Peppers in Florida

Recap of the Last Garden Season

I know, it’s been awhile and things have happened.  But, time for more peppers and updates.  I do have some new plants in the garden, and I do have some thoughts for pepper-y experiments this year.  But first a recap on my last posts.

A Recap For the First Greenhouse Garden

First a recap on how the peppers in my previous posts went.  I wasn’t used to having a greenhouse, so it threw me off my game a bit, trying to get used to it (compared to the outside plants).  I will say that the peppers definitely did grow, but still had some challenges.

Yellow Cayenne was a trouper — it wasn’t a very big plant, and its pot got invaded by some ants (yuck), but it produced a lot of nice peppers.   I pretty much left them on the plant until they were a lovely yellow color.  Quite hot, and I dried quite a few, for later use.

My habanero (orange, no special variety) grew to a large size and produced a lot (and I do mean a lot!) of peppers.  Very hot, as you might imagine — I had so many I didn’t quite know what to do with them!  Time to give away some peppers!

Dragon Cayenne — oh boy, that plant wanted to take over!  If you ever want a pepper that you wish would stop producing peppers because you already had a basket (or two) full, this is a pepper for you.  And it’s no mean feat, because the fruits are smaller than the habanero, and much smaller than the Yellow Cayenne.  The plant grew to about 3 feet tall and didn’t want to quit.

My Cajun Belle and regular bell peppers did so-so; nothing to write home about.  I seem to be able to grow hot peppers well, but I don’t tend to have luck with bells.

Fooled You jalapeno grew quite large, but about the time it began to put out flowers and fruit, most of my greenhouse plants started to get some sort of weird mold or fungus or something.  Alas, Fooled You succumbed.  (Dragon Cayenne didn’t, though.)  I did get some peppers off Fooled You, though, and they lived up to their billing — a nice jalapeno taste without the heat.

The tabasco plant did well, but it had a hard time competing with the Dragon Cayenne.  I’m still not overly impressed with tabasco peppers, taste-wise, although it did produce plenty of peppers.

Purple Flash was a flash in the pan.  It grew nicely for a few weeks, then promptly died.  It was outside the greenhouse, and I am not sure if it was the torrential rain we had or if it was that the plant wasn’t as good as it could have been.  It wasn’t until after I got it home from the store that I saw it had a few leaves that had a white residue on them.  I plucked the leaves off, but it (the white residue) kept trying to come back.

The other peppers mostly sprouted, but never seemed to make it beyond the seedling stage.  Not sure if it was the Autumn sun not being strong enough for the window I had them in, or something else, but only Fooled You made it from seed to mature plant.

Greenhouse Growing

I don’t think I situated the greenhouse well — I probably should have faced it along a north/south direction instead of an east/west.  I suspect it  would have given me better ventilation, as I think the black mold or whatever it was had something to do with the ventilation (or lack thereof).  It also didn’t help that I had an extremely wet September, a wet October and it didn’t dry out appreciably until somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The heat inside the greenhouse was actually fine for the peppers, but their pots seemed to dry out faster.  Although it might have had something to do with the grow bags, I don’t think that was all it — I had some regular plastic pots in the greenhouse, and they seemed to dry out faster, too.  And because the watering became somewhat uneven (didn’t help that I didn’t want to go out in the rain to water the plants in the greenhouse), the plants probably didn’t reach their full potential.  (I shudder to think of what the Dragon Cayenne might have done with optimal conditions…)

The greenhouse was great that winter, when we had a few cold snaps.  Just zip it up, and the plants inside were nice and cozy.

The greenhouse covering lasted over a year and a half before its seams ripped.  The covering itself is fine, and we still use it as tarps, but the stitched seams couldn’t stand up to the Florida climate — our sun is brutal, and the humidity didn’t help any.  So long to the covering!  I could buy another but…(see the next paragraph).

All is not lost.  The steel frame is in great condition, and I am using it as, well, framing!  I have trellises strapped to the frame on one side (mostly for the tomatoes and cucumbers), hanging planters with strawberries along the opposite side and plenty of access to all the plants from both sides.  The shelving I used is still fine (a very tough, strong plastic), so I can grow smaller plants in pots on it.  Right now I am moving things around, and situating the latest peppers where I think they will do best.

This is a long post, so I’ll go for now and let you know what’s growing for this season with the next post.

How Does Your Greenhouse Grow?

I mentioned in the previous post that I was the delighted recipient of a greenhouse, which I would be using for my Fall gardening.  So let’s talk a little about greenhouse gardening in general, and peppers in particular!

Greenhouse, Growhouse – What’s the Difference?

I don’t guess there’s a ton of difference between a “greenhouse” and a “growhouse”, but here’s how I make the distinction.  A greenhouse is typically a structure that is solidly anchored to the ground, with glass or transparent polycarbonate panels.  A growhouse is a structure that is movable, but that can be anchored to the ground.  It usually does not have glass, but a transparent or translucent enclosure.

(By that description, I have a “growhouse”, although mine is securely anchored to the earth.)

Still, I’ll use the term “greenhouse” through the rest of this post, as they are pretty much used the same, and that is for growing plants in a controlled environment.  They can be have beds of soil in the ground, raised beds, containers or hydroponics.  Not to mention all kinds of combinations!

Why Use a Greenhouse?

It’s pretty obvious that in a colder climate that one really good reason for “plants under glass” is to extend the growing season.  If you live in a part of the world that gets less than 90 frost-free days, you’ve got a short planting season, which limits what you can bring to harvest.  Or, you may be in a very windy location, with extremes of heat and cold.   Could be that you’re like me and it’s almost too hot and wet during parts of the year for good growth.

The start of setting up the greenhouse.  The cover looks white from a distance, but inside it's translucent and very bright.

The start of setting up the greenhouse (still a long way to go in setting up all the containers and cleaning up). The cover looks white from a distance, but inside it’s translucent and very bright.

There are lots of reasons for using a greenhouse, and as an FYI, they don’t have to be expensive!  I know, I love the looks of some of the decor greenhouses, with fieldstone or cedar and huge expanses of glass.  They can run from $800 up to $20,000+.

I don’t have that kind of money, so I went the inexpensive route — the 10′x10′ greenhouse, anchors and misting system all together were around $300.  OK, I forgot to include the ground cloth (add an extra $40), but that was a personal choice, since I am going with using containers.

 Peppers Under Glass

Let’s talk growing peppers now.  As you probably know, peppers love the heat and do best in a warm climate.  I have to admit, Southern Florida is warm, and sometimes even my plants melt in the heat in the middle of July.  While I have grown peppers outside in the winter, they typically languish around until the nights are consistently above around 50 degrees F.

(I had one bell pepper plant that set a small pepper in January and if that fruit got any bigger during February, I couldn’t tell.  But come the middle of March, all the sudden that fruit got larger and larger and then the plant exploded with new growth and more flowers and fruit.)

I was in the greenhouse this weekend with the door and window open and it was plenty hot — I had to turn on the misting system to take the temperature down a notch.  This winter, I should be pretty easily be able to maintain 50+ degrees at night, after closing the the door and window and even moving in gallon bottles of sun-warmed water on the nights when it’s especially chilly.  (Worst comes to worst, I can always get a space heater and keep the plants company, LOL.)

I don’t have any peppers moved in yet (the greenhouse was a surprise), but I do have some pepper seeds started in it.  I may have to break down and get myself a pepper plant from the lawn and garden shop, so I can fuss over it while waiting for the current seeds to germinate.  ;)

Let There Be Light!

If you decide that you want to explore getting a greenhouse and you live north of, say, Georgia, you may also have to think about supplemental lighting.  Me, even during the winter I get 9 or 10 hours of sunlight, but most people aren’t that lucky.  And when you can’t provide your pepper plants with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, your plants are not going to thrive.

Fortunately, fluorescent lighting has gotten fairly inexpensive.  The problem can be where your greenhouse is in relation to an electrical outlet!  If you’re in a structure attached to your house, you’re in luck.  If not, you’ll have the expense of running a line out to the greenhouse.

So how does your greenhouse grow?