Saturday, 29 October 2011

Heirloom Pepper Trial

Chinese Five Colour Peppers, Corno di Toro Rosso, Yellow Mini Salad Baby Belle, Mild Orange Habanero Chile, and Italian Pepperoncini.

Each year I enjoy conducting my own tests and trials on the various plants that I grow, in various manners, to find out what works best for my particular growing area, and suits my sensibilities. Amongst many other things, I have trialed... organic fertilizers versus not, growing with mycorrhizae versus not, heirloom versus not... You get my drift.   

This year, I decided to trial growing peppers in three entirely different locations and situations, in order to find out how to grow a decent pepper in Canada. Up till this year, I have never, ever, ever, been able to grow more than  a token one or two, small peppers, on any one plant, regardless of variety.

I only grow heirloom varieties, both hot and sweet, and all were started from seed, using organic practices only, by me in my own greenhouse. I am so all about the organic and the heirloom.

The test consisted of:
#1 In the greenhouse, in bio-degradable 2 gallon fibre pots
#2 In the potager, in a raised bed, amongst the tomatoes, tomatillos, and flowers.
#3 In the potager, in a raised bed, covered with a plastic covered wooden frame, a cold frame of sorts, to retain heat. ( I always thought that perhaps we just did not get a warm enough growing season up here)

#3 was a huge bust! The plants did not thrive in the covered cold frame area at all, even with the front open for pollinators and air circulation. They were small, with few flowers, and did not produce much of anything for fruit. No bug issues but still a complete bust. Two plants actually shriveled up and nearly died.   

#2 was, surprisingly, much more successful than #3. The plants remained small, flowered well, and produced the few, small peppers that I am accustomed to harvesting. A couple of aphids very early on in the season and then no bug problems after that. Each plant produced one or two small peppers.

#1 Huge Success! They flowered early, produced early, produced much fruit, fabulous size and fabulous flavour, and continue to thrive even now, at the very tail end of October. The plants themselves are large, about 2 feet tall and most are bushy, though a few varieties tend to grow tall and thin. Aphids continued to be a problem until late August. I sprayed weekly with a strong jet of water, or if I felt that big guns were needed, I occasionally used insecticidal soap. However, I found that the  water worked incredibly well. Knocks the aphids off the plants and they just do not crawl back.

In the end...
I do not know why the cold frame growing was not as successful as greenhouse growing, but it was not even close. If I did not have the greenhouse to grow my future peppers in, I believe that I would continue to grow in the raised beds, but would raise the sides/walls around the entire 6x6 bed with either burlap, straw bales, or plastic walls, so they remain open on top, with good air flow, but stay warmer due to the raised sides.

The above pictures were taken today, on October 29th and I have thus far harvested much fruit, made many jars of pickled hot peppers, and eaten many sweet peppers both in salads and soups. To my delight, it looks as if there are many more peppers to enjoy!

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