Saturday, March 17, 2018

Peppery Starts


2017 was a disappointing year for many veg in the garden, not the least of which were the peppers.

The season started off well – in fact, the pepper transplants were the largest and most robust that I had ever grown:

Pepper transplants in 2017

In the past, once the pepper seedlings were potted up to larger containers in late March/early April, I would start to water them with diluted kelp fertilizer.  Last year, I changed things up and decided to use full strength kelp fertilizer every two weeks instead of diluted fertilizer at every watering.  Once again, I did this only after the seedlings had been potted up.  I'm thinking that this was the main reason behind how well they did.

One thing that I DIDN’T do was use a heat mat after the seedlings germinated.   In 2016 I kept the seedlings on the heat mat until I potted them up (at which point I removed the mat) but last year I grew many more ornamentals which meant that I ran short of mats and the seedlings had to go without.

Now would the transplants have been even better had I kept them toastier?  Perhaps, but I’m more than happy with the results that I did get so I’ll be doing the same thing this year.

Peppers after transplanting

We were off to a good start but once the peppers were planted in their bed, it was pretty much downhill from there, starting with the rabbits:

Dang rabbits

Then a rainy summer promoted slugs and lots of them.  Other than the wet weather, there was one issue that I didn’t foresee which also gave the slugs a leg up – I grew the peppers in Bed #18 which is right beside an asparagus bed.  Once the asparagus ferned out in early summer, it shaded the pepper bed for a good chunk of the day.  Since bed #18 and the asparagus beds were both relatively new, I didn't realize that this would be an issue.  It was a lesson learned – I’ll have to limit the veg that grow in the two beds next to the asparagus to those that can tolerate partial shade.

But the added shade wasn’t the only issue as even the grow bags that were in full sun didn’t fare much better.  In fact, at least 75% of the peppers in the grow bags ended up in the compost due to slug damage or rotting caused by slug damage.

I count 2, possibly 3 slugs in this photo...

The bottom line?  The total pepper harvest went from 43 lbs. in 2016 to 14 lbs. in 2017.  Yes, just pitiful.  BUT it’s a new year which means a fresh start – don’t you just love that? – and this year the pepper bed will be in a nice, sunny spot in the main garden which will, hopefully, contribute to a bountiful harvest.

As for varieties, I’m growing a total of 17 this year, concentrating more on the sweet rather than the hot.

Returning Favourites

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

Hot:  Hungarian Hot Wax, Italian Pepperoncino, Anaheim, Lu Mei


Newcomers

Sweet:  Fiariello, Antohi Romanian
Hot:  Ancho, Joe Parker and Aji Golden*

*Super excited to try this gorgeous pepper generously provided by Dave from Our Happy Acres.

As usual, I started my peppers in February and so far so good.  Out of 32 pots, I am only waiting on germination from two more.  It’s getting a bit late in the game, but I’m not worried as I always sow one or two extra seeds for each variety.  Even if the stragglers don’t come up, I’ll be able to sub out another variety.

Extra Jimmy Nardello seedlings, just in case

Once I have all the seedlings that I need, the extras will be pinched out.  I don’t bother growing them out since space under the lights is limited and I don’t usually have an issue with seedlings failing once they get to this stage (knock on wood!).


I love seeing all that green under the grow lights at this time of year – my optimism for the coming season overfloweth 😀

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

24 comments:

  1. That's one of the few benefits of gardening in a hot, dry climate: few to no slugs. (Grin)

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    1. It's definitely easier to deal with too little rain rather than too much!

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  2. It looks like a slug nightmare. I've had slugs before, but nothing like that. Your plants did look incredible last year.

    2/3 of my pepper seedlings died last week, so I had to replant them today. Hopefully it won't be too bad of a setback.

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    1. Oh no! What happened?? You're rather lucky that you still have time to replant - around here I'd really have to narrow down the varieties as only a handful would mature before frost at this stage.

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  3. It's such a shame that the peppers didn't do so well last year after such a great start, the young plants look so healthy and strong. As you say, the beauty of gardening is that you get a fresh go at things each year so, fingers crossed, they'll do much better this time around.

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    1. I hope so - you just never know what Mother Nature will throw at you, either good or bad (of course we always hope for the former!)

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  4. I'm hoping that all our freezing weather has hot the slug and snail population hard as they caused lots of damage to our plants too last year.

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    1. I'm hoping for that as well - I'm also thinking that may be another benefit to my turning the soil in the fall - it could have resulted in more slug casualties.

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  5. Looks like you have a good start on your plants. We love peppers, especially hot ones. Sorry you had such a bunny problem. We haven't had that experience but my dogs are pretty good at patrolling the garden for these 'pests'. Looking forward to reading about your progress.

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    1. Thanks Karin - As far as I know, all of the gaps have been plugged up - fingers crossed! I have seen a couple of rabbits in the backyard recently. Hopefully their nest is far enough away that the tiny, gap-finding babies stay clear of my garden :)

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  6. I can't think of a pest more revolting than slugs. Yuck! Even not so hot but dry climates keep the slug (and snail) populations to a minimum. I rarely find them in my garden, they do like to hang out in the moist compost bin though. I know your bunny woes, they are wily creatures, almost as bad as voles. Don't get me started on that...

    It seems like once pepper seedlings get going that they don't really benefit from bottom heat, in fact I think that I have basically cooked the roots of some peppers by leaving them on the heat mat too long.

    Good luck with your peppers this year! I'm wishing you a pest free year with optimal rain and sun. And if that happens then we both can quit gardening because it will never be better than that! :)

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    1. It was a horrible slug year all around - even the tomatoes didn't go unscathed...which was another first! I love rain, but sometimes, it's too much of a good thing and there's little that can be done. When it comes down to it, I definitely prefer weather to be on the dry side - you can always water, right?

      Your pepper observations (re: the heat mat) have certainly held up here - good thing too as I really didn't want to purchase another pricey heat mat.

      HA! Pest free AND optimal rain & sun? Now THAT'S dreaming BIG! But boy, it would certainly be nice to place an order for even one of those ;)

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  7. I have an awful time getting peppers to grow especially red bell and hot peppers. I tried a new seed last year called Blight Buster, from Seeds n Such and they produced huge wonderful red bell peppers without issues. Like you I start mine inside and do keep them on heat mats. I also plant them with tomatoes at the same time as they need similar heat and sun for soil and usually end up planting them out in late May/early June.

    I am trying a locally grown red bell seed from Hudson Valley this year along with Blight Buster to see which does better. Still the peppers in raised beds do better than in grow bags or containers....not sure where I am planting the hot peppers as I want them well away from the bell so may be trying my portable bed this year with cukes. Good luck and I'll let you know how mine do this year.

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    1. Your growing season is very similar to mine - my schedule for starting and planting them out is exactly the same. I may try to grow peppers in grow bags again this year - still not sure about that since, just like your experience, they did far worse than those planted in the bed.

      When it comes to varieties, bell peppers do horribly around here too (for me anyhow), but there are dozens of sweet non-bell varieties that mature quickly and produce very well, even in our short growing season. Sounds like your "Blight Buster" is a winner - it will be interesting to see how the locally grown bell compares.

      BTW - If you are separating your hot & sweet peppers because you think that your sweet will turn hot by being planted too closely together, no need to worry - that's only an issue if you plan to save seed and only the next generation would be affected. I grow all of my peppers - all 32 of them - in one bed with hots touching sweets and have never had a problem with one of the sweet varieties "converting" ;)

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  8. Looking good! Hope you have a wonderful growing season this year producing lots of food. Nancy

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    1. Thank you Nancy - right back at you!!

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  9. For you it was slugs, for me it was aphids on my peppers last year. Here's hoping for a better year for both of us! I have the same situation with heating mats. I only have so much room, and I generally reserve them to get seeds germinated. Then I move something else on them.

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    1. Yes, a better year - hear, hear! I remember when I purchased my first heat mat, thinking that the one would be enough. Ha! But now that I have 3, I've put the breaks on - it's so easy to get carried away with getting more "stuff" every time you don't have the exact setup you want. I'm trying to stop that and make due with what I already have.

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  10. Oh wow! I'm always amazed with your gardening skills and all the produce you get from seed! I wish I had a little more sun. Have you ever tried beer traps to drown the slugs, or crushed eggshells scattered under the plants? They really help me defend against slugs in my puny little sunny veg plot.

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    1. Thanks Beth :) I have tried beer baits in the past but it never seemed to catch anything - maybe they didn't like the brand?? I did use eggshells last year and they may have been somewhat effective, but I think the slug pressure was just too much. Even in my container peppers where there wasn't that much soil surface to cover, I still found slug damage after putting eggshells on the soil surface :(

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  11. Sounds like your peppers had a cascade of plagues last year. I love sweet peppers that go red on the vine, then are roasted and the outer skin removed.

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    1. Yum, yum! And the best part is that you can freeze them after roasting to enjoy all winter long!

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