Pepper harvest

The 2017 pepper growing season officially ended this past weekend when I plucked the remaining pods (ripe and unripe) and moved the plants from their cozy pots/containers to the compost pile behind the house. It was certainly an interesting season and one from which I learned a great deal. Below are a few observations from this grow season.

It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

In previous seasons, I had only ever purchased mature plants from local nurseries and collected those fruit which happened to ripen through the season. For 2017, I set about germinating my own seeds right from the start. My method for germinating using a double cup method and ziplock bag to mimic a greenhouse proved pretty successful, as just about all of my seeds sprouted successfully. I’m hesitant to change that process, but the wife really wants her front window back, so I’ve created a small lighting system in my office that is currently taking care of an Aji Lemon.

Mother Nature Can Be Cruel

A big lesson that I unfortunately learned early in the season was a costly one — don’t become seduced by unseasonably warm weather. April was a beautiful month with loads of sun and shorts weather. I succumbed to the siren call of Mother Nature and set about getting my plants outside much earlier than planned. In hindsight, I should have stuck with my plan.

pepper plants early in the season

And a couple of short weeks later, the weather gods hit me and much of the east coast with a strong body blow. Early May saw freeze warnings in my area and my plants weren’t quite established enough to handle that sort of hit. Most of my plants took a hell of a beating, several perishing weeks later. It wasn’t until very late in the season that those hit the hardest actually started producing viable pods.

Nutrients

This is a small note really as I think I did pretty well with my feedings, but I would suggest for next year starting with fish emulsion a bit earlier. I feel some of my plants lagged behind in terms of growth. It was only until probably early June that I brought in this nutrient to get them going and they took off nicely. On a side note here, I think that the top soil I purchased for my potting mix was a bit too dense, so I’ll be adjusting that, as well.

Container Types

In previous season, I’ve kept my plants in your standard plastic pots (of varying sizes) with bottom drainage. The plants had always remained fairly small as a result, so I opted to try a few things for the 2017 season. Between the 20 or so plants I had this season, ten utilized the two-bucket system for watering and four sat in fabric pots. I’m sure that the early-season cold snap had something to do with this, but the plants in fabric pots just never really got going. They were smaller in size overall and didn’t produce nearly as many fruit as some of the other plants.

Those plants in the “self-watering” bucket systems seemed to fair the best for a longer period, though the plants in the standard pots produced the most fruit while they were at their peak. I’ll be employing the bucket system again next season and I’m sure I will have several other potted plants, but I’m not sure I’ll tackle the fabric pots again — maybe for a single plant.

I’ve also constructed a couple of raised bed frames for next season. One will be solely dedicated to peppers and should hold 10 or so plants. The other has been commandeered by the wife for other veggies.

The End… for Now

All in all, struggles aside, 2017 was a great adventure into pepper gardening that produced more fruit than I had seen in previous efforts. There were many firsts for me as a novice grower and I feel that I learned a great deal through the last six months and am already itching to get started for next season. I’ve already purchased and collected a good number of seeds for a much wider array of varieties. In the intervening months prior to the start of the 2018 season, I’ll continue with updates on the hydroponic Aji Lemon, as well as various reviews of peppers and sauces.