Category Archives: nature and gardens

Growing and cooking with poblano Mexican chili peppers

Poblano peppers

My poblano peppers have been growing in my patio garden for ~ 6 and a half  months!  This tedious process started from seeds.   After I realized that mother nature wasn’t getting the job done,  I had to step in and pollinate the plants myself.   Soon after, the plant exploded with tiny peppers,  growing incredibly fast – right in my patio container garden.

Home grown poblano peppers.  This plant is hanging off the  balcony

As always, I wanted to grow something unique,   I had never grown before.   Well looks like I finally have a winner.    The first batch of poblano peppers were  harvested  today.  This bunch  averaged about  ~ 3 inches (7.5 cm) long.   They were  deep dark green and very shinny.   My peppers were organically grown and shorter than most poblanos you might have seen in Mexican markets and grocery stores.

The dried version are called “ancho.”   They  are used in many Mexican dishes, and sauces.   I was first introduced to these peppers through a Mexican friend who roasted them on both sides, covered them in plastic, waited a few minutes, then removed the skin and seeds and last chopped them into pieces to be served with rice.   I loved them!  If you are wondering about how they taste, they are similar to bell peppers.  In fact, these peppers are in the same family.

Harvested poblano chili peppers.  Notice the intense dark green color

Poblano chillies produce a  flavor that is remarkable when they are  roasted.  Let me tell you where my home grown variety ended up.  I placed one finely cut roasted poblano chili in a pot of black beans.  The other pieces landed up in my corm bread.   Both dishes were delicious.

Cornbread with roasted poblano peppers and onions

Thee are many ways to cook poblano peppers.  Please see the links to the recipes below.  I am very tempted to stuffed these the New Orleans way.    If I do,  I will add more photographs to this post.

It is an amazing feeling to practice sustainable living.   You can do it if you try.  It only takes the desire to do it, and then the will to see it through until the end.

See article


Rare Seeds

Seeds of Change
Organically certified

Magazine devoted to heirloom seeds


Chile Relleno


Turkey Mole Poblano recipe

Turkey-Poblano Tostadas

Martha Stuart

Mole Poblano from Pati’s Mexican Table

Stuffed Poblano peppers

Martha Stewart

Another recipe, stuffed with chicken


You can modify the cornbread recipe by reducing the flower by 1/4 cup and adding more corn meal.


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The Aeroponic Experiment – soilless gardens

Aeroponic is a method of growing plants without soil. This method supplies nutrient filled water directly to the roots of the plants.

This is my first aeroponics project and here is the finished container- its ready to go.

I visited a local hydroponic store to get more information as well as purchasing the volcanic pebbles, and air pump and micro-sprinkler heads. (see my article )

I drilled tiny holes in the PVC pipes, where I placed the micro sprinklers.

Pre-made templates for the cuttings was a must. It created uniformity and there were no second guessing. Make sure to get insulation tape to keep the water inside of the container.

The system to make sure all of the mesh pods received enough water.

Estimated total cost to build this system was approximately $30.00


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How to set up an Aeroponics system

Produced by Cara Harpole

Feel free to follow the steps or read my article:

Step 1

Gather your materials, before you do anything. Then make a template for each size you will use.

Every system needs a water pump. Consult with a hydroponic pro for the correct unit according to the volume of water used. This pump was over kill.

Step 2

The circles are strategically placed according to the mesh pot sizes used. Place them as you wish. Draw circles accordance with the mesh pots diameters. You will need to make room for a tight snug fit.

Step 3

Cover your openings for a snug fit. You can find something better than what I used at your local hardware store.

Step 4

The lid need to be insulated to make sure water doesn’t leak.  This this tricky business.  I used materials on hand.  Not a good idea.  You need materials which will create an air tight seal.  This is a learning experience.  Find out what works best for you.

Brite Ideas, Hydroponics & Organics (Austin, Texas) is pictured.

You will need to find a Hydroponic store in your area.  You will be making many trips and find yourself meeting others who are passionate about hydroponics.

I used volcanic pebbles. They need to be washed before placement into the mesh pots. You can see a lot of residue in this photo. It might take a few washings before they are ready for use.

Step 5

Design your own water delivery unit which fits both your water pump and your housing unit.  I used PVC pipes for this experiment.  I would have liked to find something made with natural materials.  Bamboos would have been perfect however,  the fit would have been challenging.  Do you own research on safety and alternative materials.  please share your findings with us.

This is what makes or breaks your system.  If you unit can not deliver water and nutrients properly,  the roots of your plants will dry.  Moisture and aeration is a must for your roots.

Step 6

Finally, everything is set in place

It’s time to plant!

You can read my article about the mechanics of Aeroponics at the following link:


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Easy composting–even for apartment dwellers

Easy composting–even for apartment dwellers

At one time I thought that living in an apartment would greatly limit my composting and growing capacity.  I now have enough decomposed kitchen waste mixed in soil to start an entirely new garden.    You might think, “how can do this if I live in an apartment.”  Believe me, you can.

Let me tell you my friends, I have not purchased one single bag of soil since I first started composting.   This equates to nearly 3 years of composting, recycling and growing flowers, plants and vegetables and two fruit trees in my patio garden without needing to spend an enormous amount of money on bags of soil.

I have made composting a part of my lifestyle and you can also.  If you are new to composting, it is advisable to place a compost container in your kitchen near your sink.    You will never forget to save your onion, orange and lemon peels, your apple skins, lettuces leaves, coffee grinds and tea leaves (and tea bags) if  a compost container  is located in a visible area where you might normally dispose your waste.

Once my kitchen compost container is full, I dig a hole in my outdoor compost bin, pour the compost waste,  and then cover it with soil.  Sometimes I pour the liquid right in the soil of plants instead of pouring all of the contents in the compost container.  This allows my plants to feed from organic waste–and they love it.

As soon as the compost is planted, Black soldier flies’ maggots get to work to break down the solid waste.  Do not fret, because they are actually beneficial.  They help speed up the decomposing process.  These are not regular house flies.  House flies will not  lay larvae unless they have easy access to stinky-rotten-waste.  Don’t let this happen!  You do not want fly maggots to infiltrate your garden.   Burying your compost is advantageous because the soil will absorb any liquids, adding nutrients to your mix, when it is covered,  potential odors will be eliminated.  You will need to have holes for aeration.   Last but not least, always keep dry soil nearby to cover your newly placed compost waste.

Notice the richness of the added soil compared to the soil already in the container. Fresh compost materials were also added to this pot. The direct decomposing will add nutrients to the Pomegranate tree.

You will not believe how rich your soil will be once the cycle has finished.  It will be very rich, dark any earthy.  Earth worms and night crawlers will flourish.  There is a sweetness to this soil .
Your friends who are interested in starting an organic garden will gladly appreciate  a huge bag of rich black soil made from your compost project.   If you really want to make this gift special and ready for planting, try filling a rice bags (or coffee bag) with compost and try adding layers of rocks.

These bags can be used to grow food in tight spaces.  Please see this video for step by step directions:

See the Youtube video listed about the “Phytopod Container Garden”

Composting is the way to go if you are a garden lover, or environmentally conscientious.  There are many benefits, and you will never have to purchase soil again for your small garden.


Extra info:
Rice bag – How to

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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Gardening, nature and gardens, Sustainability


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The History of Cotton, and Why I Had to Grow it For Myself

Cotton I grew in my patio garden

The Marvelous Cotton Story

Written by Cara Harpole

I have always been fascinated by unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables, bamboo trees, and plants that are rarely grown by urban gardeners. One of the most fulfilling feelings for a person who is passionate about growing is to take a seed, plant it, nurture it, and later eat the fruit of your labor.

I once grew a Loquat (Japanese Plum) tree from seeds. Even though it took about four years to produce ripe juicy plums, the harvest was both plentiful and delicious.

What would be my next challenge? I conjured up a list of fruit and vegetables to grow. The goal was to grow something both exotic, and unusual for a typical urban patio garden. This special plant would have to razzle and dazzle friends and fellow garden enthusiast. It was my goal to show off my prized plant of choice once it reached its maturity. A photo would be posted on my social media site to wow my friends.

The next step was to choose a plant with a reasonable harvest time. It had to tolerate a temperamental hot and dry climate like Austin, Texas.

Continued at the link below


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How to Make a Wooden Compost Bin

Wooden compost bin

Compost materials from your kitchen

The inspiration behind creating my own compost kitchen bin was purely environmental.  This became a life style change.  I have been  recycling of my kitchen waste for years.   I’d rather see my compost in my garden rather than in a landfill.

Did you know that every year Americans generate around 14 million tons of food waste?  If we all saved our potatoes, oranges, apple and  onion peels and egg shells, coffee grinds  and old loose tea, we could not only add nutrient organic material to our gardens, but we could also help the environment.

I used  a few recycled materials to create this bin.  I highly encourage you to use as many recycled materials as possible.  To date, I have not purchase even a bag of soil in over 2 years.

Mixing compost materials with soil will create a mineral rich environment.

Outdoor Compost Bin, beginning stages


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Guess Who Came to Dinner – The Invasion of my Birdseed Feeder

My patio garden is a part of a much larger Eco-system than I imagined.  The bird feeder was kept filled, and at some point I noticed an usual drop in feed levels.  “Where were all of the hungry birds I am feeding?” I thought.   It wasn’t until a late night drink of tea on my patio until I discovered this greedy critter who had been raiding my feeder for over a year.

Oh theaudacity.  What is an urban gardener to do?

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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in nature and gardens


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