Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Peppers, Past and Present


2016 was a banner year for peppers, due in part to the hot, hot weather.  But I won’t give the heat all of the credit – I did a few things differently last year and I’m confident that these changes also played a part in the bumper pepper harvest.


The first change I made was the bed layout – I squeezed 32 pepper plants into one 4’x8’ bed, spacing them 12” apart both between and within rows.  I had several people tell me that peppers liked close spacing but I must admit, I was a bit skeptical and quite surprised that it worked out as well as it did.

Pepper bed in early August

One other improvement was the addition of mycorrhizae when I transplanted the peppers to the bed.  This was inspired by Michelle and the amazing success she had using it in her pepper bed.






This year, I’m hoping to repeat the success of 2016.  I’ve dropped several peppers from the lineup because I either wasn’t impressed by them (Orange Blaze) or I still have quite a lot left from last year in the form of pepper flakes/powder (Aji Limon, Corne de Chevre) or frozen (Jalapeno, Padron).  You’ll notice that these are all hot peppers, which is not surprising considering we are a family with 2 young kids where a little bit of spice goes a long way.


What we do use a LOT of, however, are sweet peppers.  Since I already had several sweet pepper varieties that I was happy with, I decided to limit any new purchases.  In fact, there are only two new peppers in the lineup this year:  Shishito and Lu Mei.

The Lu Mei is a hot pepper that I purchased last year but didn’t receive it until it as too late to sow.
Shishito peppers have been on my list for a while but it was Will’s rave review that had me finally adding it to my cart this year.  I’m hoping that his experience of a mild, delicious pepper that can be eaten straight after a quick blister in a skillet will be echoed in my garden and kitchen.  The Padrons I’ve grown in the past, which are prepared in much the same way, have always ended up being much too hot to be eaten straight up.

My pepper lineup this year:

Sweet Peppers:  Stocky Red Roaster, Melrose, Shishito, Jimmy Nardello, Carmen, Chervena Chushka, Feher Ozon, Odessa Market

Hot Peppers:  Hungarian Hot Wax, Italian Pepperoncino, Lu Mei, Anaheim, Ostra Cyklon,

I find that peppers are very slow to get going so I seed them early.  This year, I started them on February 19th.  I sowed the seeds (after pre-germinating) into narrow but deep pots that I purchased from Greenhouse Megastore last year, which I quite love:

2.5" width & 3.5" deep
The square shape means you can fit more pots on a tray

I also decided to switch up their growing medium to Pro Mix Organic Veg instead of the William Dam Seeding Mix.  Normally, I only use the Pro Mix when I am potting up seedlings and they do very well, so thought I would give it a go from the start this time round.  I'll likely not be doing this again as I've come to realize that the heavier mix is just not as well suited to starting seeds.

How are my pepper seedlings doing now, you ask?  Ok, but not as well as I would have liked – they are definitely further behind than they were last year.  It may be the change in the soil, but I decided to look back to my notes to see if there was any other possible reason why they were lagging….and I think I found it.

Last year I had left the seedlings on the heat mat until I transplanted them.  That was the first time I had done that and it worked out very well – unfortunately, I completely forgot to do that this time round.

I normally pot up peppers when they have a couple of nice sized sets of true leaves.  This year, it seems they are at least a couple of weeks behind - most had a tiny 2nd set of true leaves and some hadn't even gotten that far yet.  I decided to pot up the larger seedlings anyhow and am hoping the fresh soil and an infusion of kelp fertilizer will give them a boost.

All of the seedlings were potted up over the past week

I’ve also had one other issue, this time with a particular variety of pepper, Carmen, which is unfortunately one of my favourites from last year.  Several of the seedlings stopped growing and yellowed right after they emerged from the soil.  This happened not once, not twice, but three times – all with the Carmen seedlings.

Carmen seedling...on it's way to calling it quits

It’s not damping off as the seedling dies from the top down and the base is not pinched.  I also doubt it’s the Pro Mix as I didn’t have this issue with any of the other varieties.

Luckily I won’t be without Carmen’s as two of the seedlings did make it but I’ll have to substitute out the other two with different varieties.

When I sow pepper seeds, I always sow extras for all of the varieties as you never know when you will have an issue.  I don’t pinch out the extras until all the seedlings are well on their way as often, by the time you realize that you have a problem, it's much too late to start over.

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

25 comments:

  1. Your peppers did fantastic last year, how wonderful. But it's strange about your yellowing Carmen seedlings. Makes me wonder what's happening with them.

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    1. Thanks Phuong - I was thrilled by the peppers performance as that's one crop we love. And since I can freeze them, I've not purchased any peppers since!

      I'm stumped by what's happened to those seedlings but grateful that they were the only ones affected.

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  2. I don't track the per plant performance (although an excellent indicator) but I recall having at least 6-7 Feher Ozen peppers per plant, whether in my greenhouse or outside. They were fantastic!

    Thank you for the reminder that I also used mycorrhizae last year, and I better pick some up soon!

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    1. I do like knowing how much I get per plant, on average, as this helps me guage how much of each variety I should grow.

      I recall how amazingly productive your Feher Ozen was - mine was good, but not nearly that good. It was in a shadier part of the bed, so hopefully I'll remember to give it a better spot this year.

      And I'm certain that the mycorrhizae made a big difference in the pepper yield so it's now on my permanent amendment list.

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  3. It would be good to be able to grow peppers outdoors. We are limited by space in the greenhouse alongside the tomatoes and aubergines.

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    1. Well, I wish I could say that I didn't have enough space in the greenhouse, but I'd have to have one first! A wish list item for sure.

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  4. My dear, you need to work at one of the major seed houses--your notes are meticulous!!

    I'm so sorry you had a problem with your favorite variety---doesn't that seem to always be the way it is?!?!?

    Wishing you a terrific pepper year. But this year, let's try it without all the heat and humidity, ok?
    ;)

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    1. Ha ha - I have to say that working at William Dam is actually something I've thought about as they are fairly close by - I just need more hours in the day!

      Yup - it is always that favourite variety that has issues. Thankfully, a couple of them made it through so I'll not be without this year - and I've made a BIG note to get new seed next year :)

      I'm with you on the heat and humidity - the peppers may have loved it but I definitely did NOT! I would gladly sacrifice a few peppers to be able to spend more time (comfortably!) in the garden.

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  5. That yellowing is strange, a problem I haven't had before, but there's always a first time...

    I haven't declared what varieties I'm growing yet, waiting upon some germination, but I will admit to sowing some Odessa Market seeds, that's one of my favorites.

    I hope you have a great pepper year!

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    1. Thanks Michelle! The issue with Carmen is strange, isn't it? I'm wondering if it's a seed borne disease as it was limited to that variety - perhaps not all the seeds were infected, which is why a few made it. I won't be taking any chances next year, so new seed is on the purchase list.

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  6. You sure do no a lot about peppers and I wish I could keep records half that good! Nancy

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    1. Oh, thanks Nancy - I'm a bit of a geek in that way ;)

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  7. Fingers crossed that your peppers do as well for you again this year. I grew chillis a couple of times but more for ornamental purposes than for the fruit as we don't use chillis at all. I think they look really pretty though when the plants are adorned with fruit. I enjoy sweet peppers but they really need to be grown in a greenhouse here and I just don't have the room but I've grown them a few times and had a bumper crop one year.

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    1. I have always found it rather strange that sweet peppers are more challenging to grow than hot peppers. In fact, until I started growing peppers myself, I had always assumed it was the opposite as hot peppers are usually associated with tropical climates.

      What I have also found is that the variety of sweet pepper grown makes a BIG difference. In my garden, bell peppers are the most challenging and I will likely not grow them again (but never say never!)

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  8. Yum! And wow! Your peppers under grow lights are huge! I see a great harvest ahead. :-)

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    1. Our fingers are crossed for a good pepper year!

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  9. Funny, I had issues with Carmen this year too though mine just didn't germinate. Like you I used the mycorrhizae last year and it seemed to help the peppers and eggplants. I will be doing it again this year for sure.

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    1. That is strange - my seeds came from Lindenberg Seeds in Manitoba, but I don't think they grow their own. Perhaps a bad batch of Carmen was circulating.

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  10. I've never heard about putting peppers close together, but I might have to give that a try. My six plants gave me almost no peppers last year, so I need to do something new. Also, my peppers have just sprouted this week, and I was about ready to unplug the heat mat, but it sounds like I should leave it on. So glad I read your post today!

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    1. We all learn from each other, don't we? I find that peppers need quite a bit of time to get to a good size, unlike tomatoes which go from seed to transplanting size in only a few weeks. An extra early start makes a big difference, especially in areas with a shorter growing season, and I'm now convinced that keeping them on the heat mat until they get potted up helps as well.

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  11. I'm so excited to see your pepper progress...Mine look good so far! I have a question, though. I have been told and (sorta think I experienced it?) that if you put hot peppers in with the sweet as they grow in the garden, your sweet peppers will be hot. Is that an old Gardener's Tale or is it true??

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    1. Hi Lorraine - that one is definitely an old wives tale! I grew all of the hot/sweet peppers side by side in an 8'x4' bed and not one of the sweet peppers was spicy.

      What folks may be referring to is cross-pollination. If you grow spicy and sweet peppers in close proximity and then save the seeds, the peppers that you grow from those seeds may be decidedly spicy. This would not affect the current crop of peppers however, so planting them side by side isn't an issue - unless you want to save your own seed, that is! Hope this helps :)

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  12. Wishing you an excellent pepper year. I am amazed at your record keeping. Never knew peppers like close spacing, learn something new, thanks.

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    1. Thanks Norma - same to you! I am so happy that the close spacing worked out...peppers are like tomatoes, just so many varieties to choose from and there is never enough space!

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  13. Thank you so much! I'm plantin' my peppers close this year! Yay!

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