Thursday, February 11, 2010

Aphid Massacre - overwintering peppers

Still alive and over the dark hill of December, rolling down into the sunshine of spring:

Scotch bonnet pepper, first year being overwintered. It got attacked by aphids and the cat likes to sit in the pot which explains the sticky fur on its larger leaves. Also notice the new shoots sprouting out of the stem.

I write a lot about overwintering peppers here, but in the meantime, let me introduce you to the method's biggest foe for me: the aphid. My approach to their eradication is three prong. The first two are in the shape of my index finger and thumb squishing them as carefully but thoroughly as I can without damaging the baby leaves. No, I don't find it particularly yucky. Pop, squish, squish... You can wear gloves if you like. The other prong is that when I water, which is infrequently, I put in a bit of liquid soap and coat the leaves. About half an hour later, I wash them off. This is easiest to do in the shower at night so the leaves are dry by the time they see sun again in the morning.

If you look closely, you can see the aphid I am just about to squish, along with many others sucking away on the leaves and stems.

This three prong approach seems to work fairly well for me as I have yet to lose a pepper because of aphid or spider mite infestation. In the summer, the pests are quickly brought under control by beneficials. Only one of my peppers had aphids this year so it is relegated to the basement where it is receiving very sparse sun from a north facing window.

Proof is in the picture - this plant is getting cool, indirect light. The jalapeno beside it did not survive but I understand they are not as amiable to overwintering.

Now, I know I am implying that overwintering peppers is fun and easy (it is) but I have only tried with smaller fruited varieties of both hot and sweet so have no idea what it would be like to try overwintering bell peppers. An interesting alternative is to try to overwinter cuttings instead of the whole plants. Something I would like to try next year.


Hot pepper loves talk pests on Gardenweb

Wow, these Gardenweb pepper enthusiasts do some cool propagation tricks. Check out the air layering into plastic beer cups half way down this thread.


Kate said...

I have a parsley plant in my windowsill that I haven't been able to get rid of the aphids on. I've been hand picking and using an insecticidal soap spray. They keep coming back. I might try a variation on your liquid soap trick next. Thanks for the idea.

Dan said...

I had a lot of aphids on my overwintering geranium's. It was a bad year for bugs this past year.

Emily said...

I tried overwintering two hot peppers, but was not diligent with the aphids and they both lost the battle. I'll try again next year.

Unknown said...

I had the same problem with my pepper tree..aphids. But since it infested my house with fungus gnat I trew it outside. But I had one the year before that gave me like 250 hot chili peppers during the winter.

Patrick said...

I think I'm through with overwintering peppers. I've tried this with my Granddad's Home Pepper for a few years now:

The first year went great, but this past year has seen an unreal aphid infestation in my entire house. Even plants that don't normally have aphid problems are covered with them, and I'm afraid the problem is going to remain even after I stop growing peppers indoors.

One of my peppers is still alive, but I think even it's days are numbered.

I'm now about to start seedlings for spring planting, and I hope I can keep the aphids off of them...

Ottawa Gardener said...

Patrick: I remember the year I had bad aphid problems, really worrying if they would infect my seedlings but I was lucky and they didn't get to them. Mind you, they seem to stay put in my house in one location - so far, at least.

As I seem to have mixed bug attacks, sometimes bad, sometimes not, I think I'm going to try again next year too. Maybe I'll do the severe root and stem pruning some use as a way of preventing them from getting a foothold. I've also heard of one lady who strips her plants entirely of leaves when she gets aphids on the peppers, expecting them to resprout. Interesting idea, but I'm afraid to go that drastic.

PainChaud: 250 hot chilis - wow. I think I've had fungus gnat before too though it hasn't caused a big problem for me. Bugs... gotta love 'em. On that note, I'm usually lucky enough to have the occasional ladybug overwinter inside as well.

tinapuntasecca said...

I am overwintering a pepper plant for the first time, its a bell pepper. It looked dull, and stopped growing for a while, but over the past few weeks, I have seen a ton of growth in the form of leaves and flowers. I pinch the flowers off, should I leave them on to grow peppers? I havent had aphids, knock on wood.

Sheryl at Providence North said...

I like your garden blog!

I have fought a losing battle trying to grow bell peppers here. Overwintering is something I have to try!