Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2009 Overview Peppers

I'll start with the peppers. This was a good year for my peppers though it shouldn't have been. The cold weather should have made it a bad year. I think the most contributing factor to this is the double dug bed.


  • March 13th sowed in soil blocks on a heat mat
  • March 16th germinated
  • April 23rd potted up into newspaper pots
  • April 24th first hour of sun outside (25th 3 hours, 26th five hours)
  • April 30th planted in the ground with a remay row cover
  • July 16th first harvest of Early Jalapenos
  • August 4th first harvest of Serranos
  • August 27th first harvest of Cayennes

They were seeded way too early. The peppers only needed six weeks to planting out. Everyone says eight to ten weeks and I think everyone is wrong. The research I've read says letting a pepper plant bloom before transplanting will inhibit its final production. It might produce earlier than a smaller one not in bloom, but in the long run it isn't worth it. So I want to get them transplanted before blooming. One of my pepper varieties was starting to bud at 6 1/2 weeks. I need to start them much later.

Harvest stats:

  • 2 Cayennes: 0.33 lbs per plant
  • 4 Serranos: 0.39 lbs per plant
  • 6 Early Jalapenos: 0.55 lbs per plant

Two cayennes give more than enough to dry for my spice rack. One is probably better, but you never know if one will die on you, so I go with too many. I like the jalapenos better than the serranos, at least the later ones. The early ones were not hot at all. The later ones were great. So next year maybe only two serrano plants and more jalapenos or try something else. Peppers are not a great producer in the garden, but at least this year was good for me. Yes even though I had low numbers, I'm feeling pretty happy with the production. Like tomatoes, peppers have never done well here.

Not much seems to bother the peppers. I did have some four lined plant bugs in the garden for the first time this year. They put some funky looking holes in some leaves, but didn't seem to slow the plants down at all. The jalapenos were attacked (as they are every year) by some insect. I think a caterpillar, but have never seen it so not sure. They get holes in the fruits. It doesn't happen to a lot of them and the insect doesn't touch the hotter peppers or anything else in the garden. I've been ignoring it for year and I'm guessing I'll continue to do so. It takes a bit of my harvest but not much. The late blight didn't seem to affect the peppers at all. I heard some reports of peppers getting attacked in New England, but not mine.

I saved seeds from my jalapenos this year. I waited until after the first flush of peppers were picked then isolated the plant. This was not long enough for the plant to totally ripen the pod. They were starting to turn, but it was too cold outside for them to finish. Bringing the plant inside worked well, but if I save seed of something next year I ought to pick my plant before the first blooms open, so it they will have all summer to ripen.

I don't think I'm going to change anything but the start dates on my transplants next year. Things worked pretty well. I keep thinking about getting another variety of chili pepper, but haven't made up my mind yet. Anyone have some favorite chili peppers they might recommend?


  1. I too am amazed at how well my peppers did this year. It was a slow, cold beginning and only a few actually turned red. I want to grow a couple cayenne pepper plants next year too. I tend to use it a lot in cooking. Plus your pictures of them are so pretty.

    I’ve grown Big Chili II for the past two years and am very pleased these Anaheim peppers. They are supposed to mature early in about 70 days and are 9-inches long. The plant produces a good number of fruit. I only had one that turned red this year, but they are still good green.

  2. My peppers did well this year as well. Very surprising, considering the horrible weather we had.
    I'm very surprised at how quickly your peppers germinated and grew. Mine are always quite slow, but although on a heat mat, are in my pretty chilly basement. Maybe this year they'll do better, since I'm moving the seed starting upstairs.
    I did cayennes last year and they were amazing. This year I did jalapenos, which always do very well. I keep trying to grow a poblano type, but they never really do anything.

  3. My peppers didn't do well this year, but then again - we don't need many for our needs. Your pepper pest may be a fall armyworm, 'cause they really ate the leaves on mine this year.

  4. I don't know what sort of chillis and peppers I've grown as the seed was given by friends, but we had a few of them with a hole in the fruit and, yes, it was a caterpillar. The fruits with the holes tended to be small and shrivel, so I just picked them off and disposed of away from the plants.

  5. Our hot peppers did really well in this year's cold, wet weather here in PA, too, Daphne. Go figure! I'd suggest that you try the teardrop-shaped, lovely lemon-yellow habanero 'Lemon Drop' next year with your other peppers. It's a winner! Beautiful, prolific, flavorful, and not unbearably hot (though we find that a single pepper is plenty for a dish as far as we're concerned).

  6. Our peppers were paltry. I blame myself. I don't actively want them as much as I want the tomatoes and edamame beans and leeks and beets... I am going to try and learn from you and be kinder to my peppers going into the new season. I do love having them when I'm making my salsas.

    Thanks for the overview!

  7. GrafixMuse, Cayennes really are pretty, they aren't half as pretty as the super chilis I used to grow but pretty none the less. Big Chili sounds pretty good. I like Anaheims.

    The Mom, A lot of my plants grew faster than they say they will. I'm not sure why, but I'm trimming the time of many of them. I only used the heat mat to germinate the plants. They they were on their own. They were in my laundry room which isn't all that well heated, but does get a lot of sun and warms up if the day is sunny.

    EG, none of the leaves were eaten, only the fruit.

    Jan, yeah I did that too. Some with little holes not all the way through seemed to be OK.

    our friend Ben, it seems like most of the peppers liked the cold wet weather. I wouldn't guess it of peppers but I guess they do. Ack habarano peppers.I've been afraid to grow them because they are reported to be really hot.

    June, that is mostly why I grew so many peppers this year. I wanted to make a lot of salsa. Too bad we didn't get more tomatoes. Recently I've been eating them with tortillas, beans, and cheese. I use the pickled peppers and they are really tasty. I think I need even more next year.

  8. I don't know if you have a big slug problem. I sure did. I had tons of slugs in my peppers eating small and large holes in the leaves and the peppers.Typically of them, they would wait until the pepper was just ripe, before snacking-- as in I would be giving it one more day for flavor and then they would chow down in the night. I got so I was picking peppers early to avoid the slug slime.

  9. Great photos, Daphne, especially the pepper flower. And thanks for the time line. Since next year will be my first full growing season, it's nice to get a sense of what others are doing and when.

    Question - do you buy a special soil mix for making soil blocks?

  10. I had very good luck with my Mini Bell peppers and Early Jalepeno's this year. I am not going to grow the Mini Bells again though because they are so small that they are mostly seed cavity and not much pepper meat. I am going to give Sweet Italian a try next year instead. My peppers do take 8 weeks from seeding to planting out - even with a heat mat and lights. I wonder what your secret is to such a fast start on your seedlings?!

  11. My peppers did really well this year too, even with all the cold damp weather. If you think you started them early I started peppers late Feb! I did harvest peppers really early in the season though, I think I had a basket of Big Chili II at start of June. If you are looking for a new pepper I'd grow the Big Chili II they are an Anaheim pepper. They make a really good chili sauce when green, you can let them turn red for chili powder, they are a good sub for bell peppers. I even put them in my salsa.

  12. Patti, yes I have a huge slug problem, but I don't find that they bother my peppers all that much. I don't think slugs like chili peppers as much as sweet peppers (which I don't grow).

    Thomas, just note that I planted my peppers and tomatoes way too early. I was going on a trip and thought they would live longer in the cold outdoors better than under my husband's care. Usually they don't get planted until mid May. I only do earlier if I check the long range forecast and it doesn't call for cold wet weather. Last year I used the Vermont Compost Company's soil mix for the first part. Then when I ran out I made my own mix from Coleman's formula (which you can find by a web search). For the compost I didn't use mine (which isn't perfectly decayed and screened) and used the Vermont Compost Company's compost. I really like the stuff. Around here you can get it at Whole Foods in the spring. I use my compost for everything else, but I like theirs for my seed starting mix.

    kitsapFG, I find that true of serranos too. Their wall is very thin so you don't get a lot of pepper for each one. Hmm no clue as to my secret. Maybe it is the compost that I told Thomas about. I use T8s to grow them and give them a lot of light. I keep the light low to the plants. Natural light floods the laundry room in the spring. My laundry room is cool (about 60), but if it is really sunny can warm up a bit. I use a heat mat to germinate my warm loving seeds. I use soil blocks (to start) and newspaper pots (to pot up). I use Coleman's mix for seed starting. I never use liquid fertilizer since the mix has fertilizer in it. I use cinnamon or chamomile tea to prevent damping off. I just hope they grow as fast next year or I'll have seedlings two weeks too late.

  13. Dan, Feb is a bit early. Hmm I've gotten one recommendation for Big Chili and one for Big Chili II. I'll have to check them out.