The heat and dry of August have set in. It’s the beginning of “fire season”, a weather pattern that will stick with us until Autumn finally wrestles control from summer sometime in mid-October.
This kind of dry, intense desert heat sucks the life out of the vegetable garden and makes us pick most of what’s ripe or nearly ripe — tomatoes, squash, corn, onions, and, of course, sweet peppers — before the sun fries them on the branch.
In this heat the tomatoes stop flowering. The spring determinates are about done anyway, but the indeterminates, especially the little cherry and the big beefsteak, will make one more run at fruit. We’ll probably see flowers again in late September when the nights are longer, cooler and can offset some of the daytime heat.
The pumpkins and winter squash will ride it out, wilting by day and doing all their growing at night.
It’s About Those Pepper
The peppers, on the other hand, are a crap shoot. The hot peppers (my Hidden Lake Cayenne/Thai cross) will get through as long as I remember to water and the ants don’t overwhelm them with their aphid herds. In fact, unlike nearly every other thing in the veggie garden except the gourds, the heat seems to kick them into high gear.
The sweet peppers are a different story. As tasty as they are, they’re a bunch of prima donnas and poorly suited for our hot, dry, sunny summers. Bell, cubanelle, corno, mini, it doesn’t really matter, without heavy shade cover at this time of year the leaves and fruit all burn to a crisp.
Over the years I’ve developed (and by “developed” I mean “saved seeds”, I’m not doing science here) a small-to-medium pepper that’s probably a bell/cabanelle/corno cross that seems to hold up longer under the sun than any other sweet pepper I’ve grown over my 30 years here. It’s top-shaped pepper with broad shoulders and a thick, but crisp, wall with a good flavor and just the slightest hint of peppery heat. It’s versatile enough that we can eat it fresh, fry it, cook it, dry it, and pickle it.
The pepper still gets sun scald when it’s really hot (even with shade), so around this time of year we pick them before they burn, even if they’re not 100% ripe, which gives me around a peck (I think that’s 2 gallons) of peppers I need to do something with. We don’t waste good food, so there’s going to be a lot of dried, roasted and pickled peppers soon.