Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Overwintering Peppers

It is still sweltering hot outside and I haven't harvested a single pepper yet this year, but I'm already thinking about possibly overwintering peppers.  Yeah, I admit it, patience is definitely not one of my strong suits.  Planning ahead, however, is! 

Eight weeks ago, I started some Long Thin Cayenne pepper seeds to see how well they would grow in our new indoor grow box.  I knew it was late in the season to start peppers, but it was an experiment and I wasn't counting on being able to actually harvest any peppers this year (I sure was hoping, though!).  But the pepper seedlings did really well in the grow box, so we transplanted three of them outside.  And now we have peppers!  I don't know how long it will take for these to ripen red, but I'm excited for even green peppers.

Cayenne peppers, still green.

There are actually two cayenne pepper plants in this five-gallon bucket.  I was worried that they would be crowded, but they seem to be doing okay so far.

This is the cayenne pepper plant growing in the square foot gardening box.  This plant is smaller than the ones growing in the five-gallon bucket, but some peppers have already formed on this plant, hopefully with more to come.

I've been wondering if I could bring the pepper plants inside to overwinter them.  Wondering always leads to questions, many questions.  How much sunlight do pepper plants require to overwinter?  Could they survive indoors near a south-facing window?  Or would east-facing windows be better during the winter?  If I could successfully overwinter pepper plants, would they produce peppers all winter long, or hunker down and just go into some sort of survivor dormant mode?

If I could figure out a place to keep them over winter, I sure would like to try to keep them alive, as peppers are technically perennials in warmer zones.  I read somewhere that second year pepper plants are often more productive than first year plants.  Isn't that just fascinating?


Stefaneener said...

There are a whole lot of blog posts out there -- a search on "overwintering peppers" got me more information than I wanted, but none on my specific question, which was "What are the odds I could overwinter them outside in the Bay Area?" so I'm just going to have to write that one myself!
I'm sure they'll be great for you.

Anonymous said...

I have never thought about overwintering peppers. I think that they would need a lot of light and high temperatures. Why don't you keep them in your indoor growing box?

Rowena... said...

Starting hot peppers from seed has never happened for me (bad seed, too cold, not sure why) so we end up purchasing seedlings every year. Since you've got a couple of plants in buckets, you can move them around as needed when the days shorten. Those look like they'll ripen soon.

The Idiot Gardener said...

It's way too cold here to overwinter anything other than the hardiest stuff. I want to grow peppers and chillis, but after watching my Black Krim shiver themselves to death, I'm not sure about the viability.

Which means, I'll probably give it a go anyway!

abigail said...

I over wintered thai hot peppers a couple years ago. I gave them no extra light, just a south facing window and they survived. I think a little extra light would have helped a lot.

Prairie Cat said...

I like the new header!

You know, we have been on the same mind tract. Every time I go outside to the garden, I try to figure out what plants (if any) I would be able to overwinter. This is probably because I randomly planted seeds, not really to get a harvest, but just to see if they would grow and how well they would do. So now I have some plants that need just a little longer than when our first frost date comes around.

We have a few grow lights, but I am not sure if it would be enough. Keep us updated on how your experiments go once winter comes, and I'll let you know what my results are, too. :)

Engineeredgarden said...

I would think a pretty good light setup would be necessary to keep them going through winter, but then again, i've never tried it.

Meredehuit ♥ said...

Welcome to Blotanical! I garden in Zone 5 as well. Good luck with your peppers!

Shawn Ann said...

Ottawa Gardener just posted a blog about his experience a couple of weeks ago...
Looks interesting and worth a try!

Vanessa @ Domestic Dame said...

For planting late your peppers are doing great! I planted Jalapenos, poblanos and habaneros. So far the Jalapenos gave me lots of peppers the poblanos are just starting to fruit and nothing at all from the habaneros. I'm not sure how over wintering them would work out but you'll have to keep us updated I would be interested in seeing your results. Unfortunatly I cant think of anywhere inside that offers enough space to drag all my pots indoors!!

Thomas said...

I manage to overwinter my citrus trees indoors just fine for the past couple of years. I'm sure if you give it plenty of light from a south facing window and some good quality potting soil, it may just pull through!

thyme2garden said...

Stefaneener - google search often provides lots of great info, but sometimes it takes a while to the "right" answer, and like in your case, the "perfect" answer to your very specific question just doesn't seem to be there! One of the reasons I like the garden blogging community and being able to converse with others about specific questions and issues. :)

If your temps don't go down below the 40s, I would think that you could overwinter them outside, even if they may not grow any during the colder months. If I remember correctly, though, I did get some near-freezing temps a few times while I lived in San Francisco and a few other places around northern and southern CA.

* * * * *
vrtlarica - I agree, pepper plants do need a lot of light and high temps to grow and produce peppers, but I think it just may be possible to keep the plant alive with less than optimal conditions over winter, so that they have an early start when it starts to warm up in spring. And if it's true that second year plants are more productive than first year plants, then double bonus!

We do have one small pepper plant in the grow box that we never transplanted outside. We'll keep that one in there as an experiment. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough room in the grow box (both area and height) for multiple pepper plants.

* * * * *
Rowena - my first attempt at germinating peppers this year didn't work so well, and that was with seeds in containers next to a south-facing window. I think it just wasn't warm enough for the seeds to germinate. But the next attempt in the grow box worked perfectly.

thyme2garden said...

The Idiot Gardener - I like your enthusiasm about adventure gardening! If you do try to overwinter peppers and chilies (I assume you mean sweet and hot peppers?), will you be doing it in your house or in a greenhouse perhaps?

* * * * *
abigail - thanks for the info about your pepper overwintering experience! That's very encouraging.

* * * * *
Prairie Cat - thank you for noticing the new header! It took me over two months of blogging before I finally realized that it's very easy to put up a header picture without having to mess around with html. Then Keith told me that he knew how to do it the easy way all along. Ugh.

It's nice to know that we're in the same gardening mind track. I'll definitely keep you updated of my progress, and am looking forward to reading about yours.

* * * * *
Engineeredgarden - I will experiment and let you all know how it goes!

thyme2garden said...

Meredehuit - thank you for visiting! It's nice to "meet" another gardener from Zone 5!

* * * * *
Shawn Ann - oh, I did see that post! I'll have to go back and reread it, now that I've decided to try this overwintering out for myself. BTW, Ottawa Gardener is a she. :) I know sometimes it's hard to tell with some bloggers without pictures or self-descriptions!

* * * * *
Vanessa - I actually have the same problem with lack of indoor space, especially for big containers like five-gallon buckets. I will have to consult with Keith and see if we can make some room somewhere near good windows. It's going to be difficult!

* * * * *
Thomas - it's great that your citrus trees overwintered well indoors! I hope to have similar success with my overwintering efforts.

RandomGardener said...

I have exact same thing planned! I will dig up one of the chili pepper plants into a pot and then bring it indoors over winter, in our unfinished basement. Not much sunlight in there. Will see how it fares over the cold MN winter! Ditto for mint!

thyme2garden said...

RandomGardener - are you planning on having any light for your chili pepper plant in your basement? I would love to know how it goes for you! Let's keep each other posted!

Angela said...

Do keep us posted. I should be able to overwinter my peppers outside with just some row cover on them but I don't do it because of pests issues. If you discover that indeed on the second year they are more productive I may have to rethink my position :-)

Ottawa Gardener said...

Cayenne works really well indoors for me and has flowered and fruited indoors as well. Let The thing about plants is that they are variable like people. However, all things not being equal, my peppers manage to survive.

Good Luck!

thyme2garden said...

Angela - I sure will! As I try to figure out how to garden in zone 5b, sometimes I forget that I used to live in CA where during some winters, the coldest temps never went much below the 40s. Oh the gardening possibilities you have! :-)

* * * * *
Ottawa Gardener - I'm starting to learn that very valuable lesson, that not all plants (even of the same variety) are created equal. Thank you for the luck, and I'm looking forwarding to trying out my hand at overwintering cayenne peppers this year.

Matron said...

That is really late to sow peppers, but your plants are amazing! I have to grow mine in a heated propagator starting February or March to even get a good crop because they just take so long to grow!

thyme2garden said...

Matron - thank you! I just rescued your comment from my comment spam box. I guess it's a new Blogger thing. I don't know why your comment ended up there, but you're here now!

meemsnyc said...

We had great results from overwintering our habanero plant. We had it in a pot on our window sill for a year, because we never had a backyard. Then when we moved to this house, the first plant that went in the garden was the habanero, and it quadrupled in size!

Check it out here.

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