Friday, January 9, 2015

End of Season Review - Peppers


This was my first year growing peppers (unless you count the dismal failure I had in my first garden when I was in my 20’s!) and I must say, I’m already addicted.  Everywhere I look there seem to be more and more varieties that are begging to be tried.

In this first year, however, I only grew two varieties – one hot pepper (Hungarian Hot Wax) and one sweet pepper (King of the North).  I first sowed the seeds back on February 19th.  By March 5th, all of the sweet peppers had germinated.  Nothing yet from the hot peppers.  I had read that peppers – especially hot peppers - sometimes take a long time to germinate, but I was getting antsy.  What if I kept waiting and they didn’t come up…I could end up losing weeks of growing time.

Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers
 
I decided to pre-germinate some seeds, just in case.  After only 5 days, a couple of the seeds had germinated.  I sowed them & they emerged from the soil two weeks later.  So pre-germinating the seeds took 20 days from seed to seedling.  The first of the seeds sown originally in February took one month to emerge.  I kept the original cell packs going and the last one to germinate took a whopping 2 months from sowing!  I also found that many of the hot pepper seeds did not germinate at all.  Thankfully, between the first & second sowing, I did end up with enough plants overall.

My original plan was to grow all of the peppers on the south side of the bed that held indeterminate tomatoes.  I like keeping the same or similar families in each bed, when possible, just to make things easier when it comes to crop rotation.  I am finding, however, that this is much easier said than done, especially if you want to make the most out of available space during the growing season.

King of the North Sweet Peppers
 
All of the pepper plants went into the tomato bed except for 4 – I had to relocate them because I needed a spot for the tomato plant my son brought home from a field trip.  So the extra 4 pepper plants (two sweets & two hots) were placed on the south side of the bean bed instead.

As the summer progressed, I began to notice that the pepper plants growing in the bean bed were significantly lusher & more productive than those in the tomato bed.  I talked about this at length in THIS post.  Best guess is that tomatoes in general are a very hungry crop and they were likely sucking back more than their fair share of nutrients.  Beans, on the other hand, are nowhere near as demanding, so the peppers in this bed were able to draw up more nutrients, which was reflected in their growth & production.  Perhaps the beans even gave the peppers a boost with their nitrogen fixing power.


I was very happy with the hot pepper production; not so happy with the sweet peppers, where I only harvested 5 red ripe peppers with the rest being harvested while only semi-ripe or still green.

One of the first things that surprised me on reviewing the table was that I started harvesting hot peppers almost 1½ months before the sweet peppers.  And that’s after starting most of the hot peppers a full 2 weeks later because of the germination issues.

Something else to note is that of the 16 sweet peppers harvested, only 7 came from the plants in the tomato bed – exactly one pepper per plant.  The rest of the peppers – all 9 of them – came from the two sweet pepper plants in the bean bed.  Pretty dramatic difference, eh?  There were too many hot peppers to keep track of, but I have a feeling that the difference between the beds was likely just as  impressive.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

When it comes to starting pepper plants, I will definitely be pre-germinating the seeds from now on.  At the very least, this will give me some assurance in a relatively short period of time (less than a week) that the seeds are in fact viable.  If I sowed them directly in the soil, I wouldn’t know if they were viable for a month or more.

The most surprising aspect of growing peppers this year was how productive hot peppers (as a whole) were compared to sweet peppers.  I just assumed that hot peppers – which I often associate with hot, tropical climates – would not do as well as the sweets.  Well, that assumption was obviously wrong.

Loaded Hot Pepper Plants in Bean Bed
 
In the future, peppers will be kept out of the tomato bed.  I’m planning on growing quite a few more climbing dried bean varieties, so my plan is to place the peppers on the south side of these beds.  I’ll be growing the Hungarian Hot Wax again – my husband has gone absolutely nuts over these as pickled peppers.  No need to explain why I need more beds next year – I just mention that this would mean more hot peppers and he is at the ready to help out… ;)

King of the North is not tasty enough nor prolific enough to continue to grow, so these will be dropped.  Now the hard part – how on earth to decide between the plethora of pepper varieties out there.  I have a very large list already, based on the fabulous varieties other bloggers have grown but there is no way I will be able to fit them all in.  Decisions, decisions…..

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

12 comments:

  1. Interesting post, as I have ALWAYS put peppers in with the tomatoes and ALWAYS had lousy production. I thought it was my cool summers here, but this is worth a look in to!

    You are having the problem of too many choices just like the rest of us. I have gotten down to my basic varieties, but it's so hard when those catalogs start coming in and you see the incredible variety--each described to sound better than the next. And let's not forget those hilarious catalogs where ever description is followed by !!!!!!! . LOL!
    Maybe you should put the names on a dartboard and try it that way??? At least that way, if you don't end up liking the variety---it was beyond your control---just bad aim!
    Have a wonderful weekend

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    1. Now THAT'S a FABULOUS idea!!!!!!!! hee hee ;)

      I love accidental discoveries...we will see if my "theory" holds true next year. Now to dig into those catalogues....definitely one of the best ways to spend a cold, cold winters day!

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  2. Good luck in finding your pepper variety. The last year I grew peppers I had a whole 16x4' bed of them. I really miss them now.

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    1. Thanks Daphne - and Wow! I really wish I had that much room to devote to them. So far, my plan has them occupying half of two 8x4 beds...nowhere near enough but at least more than last year!

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  3. I always give my chilli seeds a boost after sowing by keeping them in the airing-cupboard until they germinate. I grow mine in containers, so they don't have to compete with any other plants. I grew King of the North last year but was unimpressed - small plant; small yield; small peppers. Of course that might just have been an unusual result!

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    1. We don't have an airing cupboard, but I did (finally!) get a heat mat last year. I can't, however, remember if I already had it when I started the peppers - I didn't note that I placed their cell packs on the heat mat, so I'm thinking that I didn't have it yet. This very well may have been the reason why my seedlings took so long to appear. I'll find out when I start them this year.

      And with so many other wonderful varieties to try, I can't justify giving King of the North a spot this coming season. If I see others having good results, I may try it again in the future - as you say it could just have been a bad year for them.

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  4. I've struggled so much with sweet peppers, I don't even know where to start with remedies. I have zero problems with hot peppers, regardless the variety, but sweet peppers, ugh. They germinate too slow, production is poor ... last season was the absolute worst. Luckily, I now have a greenhouse for next season so I'll see if the heat inside helps along with new varieties, new locations, new fertilizing methods, etc.

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    1. You are so lucky to have a greenhouse! I'm sure that it will make a huge difference, especially when it comes to getting those pepper to ripen quickly.

      There are quite a few sweet varieties that have been grown by other bloggers that seem to do very well. Along with changing where they are planted, I'm hoping that growing a couple of those varieties will give me at least a good harvest next year.

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  5. Hi Margaret, the only peppers I grow are the sweet green peppers. I even cheat and buy the plants. We don't like hot or spicy foods. Nancy

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    1. HI Nancy! I do love spicy food, but am not a fan of blistering heat - after all, I want to actually taste what I'm eating!

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  6. In 2012 I tried a number of cool climate/short season sweet peppers, including King of the North, and other OP and hybrid varieties. I was not impressed by King of the North. My favorites ended up being Lady Bell (an F1), Shephards Ramshorn (OP), and Odessa Market (OP). I've grown those for 3 years now and they've done consistently well. Yes I am gardening in California but I'm near the coast and our summers are cool and somewhat foggy and night time temps dip into the 40°F range well into July so most heat loving pepper varieties don't do well. I've had my best success since I started growing cool adapted or short season varieties.

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    1. It took me a while to narrowed down my pepper selections for this year and Lady Bell is on my list - I believe it was from a spotlight you did? And after seeing basket after basket of Padron's coming out of your garden, those are on my hot pepper list too. Even though your weather is on the cool side, you growing season is so much longer - I would be quite pleased with one (large!) basket of those Padrons.

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