to get rid of hiding places. I liked the look of 3 areas of cinder blocks, but it was just too much work going after the snails.
I used the wire panels at first because I had never got around to looking up the cable system. I'm thinking about using them now due to the tropical storm and we are going into El Nino (wet summers), the wind ripped up just about everything except my raspberries which were secured to the panels and couldn't move much. A cable system would give me a wider growing row so I'll have to sit out there and think on it for a while.
Problem with that is you are taxing the product, which is a poor surrogate for taxing directly the water usage.
If every form of agriculture faced a flat rate usage tax on the water then you would quickly see the farmers shift to practices which minimise their tax burden. Wastage of water is not solely the preserve of the organic farmer.