Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peppers Need Sun

Well, duh. Every plant needs sun, of course, but peppers need lots of it. I never really thought about it that much, growing in a place where the water has to be delivered in little drips, through tubes that I had to bury or the water would get too hot. Apparently it's not uncommon up here in Zone Five to get very wet springs--in this case wet and cold. And peppers just don't like it. The peas and the lettuce are happy and productive (and delicious), but even the early jalapeno variety of pepper just could not get a handle on it. Not enough sun.

At first I thought it was the cold (nights often in the low 40's even in July, for Chrissake), and I had some plants in starter trays that I would bring in at night or in the rain. But even on cloudy days with no rain the slugs were out and hungry, and there goes a pepper plant... and another...

Ah, the learning curve.

We've had a few days of sun in a row, and the nights look like they're going to stay above 50 for a while now, so maybe at least these "cool weather jalapenos" (oxymoron?) will have a chance.

Even with the decimation, life finds a way. Lots of water, I've discovered, means lots of weeds (even with all the early weed killing I do using the lazy man's weeding method in early spring). But it also means nice soft soil, plenty of growth in wild berries and other foragables. Oh, and now plenty of insects! It was great when the lightning bugs were going at it every night, but now I'm seeing more results of wetness: mosquitoes and other hungry bugs eying the vegies. Having the birds around is helping keep the numbers lower than they would otherwise be, so good thing I've been feeding them all winter.

My empathetic agnostic friend has a great insect game he plays while gardening that he wrote about in his latest post, What is Heaven Like?

The heaven I have found is a place where everyone loves everyone. Other than that it is pretty much just like life here on earth. I envision a party with friends and at this party there is a game that we can play. We step into this closet or put on a virtual reality suit and we are “born” into this life. Just like with games as we know them here on earth we can play the game over and over and each time we get better at it. Before stepping into the game we can think about how we will play it. We may give ourself certain goals and pick a time and place to be born. Our friends on the other side can come into our game and be characters helping us, challenging us or testing us.

Here is an example of how it works.

I am an organic gardener and one of the things that takes up a fair amount of my time is chasing stripped cucumber beetles (CBs) on my squash plants. I have decided that the cucumber beetles are some of my friends from the party. They were hanging around the punch bowl watching me and…

CB 1 Let’s play hide and seek with Mort in the squash patch.

CB2 I’m game. Let’s make a side bet on who lasts the longest.

CB3 I know what I’m going to do. When he spots me I’m going to drop off the leaf.

CB1 Yeah, that works pretty well where he has mulch but he can spot you on the ground.

CB 2 I’m going to fly.

CB 4 How are you going to fly out of a blossom?

CB2 I’ll be on a leaf and keep my eye out for him.

CB 4 If I know you, you’ll be in a blossom screwing and when he comes along you will be oblivious. Your lady friend will probably start running and you won’t even get off her.

CB2 I guess you’re right. I’m not going to waste a life just hanging out. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he won’t see me.

This dialogue goes on as I mercilessly move down the row of squash plants picking off CBs, chasing those who drop onto the mulch and tunnel in, who drop and play dead or who drop and run. The blossoms will frequently have several mating couples making me think of a luridly painted yellow motel. Sometimes they will see me coming and watch me ready to fly if I move toward them. These I have learned to catch with a swift grab but others fly immediately and escape. This heaven I have invented helps me get through a job that might otherwise frustrate me perhaps to the point of anger. Instead of anger I am feeling playful and forgiving.

I've always wondered about you north easterners. But, hey, whatever gets you through the night beatles...