Having enough red peppers to eat one or two every day for months is one of the highlights of the growing season. Any pepper that I think is going to turn red before the season shuts down is going to be left on the vine to ripen.
Bill and I could easily use all the peppers produced by 24 to 30 plants, but my garden can only accommodate 8 to 15 peppers plants at most. (I also have to have room for lots of tomatoes, onions, limas, cukes, snapbeans and other stuff, since I love them just about as much as the red peppers.)
When peppers come in, I pick 1 to 2 green ones each day for fresh eating. At the end of the season, I pick all the green peppers and the ones I don’t use fresh are chopped and go into the freezer for winter use. They taste even more wonderful in winter when produce from the previous season is dwindling. And since red peppers never make it to my freezer I use a LOT of green bell peppers in the winter.
I realized when I fixed dinner tonight that I’ve only got enough left in the freezer to last through February or mid March at the latest. I found myself starting to create possible strategies that would enable me to get more peppers from the same number of plants and make sure I end up with enough in the freezer to make it through until the next years harvest.
My first thought was to start peppers NOW instead of waiting until March. Peppers can take 3 to 4 months or more to bear fruit prolifically, so if you can get your plants started earlier you might get peppers sooner.
That plan of action could go either way for me depending upon what the weather does. Getting them to germinate inside is not the problem. But since they have to go outside to get enough light after they germinate, how well they do will depend on how cold it gets. (According to the Almanac we might get some frigid temperatures in mid-March.)
Nonetheless, I’m pepper-hungry enough to give it a try.
I’ll prepare the jugs like I do for wintersown. I’ll mix a tablespoon or so of compost with the grow mix and then water it well. I’ll plant 3 pepper seeds per jug. They’ll stay on top of my washing machine until they germinate.
The jugs will be taped closed a couple of days after they germinate and then placed outside under my make-shift cold frame. Another consideration is placing the jugs under a hoop tunnel that has a double layer of plastic over it. That should give them enough protection – I hope.
Start Freezing Peppers Earlier in the Season
Peppers are about the only thing I allow to remain unharvested. I do that in the hopes of getting red peppers.
This year I’ll grow a large, beautiful, and huge bell pepper like California Wonder and harvest it continually rather than wait for it to turn red. (If you’ve grown bell peppers in particular you know that they are about the last to turn red.) By harvesting more, I’ll get a lot more. (To learn more about that read my post, Harvest More and Your Plants Will Produce More.)
Grow at least one pepper plant in a smaller 15 gallon smart bag (a grow bag) closer to the back door. I think this will enable me to more easily protect the plant when frost is expected in the fall and when a freeze threaten, Bill and I may even be able to get it into the porch. It won’t last a long time that way under the conditions I have, but that might get me a dozen or so more peppers.
This second strategy will depend a lot on fitting it into everything else that’s going on.
A Word About So-called Grow Bags
A lot of things are labeled grow bag these days. The ones I use are really called “smart bag” and not a plastic bag with holes. To read more about them, see my post Eggplant and Grow Bags A Great Combination.
Do you have a Southern Exposure or a Green House?
If you have a nice Southern exposure or a green house, you might be able to keep a pepper plant going a good amount of time. Or you might even try wintering it over.
Main Advantage of Wintering Over
Keeping a pepper plant alive over the winter would be a great way to get earlier peppers in the garden the following year.
To have a better chance of wintering one over, a good approach might be to start a few pepper plants in August. They wont get real big – which is the idea. You could plant them in a nice sized pot and if you’re successful in wintering them over you’d have a great start on peppers next season.
A New Pepper I Couldn’t Resist
I happened to come across a picture of an heirloom, hot (mild) pepper from Brazil. It was love at first sight! It’s a beautiful little red pepper about the size of a thumb (but round). They have a tapered point that looks like a birds beak. Thus, they are also known as Little Beak Peppers. The Google search that produced the best pictures for me was “pictures of Pimenta Biquinho.”
I’m sure they grow a bit larger in good garden soil, but the plants look small enough to easily grow in pots. I’m going to grow a few in my flower borders, at least one in the garden, one in a grow bag, and try one in one of my pots at my back door. I’d love to be able to winter one over inside!
Evidently they’re either rare or sold mainly in Brazil because most of the seed suppliers I know didn’t have them. I finally found them on e-bay of all places. I paid 1.99 for the seed and 2.49 for shipping! (20 seeds per package) If they do well for me I will consider them a bargain. And of course, I’ll want to save seed to continue growing them each year.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas to make your “pepper-gardening” experience even better this year.
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Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient and a lot healthier.
Peppers – Eating Fresh from the Garden Through December
Seed Starting – Peppers An Observation
Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method
Peppers – Almost An Extra Month of Red Ones
Peppers – Can’t Get Sweet Red Ones? Here’s How.
Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So
I did not know peppers could overwinter! This is great to know. Thanks so much!
Great info Theresa. I will try some peppers in a jug as well. I have some on a heat mat and under a grow light in my spare bedroom. They are really trying. I would also like the comparison of trying in jugs outside. And I will absolutely try to over winter one or two! Good luck with your new pepper 🙂
Bearfoot Mama, peppers can overwinter IF you can give them enough light and warmth. I’ve tried to overwinter them, but they need more light than I can give them and also my house is too cold for them. But, you never know until you try.
Glad you’ve got a pepper started already Toni. If you have the right conditions, you should do well in overwintering one too!
Got an email from Don R. this morning that had some good information in it and thought all could benefit from my sharing what he said.
“Theresa, Here are some of my experiences growing peppers.
I grew up in New Mexico and my family still lives out there. I love peppers and New Mexico is an ideal climate for growing them. They love hot weather and warm soil. If you can warm the soil, you can plant them sooner, but you should not try to put them out if the soil is cold.
I was laid up three years ago for awhile and a friend gave me a book on growing peppers. It says you can plant them as close as a foot apart. They will be forced to grow taller to get sunshine. I plant my Jalapenos about 1&1/2 foot apart and they do very well. It does take a lot of space for bell peppers and I don’t have the space for them, plus my brother won’t eat a bell pepper, he wants a big Jim chile. Plus you don’t get as many peppers if you grow Bell.”
Don’s information was so interesting that I just had to share it. Sure appreciate him taking time to write to me.
This year I may plant cayenne and will try those 1 foot apart as Don mentioned. For some reason my gut feeling is that I should keep my other peppers at least my normal 2 feet apart. (That’s still a lot closer than conventional wisdom dictates.)
I have not found that bell peppers take any more space than my other varieties of peppers. I have at least one or two bell peppers every year and I get loads and loads of peppers from them. But I mainly grow the Italian sweet peppers such as Corno di Toro and Carmen. I absolutely adore them! I always add a sweet pimento pepper to the mix, but they are not as sweet as the Italian peppers.
By the way, be sure to read the post Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So! for more information and lots of pictures of my peppers. https://tendingmygarden.com/peppers-it-aint-necessarily-so/
A light bulb went off as I read your account of giving your onions a haircut! Can I assume that this strategy will work, too, with garlic, shallots, et.al. to force larger bulb size?
Theresa, I went through all of your relating, older pepper posts and came across some very interesting info ~ especially in April 10, 2012 you mentioned that you just couldn’t resist saving and replanting seed from your hybrid Carmen. I am so excited to hear how that produced for you. Did you have any luck with it, or would you not bother again? I love, love, love to save my seed and experiment with what comes out of it and I am very interested in what you discovered.
I do not care for cooked bell peppers, so mostly just eat them raw. But what I have really become obsessed with are the hot peppers. It started with cayennes, but now I find myself growing more and more jalapeno. I like them fresh, in aioli, I pickled a bunch last year, and this year I am trying candied jalepenos. I tend to prefer the Italian sweet peppers to the bells, like Don.
After losing my early starts two years in a row, I don’t put anything out now until May.
And once again, who knew you were supposed to put them so far apart? I tend to put mine about a foot apart and they do so well. Giving up some of the pepper bed this year to blueberries!
I only give my onion seedlings a haircut when they are just starting. I do NOT cut them again once they are transplanted. More importantly, cutting them will not force a large bulb size. They need every bit of the top growth after they are planted to help produce a large bulb. The more “leaves” the onion has, the larger the bulb.
I have not grown shallot. I would think they would be like onions. (My above statement.)
I think it would be a bad idea to cut back the top growth of garlic. I would advise against that.
I’m putting your comment into the onion post as well, so others can benefit from it.
Thanks for commenting, Richard.
Fortunately, although it could have gone either way – I had great success in saving seed from the hybrid Carmen. The result peppers were beautiful, but probably not quite as large as the from the hybrid seed.
Carmen is one of my favorite peppers. I bought seed again this year because with space at a premium in the garden I can’t take too many chances on my favorite stuff. 🙂
Kate – a clarification -I don’t think it was Don who liked the Italian sweet peppers — it’s me. 🙂
Don, likes the hot ones.
Also, regarding losing your early starts — you can’t put early starts out in cold weather and not loose them. Early starts are only good if you can get them through until the weather warms enough to plant them out.
Another clarification that I may not have been clear on – For some reason hot peppers don’t object to being planted closer together. And still even other varieties can do well at 1 to 2 feet.
Many people pick peppers green because waiting until they turn fully colored slows or stops production. I have found that if you wait until there is a tiny bit of color before you pick them, they color up the rest of the way off the plant and the plant keeps on producing.
I’ve found the same thing GardenDmpls. I wrote about that some time back.
I still enjoy having my peppers that I’ve designated for red peppers ripen on the plant.
When they are about half red, I usually pick them and let them finish inside. The plant keeps producing for me, but I’m sure I lose a few peppers by leaving them on longer.
Other peppers (not designated for sweet red peppers) I pick consistently in order to not slow production. Don’t want to loose even one. 🙂
I’ve just read that you can germinate pepper seeds in a short amount of time using the wet paper towel on the top of the fridge method. That might get things going quicker – I will try this just for fun this year to see if it makes any difference.
I had good success with King of the North last year – an early bell.
Do you pinch off the first blossoms from peppers? Years ago I read to do that (until July 4 in NY) supposed to give more peppers but….
Never have done that Donna. Probably never will. And I get a lot of peppers.
Donna, I have pinched off flowers, but only under certain conditions. If you have just set out the plant and it has flowers or buds on it, you can pinch the flowers for the first few weeks while it is establishing a good root system. Otherwise, the plant will set peppers, but stay very small.