Something sprouting

27 06 2017

The blog was lying dormant, like a seed still in the package. I think a new post idea was planted and will be sprouting soon…….

Breaking Bad – in the garden

18 05 2014


bb_waltJesse Pinkman, I see you have a small time pepper operation, growing some jalapenos and poblanos.

I have an offer for you. I will grow up some of the hottest peppers in town, and you will help distribute them.

Yo, Mr White. My peppers are already the hottest. I use them to make chili powder, yeah, b!+ch.bb_jesse

bb_waltJesse, your product can barely produce medium salsa. You forgot your Chemistry already. Capsaicin is what you need!

bb_jesseYo Mr. White, yo. My product is hot, b!+ch, yo.





Jesse, be reasonable. your product barely reaches 8000 Scoville units of heat. What I am talking about is so much more. For instance, Bolivian white peppers- 10,000 to 30,000. Fatalii- 125,000 to 325,000. Habanero- 150 – 325,000 Scoville units. The Ghost pepper and the Trinidad Scorpion pepper- 800,000 to 1 million Scoville units of heat! One of these peppers has more heat than a tub of yours.

bb_jesseMr. White, yo. I like making cherry product, yo.




bb_waltOur business will be the Pimiento Picante Hermanos. But first we need to grow the plants. Seeds should be started a good 8 to 12 weeks before setting outside. Keep the seeds warm to aid in germination. A seed mat helps. And when deciding on planting dates, don’t forget that hot peppers are warm weather crop. Transplanting in March in zone 6 will give you plenty of dead transplants.

So you do have a plan? Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!



We plant them in a sunny spot, about 1 ½ to 2 feet apart. I know to plant in fertile soil with good drainage. The soil should average 60 degrees in temperature before planting. I like to extend the season by starting them under a mini hoop house or greenhouse. Place a cardboard or aluminum collar around the plants to help prevent cutworms. While maturity dates vary, we should expect to harvest some peppers about 90 days after transplant. And harvest we will…

scorpion pepper transplant

scorpion pepper transplant


fatalii pepper transplant

—– Intermission ——-

This is a public service message. Wear protective gear when harvesting hot peppers. Please. Let me relay an experience I had handling jalapeno peppers one summer. I failed to wear gloves while halving the peppers for homemade jalapeno poppers. After food prep, I washed my hands thoroughly. Twice. A trip to the restroom demonstrated how wrong I was. To quote Jerry Lee Lewis- “Goodness, gracious! Great balls of fire!!!” The fire down below lasted for hours. I washed my hands several more times. Washing proved ineffective when I took out my contacts. Pow!! I inadvertently launched fire missiles into my eyes. I had to scrap that pair of contacts. Note that we are growing something a little more potent than jalapenos. End of message.

—— End ——

Walt and Jesse put on the protective gear to harvest the hot peppers

Walt and Jesse put on the protective gear to harvest the hot peppers

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Breaking Bad: In the garden. Comments and fan mail are always appreciated.

Winter Salad

31 12 2013

Happy New Year everybody! Real life put the blog on pause, but the start of another year is a great time to revisit good things. Resolutions, anybody? There are the usual, like working out, eating healthy… Perhaps I should eat a freshly picked salad.

What do you mean by “freshly picked”, Dave? Pennsylvania is a bit cold to garden in January. Unless you misspelled “pickled”. Happy New Years Eve! Have you been drinking?

OK, two things. First, I’m not drinking… yet. And, I’m not picking salad… yet. But I will be picking a bowl full of salad in January.

Remember the far out grow lights I posted about earlier? They are being put to good use. A few weeks ago, I started some mesclun and lettuce seeds. That is not a typo. That should not say “mescaline”. Tell people you have a grow light and God knows what ideas they get.

sprouts to transplant

sprouts to transplant

Mesclun, for those that do not know, is a mixture of several different types of salad greens and leaf lettuces. They are often harvested when young. I transplanted the seedlings last week. We learned our lesson from last year and assured the planting medium and neighboring plants are not contaminated with aphids. Note that you should plant additional seeds every 2-3 weeks to ensure continuous harvest.

The lights are on for approximately 16 hours a day. I am watering frequently, but also setting up a fan to provide seedlings with a breeze. The purpose is two-fold. A gentle breeze strengthens the stems of growing plants. In addition, the breeze helps prevent damping off.

new sprouts for 2 week planting intervals

new sprouts for 2 week planting intervals

What is damping off? It sounds like an old dish rag. Damping off is actually a fungal disease that kills off seedlings before they get a chance to grow. We want to keep our plants happy. We don’t want to end up with an angry salad…

transplanted lettuce

transplanted lettuce

Off topic– I saw a band perform at a (Penn State?) bar back in the 90’s. The memory is cloudy, so I don’t remember the venue. Further, I don’t recall much about the performance. I do remember the name of the band– they called themselves Angry Salad. They also had the funniest, most memorable band sticker I have ever seen. The sticker had a picture of a full salad bowl, with two human hands sticking out, flipping the bird at everybody.

Angry salad

Artist’s depiction of the old Angry Salad sticker. (Censored for a gentler audience.)

Back to the growing lettuce mix. Everybody should make a resolution to plant a few seeds indoors this winter. You’ll be glad you did.

Grow lamps in the Basement… Dude!!

30 03 2013

Just the other weekend I modified the grow lights I have in the basement to better distribute light for my seedlings.


Seedlings in the basement? What exactly are you up to, mister? What is really growing in that basement of yours? Isn’t that stuff illegal?


Two things- No, I don’t live in Colorado. And everything I grow in the basement, from flowers to vegetables, is all legal. None of that wacky vegetation for me.



Friends are eager to help out when you mention basement grow lamps

It’s important that your seedlings get sufficient light before you transplant outdoors. The proper illumination will ensure your plants get a good start, strong and not spindly. You can buy your own lighting system, but where is the fun in that? I built a variation of a CFL grow light I found on the net.



But before putting the parts list together, it’s important to to watch a Cheech and Chong movie and eat a few bags of Doritos….


There, much better. On to the parts list for the original light:


One 2 foot section of dryer vent

One lamp cord with plug (I used an extension cord)

Two ¼ inch, 1 foot long threaded posts

Eight nuts to fit the threaded posts

One mountable light socket

2 anchors to mount socket

Three Y-shaped socket splitters

Chain for mounting


Now put on that tie dye t-shirt and turn on the Grateful Dead. It’s project time.


Let’s refer to the colorful diagram below. The one that looks like I was on drugs when I drew it. Does Advil count? (The only joints I worry about are my aching knees.)


Refer to these to build your lights


Step 1 – measure out the places to drill the holes. ¼ inch holes go in 5 places: the very center of the duct work, and at each of the corners. The corner holes should be at least 1 inch from the side edge, and 1 inch from the bottom edge. The red X in the picture marks the spot for the ¼ inch holes. Drill the holes in the designated locations [diag A]


Step 2 – use the light socket to measure out the smaller holes (1/8 inch with the orange X); drill accordingly


Step 3 – Douse yourself in patchouli and go to a Phish concert


Step 4 – Thread nuts onto each side of the threaded posts. [B] Insert the posts through the corner holes. [C] Thread a nut on each side of the post to secure to the dryer vent [B]


Step 5 – Strip down to your birthday suit and play the bongos as loud as you can. (Special credit to Matthew Mcconaughey for thinking up that one )


Step 6 – Build a flux capacitor [D]. Go back in time and meet your parents. Hilarity ensues.



Step 6b – Feed the ‘blue’ lamp cord through the hole you drilled in step 1, leaving enough cord to connect to ‘brown’ light socket. [D] Attach the socket to the vent using the ‘gray’ anchors. [D,E]


Step 7 – Attach the wires to the light socket [E]


Step 8 – Bake some brownies. Eat them. Take a nap.


Step 9 – I think there were two… Uh, two… What were we talking about?? Oh yeah, grow lights.


Step 10 – Connect a Y splitter to the socket. Screw 2 Y splitters into the two sides of the first one. The final result is 4 sockets. [D]


Step 11 – Screw CFL bulbs into the sockets. [D]


Step 12 – Attach Chain [F] and hang your new lamp.


Step 13 – Admire your handiwork.


Step 14 – Grow things.


The reworked lamps differ from the plans shown, but they give you an idea of what the final result looks like.


Jack and the beanstalks

28 09 2012

A special greeting to Uncle Jack, who helped publicize my blog in Western Pennsylvania. Technically he’s not my uncle, but that’s how we refer to him when we mention him to the kids. Is there such a thing as an uncle in law? He’s a great guy, much funnier than me. Anyway, I was pointing out the beanstalks to Jack when he was visiting the other week. “What beanstalks?” you may ask. Well, I saw a picture of a playhouse that somebody made using vining flowers and decided to rip off pay tribute to the idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have a play house for my daughter made out of plants?

Of course, the plant of choice was the dream plant of every little girl- Beans! And not just because I needed a place to plant them this year. That too, but this was really a fun project for her. Really, it was. She could play and have a healthy snack at the same time. And the family could eat the extras. The final result turned out pretty well, if on the tiny side. There are only so many children that can fit in a 4 square foot teepee. It will have to be much bigger next year. I need some beans for freezing, er, I mean that she needs more room to play with her friends. Thinking maybe a tunnel next year, or a lean to. Maybe a Cape Cod. Split Level? Those were really good beans. Freshly steamed, lightly seasoned. Mmmm, beans. That was one delicious playhouse.

beanstalk play house

Any suggestions for other plants to add to the playhouse next year? Send me a note…

Artichoke update

18 08 2012

Just a quick update- One out of the three plants that spent time in the fridge is producing artichokes.  Check out the picture. Now I just need to figure out how to prepare fresh ones. Suggestions anybody?

picture of an artichoke

Artichoke is ready to pick