So how’s your garden looking? Tomatoes and peppers I planted a month ago are still partially covered in case there’s a pop-up storm with hail in it while I’m away from the house. Sturdy trellises made of discarded branches from earlier tree prunings are up, waiting for young beans to climb them. Young plants of squash and cucumbers are thriving. This year I tried minimal soil disturbance in the garden, meaning no tilling. Started a previously grassy plot as a lasagna garden, planting all vegetables in 2012. This year, I pulled those, renewed the mulch, broke new holes through the layers for 2013 plants. Little weeding needed. Plus moisture stays longer in the soil since it is mulched.

Did you know you don’t have to pull your pepper plants at the end of the growing season. They’re perennial - trim up and loosen plants gently from soil for wintering over in any area that won’t freeze. Replace them next growing season in the garden. Tried it last year - my 2012 plants are just as tall and thriving as the recently purchased ones. Like tomatoes, peppers need to be planted in the garden at least one inch deeper than they were in their pots. Some professional grower’s suggestions for an optimal pepper crop include spraying a mixture of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts to a gallon of water on pepper plant leaves every couple weeks - this enhances fruit set. Hot pepper plants really produce when calcium (in the form of bone meal) is mixed into their soil twice monthly. Peppers are one of those vegetables that the longer you leave it on the plant the more it will increase in nutritional value and taste.

Does your family farm have what it takes to make the Arkansas’ Century Farms list? It’s estimated that there are more than 49,000 farms in the state with the average size being 280 acres. Deadline for entering is August 1st. Go to the Arkansas Ag Department’s website for more info.

Finally, the next time you travel be eco-aware. Your tourist "foot print" could have a dramatic impact on the place you visit. Example: scientists at the National Academy of Sciences have come to the conclusion that the fungus currently wreaking havoc on our bat population here in the States was probably brought over here (unintentionally, of course) by someone as innocuous as a tourist from Europe. Our bats will eventually develop a resistance to this fungus like their European cousins have but until then it will take a huge toll on their numbers.