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  • Writer's pictureJohn R

Bad Pepper! Bad, Bad Pepper!

Blossom end rot tries to crush my naive hopes for a trouble-free harvest.

What you’re seeing in the photo is an Anaheim pepper. At SG this was supposed to be the Year of the Pepper—sunless, smoke-filled skies be damned. We planted poblanos, Scotch bonnets, valleros, Anaheims, and others that I don’t really know what they are because someone inadvertently moved their I.D. stakes and now those plants are either chilhuacle chilis or watermelons, who can tell?

Eventually there were little blossoms that turned into nubby green peppers that elongated and grew and filled my heart with an inordinate amount of joy. Then one day, coffee mug in hand, I shuffled outside in my underwear and scuffs and went to the back garden (using the word “garden” generously here) to admire our crop and discovered some of our peppers had developed leathery brown butts. The tissue was wrinkled and corpse-soft and disturbingly unappealing.

“Yuck shit,” I summarized.

The malady wasn’t confined to the peppers, either. Ugly splotches had appeared on the butts of the Roma tomatoes, too, in what I take to be the tomatoes’ misplaced sense of solidarity with the nearby peppers. A conspiracy was afoot.

But being the curious if perhaps not completely effective gardener that I am (using the word “gardener” generously here), I took my coffee inside for a serious dive into the internet’s collective brain, using as my search terms “yuck shit peppers.”

The results were surprisingly targeted. The problem, the internet patiently explained, was that I was watering too much. Also, it continued rather unhelpfully, I was probably watering too little. Either way (insert internet eye-roll here), there was undoubtedly user error involved in the way our plants were able to absorb calcium due to an erratic watering regime. The effects could be seen in common vegetable plants such as peppers and tomatoes. The result was blossom end rot. Or wait! equivocated the internet. It could be sunscald. But on second thought probably negligent watering. But hold on! Insect damage is a distinct possibility and cannot be ruled out. But that calcium thing is certainly almost likely.

After the internet had covered its ass as completely as possible, there were still bad peppers hanging out in the garden. As hope-crushing as that was, I tried to view it philosophically. A garden is the Great Circle of Life placed before us, with all its conditions, trials, and triumphs—win some, lose some, birth, death, infinity.

Sunscald or smiley face?

Okay, let's not get too wiggy. I just want a few good peppers and a handful of unblemished tomatoes. I have an extremely low bar. Fortunately, we have some of both. Blossom end rot didn’t take down entire crop, and I learned how to have blossom-end-rot-free chili peppers next year. All I have to do is water more. Or less.

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