Lenny L. of Tucson, AZ asks, “Come mid-July my pepper plants stopped producing, why?”
Pepper blossoms will drop off without setting fruit when the daytime temps start to reach over 90°Fahrenheit for any length of time (a common occurrence both in Tucson and in my garden in Central Texas). This also happens if the nighttime temps remain over 75°Fahrenheit for any length of time. Do not worry about this, as summer moves on in to fall your blossoms will not drop off and you will get a nice crop of peppers again.
Mary G. of Georgetown, TX asks, “I planted radishes in my garden as I always do. This year, unlike in my past gardens, my radishes were all tops only, no roots. Why could that be?”
The most likely cause of radishes that grow well on top of the soil but produce little or no root is that the plants got too much nitrogen. Another cause could be the lack of sun light; low light can often produce much growth on the tops as the greens try to gather as much of the sunlight as they can. This effort often uses all of the plants energy and leaves little energy to be used for root growth. Of course in radishes it is the root growth we are most often interested in!
Hap K. of Toronto, Canada, asks, “I have just moved to Canada from Atlanta. It got too hot to grow spinach in the summer in Georgia, but can I grow it in the Canadian Summer?”
The chances are that you can not, but give it a try, you never know! If you want to have spinach I suggest you try to grow New Zealand Spinach, it is not really a spinach at all but is a vigorous member of the carpetweed family that loves the heat and (when cooked) tastes just like spinach. Careful though, if you let it, it will happily take over your garden! Another good option, the one I choose for my garden is to grow Malabar Spinach (Basella alba or ruba, a redder variety) but again, it is actually not spinach at all. It's not even related! Well, OK, it's distantly related, but it doesn't taste much like spinach at all. When it's raw Malabar spinach has very fleshy, thick leaves that are juicy and crisp with tastes of citrus and pepper. When cooked, though, Malabar spinach does look and taste a lot more like regular spinach. It doesn't wilt as fast, though, and it holds up better in soups and stir-fries.
Laura I. of Manchaca, TX asks, “I’ve heard that you can eat squash blossoms, but how do you do this?”
Pick the male flowers only, (let the females grow to produce squash) pick them just before or as they are opening. Sautéed in butter or olive oil they are delicious! They can be eaten as is or stuffed with a meat or veggie stuffing. They can also be dipped in a batter and deep fried – dipped in ranch style dressing they are really amazing!
Kyle, H. of Columbus, OH asks, “My Dad always told me never to grow tomatoes, peppers or eggplant in the same place in my garden season after season. Why is that?”
This is old wisdom that is very useful, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are all nightshades and if you grow any nightshades in the same soil season after season you run the risk of spreading a disease called, Verticillium. It is a wilting disease that destroys your plants. To avoid this, you should rotate your crops regularly.
Notice that I said that they should not be grown in the same soil and I did not say anything about growing them in the same soil? I grow my nightshades in the same place in my garden for several years and then move them around a bit. Why? Because I do not grow them in the same soil – since I add tons of compost to my garden soil every year this means that the plants do not grow in the same soil season after season. I am not crazy though, so after a few growing seasons I move them around a bit – better safe than sorry!