Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pick a Pint of Peppers

I had decided not to start tomatoes, eggplants or peppers this year but despite my best intentions, people kindly shared seed, and I saved seed, and well I really wanted this or that variety so I ended up starting a near full house of plants including the above three varieties.

(Scroll down for how to save pepper seeds)

For those of you gracious enough to share seed, a selection of your babies:

Black Hungarian from Southwest Ontario:


I was intrigued by this variety but had never tried it before. The plant is very ornamental and productive even in our less than ideal weather as of late. I am looking forward to tasting them.

D'eschellette (my ink ran... Michel what was that pepper called again?... How plant names get altered.) from MidEastern Ontario


Since I took this picture, mere days again, these peppers have really beefed out.

Banana Pepper from somewhere... I can't remember exactly where... (why you should keep better records than me.)


Mini Chocolate Bell saved from my garden


I did not isolate these plants from the others they were snuggle-close with so I don't know if there has been any crossing or not. However, they do have strange pointy bits on their flesh which I'm not sure is a change in the genes or some sort of pest damage. The peppers look undamaged just bumpy.

Scotch Bonnet Habenero from grocery store


Thanks box store, and anonymous growers, for these. They are just about to flower so I'm not expecting fruit to ripen outside or even this year but I overwinter my peppers so hopefully next year I can taste them. Beside it is the re-rooted variegated fish that I saved from The Museum of Agriculture's demonstration gardens (it was on the ground, I swear). I'll have to wait until next year to get fruit from that too.

4 year old peppers plants confined to small pots:


Long Red Cayenne, on the left, producing strong and Fatali taking a break this year after fruiting indoors.


Saving Pepper Seeds

This is easy. Find yourself ripe peppers, scrape out the seeds, let them dry for a good week, spread out on a flat surface with good air circulation, not touching anything, and then label and put away in a cool, dry place like other seeds.

I like to dry mine on paper towels as they suck up moisture. They also tend to stick to the seed but a bit of dry towel on my seed hasn't yet been a problem for germination.

Okay, that's the way I do it but there are some caveats.

Caveat 1: Peppers are generally self-pollinating (they fertilize themselves) but if you are growing more than one variety, especially in the same species (same latin name), it's possible they might cross. Sources vary on how common this is (see Chileman link below for lots of detail)

Caveat 2: If you are saving from a hybrid pepper, then the result is anyone's guess but heck, if you have the room, it might be fun to experiment.

Caveat 3: I'm assuming peppers carry seed born diseases. Chileman recommends discarding any deformed, damaged or spotty seeds. You can treat seeds with 'hot water' before planting them. I have never tried this but it sounds like something you would want to do just before sowing them. As a general rule, don't save seed from plants with serious disease and warn the person you are sharing seed with of any potential problems. Destroy any deformed or suspicious seedlings or plants while growing too.


Chileman gives you more details on saving hot pepper seeds
Treating seed with hot water or chlorine from the Ohio State University

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What no fall garden plans?

Quick, pull those garlic bulbs and throw down some brassica seeds - you know chinese lettuce, kale, turnips. Or maybe clear out that spent pea patch and toss in some heat tolerant loose leaf lettuce or some carrots. It's time for the fall garden preparation.

Lettuce and mustard, both prefer growing in cooler weather.

I know what your thinking. You started the season off with a gusto. The garden edges were neat, the beds weedless but now your a bit more relaxed as you sit in the garden with your choose of cool beverage watching the tomatoes ripen. So what if there are a couple dandelions in bloom around the edges. You like dandelions. Besides, your back is still aching from all that shovelling in the spring.

So you'll be happy when I tell you that planting a fall garden is as easy as 1.2.3

1. Look for some quick growing, cold/frost tolerant plant seeds at the bottom of your seed box. Think cabbage family members, greens and root crops. Don't forget plants that tend to bolt when the hot weather hits like florence fennel.

2. Go outside and find a bare patch of ground or clear away some plant debris from old flowers or vegetables. Toss those seeds down.

3. Make sure you water frequently, especially in the heat of summer.


Now, if you remember, do some weeding and thinning for optimun growth but if you don't, you might next year after you see the results. Some time in September, your tomatoes will feel the sting of frost. Beans and pumpkins vines will be shrivelled brown revealing behind them a sea of green. Radicchio will be forming crisp red heads. Lettuce will splay out in fans and tightly coiled buds of broccoli will be raising on the ends of thick stalks.

The season will not be over for you. Using a coldframe or some simple plastic tents (I'll elaborate another time but google season extension), you can keep out the bitter winds and those first dustsings of snow too extending your harvest even longer.

So what are you still doing sucking back that cold one? Go find some arugula seeds and sow!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another cool pepper trick

Garden expansion via large pots or why scrounging stuff from your neighbours is good. All my mini and hot peppers are growing in pots that were donated by my neighbours who put in a cedar hedge.

Early in the spring, a terrible thing happened: Cutworms ate through the stem of my variegated pepper. The previous fall I had resuced the seed for this pepper from a fruit dropped by a 'Fish' in their demonstration vegetable garden. I patiently dried the pepper and separated the seeds wondering if it would come up variegated like its presumed parents. It did beautifully until one fateful day.

In a desperate move, I stuck the broken stem back into the soil and kept it watered. My theory was because it was related to tomatoes, maybe it would too would easily root along its stem.

It took!

Fish pepper plant working on life 2.

My pepper plant survived. No, it will not produce peppers for me this year but as I commonly overwinter my favourite peppers, I have hope that next year, I will see the fruit of my labours.

Just a reminder that gardening is for the patient.