The November newsletter is packed with my best tips on container gardening and how to grow food in a dry climate. Plus a drought tolerant plant list, how much and often to water your plants, what to plant now and a bonus laminated garden guide gift with purchase offer. Dig in!
This month’s plant profile is the spice of life, Chilli Peppers. What a powerhouse! I dig deep into how to grow, store and use chillies for health.
Sustainable Gardening Tips for November
In my local climate in SE Queensland, Australia, weather conditions have been harsh for gardeners. This is the toughest season I think I’ve ever experienced. It’s been so dry that even the natives, trees, and hardy perennials are showing signs of drought-stress. Months on end without our normal seasonal rains. These are the rains that replenish the water table and deeply rooted trees. With heatwave after heatwave and no rain respite, it’s extremely challenging trying to grow food.
When you are on town water, that’s not a problem. However, for many gardeners like myself on tank water, every drop is precious. I’m invested in my garden. Each plant is like a member of my family! I’ve nurtured hundreds since ‘birth’ and to watch some of them struggle is emotionally hard.
Most of the vegetables and fruits we grow need consistent moisture. Some plants like our leafy greens and fruiting crops are super thirsty. It’s no surprise that when it’s dry, hot and windy, that plants suffer. There’s no moisture reservoir from recent rains to draw on in the soil. Thankfully, the effort I’ve put into building humus in the soil and thick layers of mulch has helped most plants survive. I find it interesting to watch which plants cruise through hard times like this versus those ‘princesses’ that have a hissy fit as soon as the weather is not to their liking!
List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods for Dry Climates
I’d love to help you if you’re trying to grow edibles in dry times. In my latest article, I share an extensive list of vegetables, herbs, fruit, nuts and herbs that are resilient and hardy. I explain how much and how often to water different types of plants. Also, how to select drought resistant species and how plants adapt with some of their incredible survival strategies. I hope you find the practical tips and list helpful. Here’s a peek at just a few on the list! You’ll find the rest here.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
How to Grow Food in a Dry Climate
- Strategies for Gardening with Climate Change – Learn how to adapt to changing climate conditions – rain, dry spells and cloudy skies that reduce photosynthesis. I share solutions to help you ‘design out’ problems . Plus crop protection strategies to help you achieve a harvest even in challenging weather conditions.
- Garden Strategies to Cope with Drought – Part 1 and Part 2 – Practical tips to help you rethink your water management strategies. Design and utilise microclimates; choose plants wisely; and downscale your garden to pots.
Container Gardening Tips
There are so many benefits to growing your food in pots, planters or even raised beds . These are really large containers!
In dry times, one of the key benefits to crops in pots is that plants don’t compete for water with trees and shrubs. Positioning them under trees and taller species can provide welcome shade relief during the heat. Trees also offer canopy protection during storms and a microclimate that mitigates wind damage.
Download these helpful printable PDF tips on container gardening:
Dig into these articles to learn more:
What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD
November has been much drier than average. Heatwaves, storms and unpredictable weather are typical for this time of year! I try to be prepared for just about anything as the growing gets tough. Download your November Gardening Tips PDF for planting ideas, tasks to do in the garden plus issues to watch out for. These articles may also help your garden survive a tough few months ahead.
- Tips to Grow Food in Hot, Dry or Windy Weather
- 18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions
- List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods for Dry Climates
- 9 Strategies to Help Combat Common Edible Garden Problems
If you can, try to time planting in harmony with the moon phases. Working with Nature’s timing can improve seed germination, help cuttings take root when propagating plants, and encourage healthy plant growth and establishment. The new moon phase each month is the best time to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. This helps plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with moon phases and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me stay organised! I plan forward for the best times to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.
The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting.
What to Plant Now in Other Locations
Bonus Gardening Guide Gift with Purchase
Our economical range of laminated/foldout charts, books, DVDs and gift vouchers are sustainable, durable ways to learn to grow an abundant healing garden. They are popular gifts for gardening friends and family. My Live Chat Gift Vouchers are always a lovely surprise for recipients too. If you’re a member of a garden club, community group or gardening organisation, why not pool purchases and enjoy your bonus gift? Choose from our popular DIY Potting Mix Guide OR Subtropical Planting Guide (Value $12). Offer valid until 25-12-23. Thanks SO much for your support. x
PLANT PROFILE: Chilli / Pepper
CHILLI (Capsicum spp.) also known as hot or red peppers are hardy perennials that provide long term value for money and your health. Varieties like capsicums or bell peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, and cayenne peppers range in flavour from mild to volcanic heat! Chilli plants grow easily from seed. Sow in spring or summer. Choose a position in a full sun location to encourage flowering and fruiting. If you are experiencing hot, dry, windy conditions, you might consider growing chillies under 30-50% shade cloth to minimise heat and water stress. They do best in well-drained, compost-rich soil with a good layer of mulch. I also grow chilli varieties in containers. Choose a pot 30cm (12″) high and deep. I make my own nutrient-rich, moisture-holding potting mix. This gives me the best harvest. Chillies deserve a prime position as they will keep you well fed for years if cared for.
The chilli fruit and seeds are the primary parts eaten. However, the leaves are also edible after blanching in boiling water to soften them and reduce bitterness. The leaves have a milder taste and are used in Asian and Mexican dishes to add a depth of flavour to soups, stews and sauces.
Health Benefits of Chillies
Capsaicin is a key compound with many health benefits. These include anti-obesity characteristics, boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, antioxidant properties that reduce cancer risk, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases and macular degeneration.(1,2,3) Chilli peppers contain many other bioactive compounds including carotenoids, flavonoids, ascorbic acid, phenolic compounds, capsaicinoids and capsinoids and vitamins. These substances have many health-related outcomes, such as anti-inflammatory, anticancer and pain relief properties, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal benefits, antidiabetic and anti-obesity effects, antimicrobial and antifungal activities.(1,3) A significant review of available studies confirmed statistically significant evidence showing that people who eat chilli peppers have a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer related deaths.(4) Any wonder it’s the ‘Spice of LIFE’! This is just a taste of the benefits and uses! [See references] Chilli peppers are valuable herb and medicinal plants and deserve a place in every home pharmacy garden.
5 Chilli Storage Tips
You have many options for preserving your harvest. If your plant is highly productive, you may need to store the excess. I freeze the majority of my chillies whole (including seeds). Or, dry some whole chillies and grind into a powder when needed. I scrape the seeds out when fresh and dry the seeds. I can choose to use seeds for more heat or just the flesh for a milder flavour. Wash your hands well after handling these little hotties.
- Whole Chillies. Like most spices, whole dried chillies have a longer shelf life. They retain their heat and flavour longer than powdered chillies that lose their potency much faster.
- Drying Chillies. Before hanging your chillies up to dry, clean and inspect them closely. Washing will remove any insects on board! Compost damaged or diseased chillies. Pick the best to preserve. Tie in a bunch. Hang until crisp and dried in a warm, dry place.
- Store Dried Chillies in a Cool, Dry, Dark Place: Heat, light and moisture are enemies for all spices. These conditions destroy the delicious flavour, aroma, potency and colour. I keep mine in a stoneware container in a dark drawer. They last for ages.
- Grind into Powder as needed. I blitz my chillies or seeds just before use to retain the essential oils and maintain the intense flavour. I pop into a spice grinder that I use for herbs and crushing leaves to make teas. Otherwise, a mortar and pestle does the trick with a little elbow grease!
- Store in Small Portions. You can try crushing fresh chillies and add the pulp to ice cubes with a little oil or water before freezing. Or store in small quantities so when you open the container, you minimise air and moisture exposure.
Shop Gardening Guides and Resources
- Chili peppers (Capsicum spp.): the spice not only for cuisine purposes: an update on current knowledge
- Nutritional Benefits and Pharmaceutical Potentialities of Chili: A Review
- Medicinal uses and health benefits of chili pepper (Capsicum spp.): a review
- Meta-analysis evaluating the impact of chili-pepper intake on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: A systematic review
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