Earlier this Fall I wrote about bringing your hot pepper plants indoors for overwintering. I’ve put together a short 2 minute clip showing how I dug up a ‘Variegata’ hot pepper plant from my community garden plot and transplanted it into a pot to spend the next 7 or so months indoors.
There are lots of different ways to over-winter peppers — some take space into consideration and involve pruning the entire plant back and storing in a cooler location, while the method I am using is about enjoying attractive plants as houseplants until they can be put back outdoors in the late spring to begin a new season of pepper production. By my method your plant isn’t likely to produce fruit during the cold months but should produce lots of pretty foliage to look at.
Here are a few extra tips:
- Soil: When transplanting from and in-ground garden gently remove as much soil from around the roots as possible and transplant into a container of potting soil. The soil from your garden will become compacted in a pot, eventually smothering the roots and preventing drainage and air circulation.
- Fertilizing: Peppers do not require much in the way of fertilizing. Be very sparing and apply fertilizers that are slightly higher in nitrogen keeping in mind that the goal is to produce healthy leaves, not bare fruit. I think a sprinkling of vermicompost at transplant time is just enough. Anything too high in nitrogen will enourage a lot of leggy, tender growth, just the kind of foliage aphids are most attracted to.
- Pests: And while we’re on the subject of aphids, chances are you will get a few or a lot this winter. A good spray in the shower or kitchen sink is the best chemical-free way to get them off your plant for good. So is keeping your plant as healthy as possible.
- Peppers like sun and warmth: Keep your plant in the sunniest window you’ve got. If the windowsill gets too cold and drafty move your plant as far away as possible while still providing optimum light. If that’s not enough try setting them underneath grow lights. You can also try setting your pepper’s pot on a crocheted windowsill cozy or pot coaster. Heating mats are great too but I usually wait to bust mine out until closer to the start of the growing season, otherwise the warmth prompts the plant to get active before the light is bright enough to sustain that level of activity.
- Peppers Prefer a Bit of Drought: Water less often then you would outdoors — with less drying heat and light your plant will require less moisture. Peppers like a bit of drought so test the soil with your finger first to see that it has dried out slightly before giving it a drink.
- Shock: Some leaves will turn yellow and drop off shortly after transplanting or bringing indoors. This is quite normal. If this continues, prune back bare branches and remove any remaining fruit and flowers so your plant can concentrate on producing foliage, not reproducing. You should see some fresh leaves spring up in the coming weeks. I’ve had peppers that looked to be on their last legs come back strong as soon as the warmth and sun came back in the spring. Give your plants some time, it will be worth it for that early season bumper crop. Of course some plants just don’t overwinter well, period. Give it a go, if it doesn’t work out chalk it up to experimentation and move on.
I spotted this lovely gold and dark purple seasonally appropriate container combo at Fiesta Gardens recently. While I am generally not a fan of the traditional seasonal mixed container, this one is a simple concept with a limited colour palette incorporating unusual plants like the ‘Red Boar’ Kale centre piece that is edible and insanely inexpensive if you start it early in the year. Even still a plant that size at this time of year runs between $6 and $10. I would guess that the price of plants for a container like this (not including the price of the container) would total approximately $50-$100. It’s pricey, a little out of my league — I’d replace the Heuchera with something cheap like black or yellow pansies to lower the cost.
Plants: ‘Red Boar’ Kale [centre], Chrysanthemum [middle ring], Heuchera ‘Black Beauty’ [edging].
What a pleasant surprise discovering that the ‘Fatali’ Hot Pepper I started from seed in the Spring of 2006 (1 1/2 years ago) finally produced those adorable little wrinkly peppers I couldn’t wait to see. ‘Fatali’ is supposed to be one of the hottest known hot peppers with a heat that rivals ‘Habenero.’ I’m too afraid to actually try it and will have to enlist a friend to do the taste-test.
I don’t know why but this is the only variety I have ever grown that did not produce in its first year. In fact all it did last summer was put out leaves and stems without a single flower bud. The growing conditions were right and every other plant went berserk with fruit… the answer to this quandary continues to elude me.
Not one to give up, I brought the plant indoors last Fall once the temperature had dipped, nurturing it in a window with Southern exposure, then moving it to a space under grow lights when the window ledge grew too cold. Come late spring, once the last frost date was in the clear and warmer temperatures were on the way, I moved it to a protected spot outdoors, gradually shifting it closer to a full sun position once it was used to the hot sun and wind (this is called “Hardening Off”). The plant looked a little sad at first having been deprived indoors but quickly bounced back with fresh leaves a trim from my shears.
‘Variegata’ Hot Pepper
You can try overwintering just about any hot pepper indoors, including plants that have already produced a crop that year. I’m thinking about bringing in some of the attractive ornamental varieties I grew this summer. Space underneath the lights is always tricky around here but I just can’t bear to see those beautiful plants wither up and die outside.
Panoramic of the Roof Garden July 21, 2007.
The following was found in my archives and is dated for July 14.
The rooftop garden is coming along beautifully this year. I do believe it is my best year yet. I was shocked to discover that on final count I am growing 14 tomato plants and 2 tomatillos. Most of the tomatoes are mid-sized determinants and 3 are indeterminants. I am growing the same number of tomatoes at my community garden plot with a grand total that far surpasses the total number of tomatoes I have ever been able to grow at one time. Thrilling! And yet it still doesn’t feel like enough. When I think of how hard it was to narrow things down to these varieties, I pine for all of the varieties I could grow at one time if given more space. Sigh. And yet I have so much more than most gardening, apartment-dwelling city-slickers. The more I garden, the more I want to garden and the grander my ideas grow. It is hard to be satiated with limitations. After all of these years there is still so much that the process of gardening is teaching me about patience and feeling satisfied with accomplishments within any given moment.
Lately, I have been receiving emails asking me to talk more about the community garden. I will admit that I am so horribly behind in writing about progress there that it’s been difficult to know where to begin. So this morning I browsed through a few folders of photos and decided to begin with the above photo showing some of my plot (to the right) and a few other garden member’s plots around it.
I took this photo on August 9. This was before The Worst Drought in Toronto in 50 Years kicked in followed by the Worst Drought Plus Massive Humidity but NO Rain. That was the week many curcubits (the family that includes cucumbers, squash, and melons) died. I lost most of my cucumbers and most of my zucchini plants that week. I am posting this picture so you can see what that side of the garden looked like before the gapping hole. I’m still trying to figure out what to put there because the soil is great and it would be a shame to let even a small portion of the space go without producing something before the season comes to an end!
I took the above photo on August 25. It was a wet Saturday morning, having finally rained after several days of intense humidity. It was a beautiful, quiet morning in the garden. I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude listening to the buzz of crickets and the soothing hum of the Beer Store refrigerators. By this time it is already too late for my zucchini plants. They have loads of fruit on them but the stems have rotted. You can see how yellow the leaves have turned — it was all within a matter of days! I picked all the fruit that morning and removed the plants a few days later once I’d had some time to come to terms with the loss. It was a good year and we harvested a lot of flowers and fruit earlier in the season but in past years I have managed to collect zucchinis into fall. I was wearing a winter jacket when I pulled out last year’s plants! The loss of all that potential harvest still bums me out a little.
Here it is, photographic proof that last year’s zucchini plants came out in October. Mind you those tiny little things in my other hand are the last of the “harvest.”
On a positive note, scroll back up to that last shot of the garden and check out all of the ripe tomatoes! With 16 plants, I have had my best harvest ever. Their size and numbers have dwindled but tomatoes are still coming and I am harvesting at least 2 handfuls every few days. Of course it doesn’t FEEL like enough. I actually had surplus this year between the harvest on the roof and the harvest in the community garden allowing me to can up jars of tomatoes in addition to the purchased 50 lbs that were made into sauce and salsa. We can’t eat enough tomato sandwiches and salads to keep on top of the fresh tomatoes from the gardens and yet I am still wanting more. Last year’s 5 jars felt… okay. This year’s 35 jars… My god how will we make it through the winter?!! I may have a slight hoarding tendency.
Here’s a photo of the first big cluster of ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ tomatoes. Aren’t they beautiful? I have a secret wish that tomatoes would just last a little longer. They are all so beautiful that I just love having bowls sitting around to look at and admire. Unfortunately the fruit flies also enjoy them but I do not enjoy the fruit flies. Of all the new varieties I tried this year, ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ has turned out to be a very prolific plant and a new favorite. This particular cluster held one additional tomato but I was impatient and plucked it off early for a taste.