Photo by Carol Ann Sayle
We would not have any decent bell peppers at all this summer were it not for our "shade house." It's a hoop house structure we installed six years ago, primarily for growing salad mix. Equipped with overhead misters and 47 percent shade cloth, we hoped it would extend our salad season a month at the beginning and again at the end.
That experiment concluded badly when fire ants continually stole all our lettuce seeds to replant in areas more favorable to their style of farming. 5,000 seeds planted in a square foot of soil next to an irrigation line. I busted them when I saw them toting the seeds away. A week later, I found the plantation, at the far end of the hoop house.
Next we tried growing arugula under the shade, in the summer. It did fine, except a new-to-us-bug, the "shade bug" (yes, that's its name) came along and extracted the chlorophyll out of the leaves, leaving tiny white dots as leftovers. Giving up on pampering, we just made the arugula tough it out in the field under full sun.
Amazingly, it's been a great crop for us ever since. Feisty flavor of course, as it has to stand 100-degree days, but true arugula lovers care not. They relish it as one of the few greens we can grow here in the hot season.
With arugula vacating the space and the temperature hovering daily between 100 and 108 degrees, we planted a lot of peppers in the shade. Bell peppers--green, gold, and red--sweet Marconi peppers, and hot ancho-type mini poblanos. They seem to thrive with the shade, especially if we can supply ample water.
With the sun blanching out even our field peas' leaves, it'd be nice if we could erect a giant shade house over the entire five-acre farm! But that's just heat-stroke talking.