If you grow some great pepper plants and hate to see them go in the fall, grab a shovel and a pot and follow me! You CAN get an extra year out of a pepper plant.
For someone who does not even like peppers, I have a somehow developed quite a knack for growing them. Our 2012 garden had a beautiful harvest of habanera, Tabasco, cayenne, and salsa peppers. Come fall, I decided to try & salvage two sad little cayenne peppers that got crowded out. Although they did produce a few peppers that year, I was not willing to give up hope for them.
The following spring, I proudly replanted my surviving peppers — scraggly and pathetic as they were — back out in the garden and within a few short weeks, they begin to outgrow and out-produce all their bigger counterparts from the previous summer. Between those two pepper plants alone, I harvested at least 300 cayenne peppers and they just kept coming and coming and coming. They grew to 4 1/2 feet tall so I decided two years was enough and yanked them.
This past fall (2014), I had these alma paprika peppers that never had much of chance, and again, I thought, “Why not at least try it?” Here it is mid-January, and while my potted pepper plants may not be thriving wildly like they would outside in the summer, but they are hanging in there and producing. That said, I am confident that they will have a big head start over the other seedlings.
How to Move Peppers In For the Winter
1. Mix up some quality potting soil rich in organic matter and some sand for good drainage. Peppers like loamy, well-drained soil of a moderate-rich soil type. A tablespoon of Epsom salt mixed in is also good for the extra magnesium. Peppers will do okay with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5, but ideally, lean the pH toward the slightly acidic — between 6.0 and 6.8 is perfect. Dampen the soil & let it drain well. You want it moist, but not wet.
2. Get a one gallon (at least) pot for each plant (with drainage holes and a saucer or tray) and a shovel.
3. Dig a large, deep hole around the root ball. Gently pull the plant from the soil and shake off most of the excess dirt. Place each in its pot and cover it with the new soil. Water & drain.
4. Let it stay outdoors so long as night time temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything less and it is time to bring them inside. This gives them a chance to get used to being potted before the drastic change to becoming a house plant. When you bring them in, put them in a warm sunny spot or under grow lights.
5. In the spring, just treat it like a very large seedling — hardening it off to slowly re-acclimate it to the outdoors. After a week or two and when you sure the last frost is over, replant it in the garden. That is all there is to it. Oh, except for one thing …
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What To Do If They Flower
First, pat yourself on the back. Your peppers are happy. When mine did it, I did a little research and found there were several schools-of-thought on how best to hand pollinate peppers, but the bottom line was that because peppers are self-pollinating and self-fertilizing, all you need do to is to get pollen from one flower’s anthers to another flower’s pistil. No bees required.
Some experts (which I am not) say to wet a small artist’s paintbrush, some say to use a dry one, and some say wet it and squeeze out the excess moisture with a paper towel. Then just carefully wipe some pollen off of one flower’s anthers and onto another flower’s pistil. However, one video I watched on this claimed that just shaking or flicking the blossom is sufficient if the blooms are in close proximity. This was all I did. I “flicked” them and let the pollen fall where it may. It worked. They set fruit … indoors, in winter.
This may be standard operating procedure for more seasoned gardeners; and therefore, no big news, but for me it was a delightful learning experience. I was overjoyed. Have you ever brought an annual in and helped it survive all winter?
Jo is a devoted wife, photographer, blogger, gardener, cook, and semi-retired technical writer with a passion for homesteading and self-sufficiency as a philosophy and lifestyle. She and her husband, Eddie, are newbie homesteaders who write about everything from gardening, repurposing lifeless junk, learning new kitchen skills (including preservation & scratch cooking), and transitioning from the city to the country. Jo shares her and Eddie’s adventures at Homestead Chronicles.