Container planting Vs In ground

pepperdaveJuly 17, 2014

I have always planted in ground for years. Last year I grew a Brown Scorpion in a 4 gal. pot and got 260+ peppers off it.
This year besides the 400 Im growing in the ground I have 15 in containers just for comparison. I was told last year on this forum that you can get much better production in containers.
Rather then just take someones word I decided to do my own comparison.
Seems the ones in pots have gotten taller more Quickly then plants in the ground. They are putting out pods at a very impressive rate There must be something to this. Im impressed in what you can do with a few pots and some 5-1-1 soil.
A few weeks ago when my ground planted peppers were lagging behind I was thinking the advice I got last year was sound and maybe I might rethink things for next year. After all my container plants were larger and not unlike those I see posted here.
Its been a few weeks since that time and things have changed.Although my container plants are taller and actually very impressive my in ground plants although being shorter have grown out much much fuller and are just blowing away the container plants as far as pod set and overall vigor.
I know most people on this forum swear by there 5-1-1 and I can understand that,Im impressed myself after putting together pine bark,Pelite,and peat moss Great Stuff and I see myself using this stuff for years to come.
The thing is Right now its obvious to me that at least in my location Soil wins hands down. My plants in the ground are out doing there 5-1-1 rivals by leaps and bounds.
I know other members are growing in different environments then me and might not get the same result as Im getting but thats why Im starting this trend, I want to hear other members input on this and maybe we can all advance our pepper growing ability.

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HotHabaneroLady(7a Central MD)

I also wonder about the type of container. This year I have peppers planted in both plastic and terra cotta pots. The plain terra cotta plants seem a little happier than the plastic.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 8:28AM
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Interesting subject, pepperdave.

What type and size are your containers? Most of my plants are in the ground, but I also have 5 self-watering containers. The plants in the SWCs out produce plants in the ground by far. And that's been consistent over several years and different pepper varieties.

Another observation: I have 2 Aji Pineapples in the ground and they are doing well. My friend, who lives 200 yards away, has one Pineapple, which I gave her. Her plant is double the size of mine. So, there can be a lot of variation due to the soil/fertilization/watering regime. I thought I'd given my plants all the TLC they need, but she's doing better.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:22AM
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seems containers start faster because their soil is warmer faster. but then also their soil gets hotter in the summer than the ones in the ground.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:29AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Your experimental results speak for themselves. But 5-1-1 container growing requires a different care, as I understand it. It will need more frequent watering and fertilizing at a reduced strength. With short growing season, container growing should be fine, I think.
I am growing all my peppers in pots, 5-1-1 soil. Due to our cool PNW weather they take a long time to get going. Right now they are podding. some have only flowers. Last year I had a few in the ground. They did not do well at all. They kept growing foliage but very few fruits. I think, when bound to a limited root space they are forced to fruit. That is advantage in my short season situation.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:37AM
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This is a very interesting thread, I had planted mine in the ground but they didn't do well. I had flowers but only a few pods and they wouldn't grow any bigger. I thought my habanero were going to die. I put them in buckets and they are doing much better now. I live in eastern Washington the soil here is grey in color and loose but it packs tight when watered. Hops and grapes love it though. Also it hit 109 yesterday I sure am glad I put up a sun shade on Tuesday.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:50AM
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I think it is very much region dependent.

I've tried (for years) growing peppers in the ground here in Chicago and had little to no luck, 1-2 peppers per plant, even for Jalapenos and sweet bell peppers.

Moving to 5 gallon buckets has made a world of difference for my pepper production, I don't think I'll ever put another pepper in my garden again.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:12PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

Very interesting thread. Unfortunately I don't have much to contribute to it. My only in-grounds were some volunteers in a well-prepared bed (did well) and some I planted early in my pepper career on the north side of the house in poorly improved soil (they did lousy). Everything else in pots - mostly because I had no mandate to till the lawn.

My take is that everything depends on the dirt. pepperdave, I think the more interesting question is, what did you do to your beds over the years that made them so much more productive? Do you agree that the container plants could be used as a control - that their growing conditions are essentially unchanged over the years?


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:05PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Theoretically, with all things else being equal, there should be no comparison between in-ground plants versus container bound plants. The more root-room, the better. Plants in containers never grow to full potential, that's just a fact. If you grow in giant pots, then you're actually growing in mini raised beds, much closer to in-ground gardening.

I have a terrible time with Chinenses in-ground, but my Annuums and Frutescens grow fine. So the Hungarians and Thai's go in the ground, and all the superhots in containers.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Right now, on 7/17, my three ghosts in small pots are outstripping the three in the ground. I've gathered twice as many pods from the pots than I have the in-ground pots. The pots are small (pic) and planted in MG potting soil, and fertilized with Tomato Tone and MG Tomato food.
Last year the in-ground production outstripped the one pot plant in August by orders of magnitude.
I think they like to be root-bound in pots, and in ground, they reach a point where they stop growing and start producing, kinda like determinate tomatoes.
The tree habs I planted are doing the same thing.
I figure that a month from now the ground plants will start loading up with a vengeance.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Im really happy with my Container plants in 5-1-1 soil and recommend it to anyone who wants to grow. I know other people live in different arias of the country with different soil, weather and have to make adjustments according to there situation. Im in zone 7B heat zone 1, dont have to deal with 95 degree weather let alone 100+ I could not shade my garden even if I wanted to. Ive always had good luck in the ground and container growing is new to me and I like it. In the ground with my conditions seems to be much more productive then containers I must just guess Im lucky to be in the zones Im in. Will post pictures as things progress in both methods of growing and maybe we can all learn a few things from each other for next years crop.
Thanks for the feedback
Pepper Dave

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:41PM
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stoneys_fatali(9b Duarte,Ca.)

My 4 container plants are in pro-mix and are doing awesome.
My Fatali is 3' x 3' and super healthy.
Go with a minimum of a 7 gallon container imho.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 5:49PM
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Here are my in ground peppers.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:14PM
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LexxLuthor(5 Syracuse)

Every year I say i'm not going to plant in the squarefoot garden. I have 8 earthboxes and 9 or 10 3 gallon pots. This year I planted them all June 5th in all three. The pots are nice and green and just starting and produce pods, The squarefoot garden the plants are struggling with yellowish leaves and barely flowering. The same plants in the eartbox have started to give me a few peppers already and are 2.5 to 3 feet tall and look great but overcrowded. Last year my red savina was planted June 15 and still those two plants in the eartbox gave me 300 savinas tll the last week in October.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 8:26PM
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Im really liking the feedback Im getting here,Its giving me more of an understanding of what other members are dealing with under the conditions where they live. You dont know how impressed I am by someone can make something work in conditions that I would have dismissed as not even possible years ago. Like I said before container growing is new to me and Im impressed by all the effort fellow members put in to make it work. What impresses me the most is you guys actually do make it work.I could not conceive growing super hots in Upstate NY where I grew up , yet there are members there doing things there that blow my mind. They are the same people that will keep all of us fed if things get bad. If there is anything that gives you confidence in the future its the fact that independently we have the resources to feed ourselves just through the work of those same members that put there time in to prefect a system of growing that works so well and share it with the world. Gives me more confidence in humanity then I ever had before.Lets just keep it up and the world will be a better place through our efforts. The best thing is its not our intention but just a side effect .
Keep it up and spread the knowledge We can save the world

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:39PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Well I make my own mix for pots. I use DE instead of perlite. It's more 4-1-1 mix for peppers. Still experimenting. I also add one part manure compost. Manure compost doesn't hold as much water as peat compost. Peppers do better with a dry soil. Results are good, but need more research. A number of peppers are in different mixes but the 4-1-1-1 (pine, peat, DE, Compost) mix is doing best. Also Using coir instead of peat is working well too.
Here's Aji Lemon Drop, 2014 07 10 in zone 6a/5b
No ripe fruits yet. Conditions were very rough, too cold, too wet, not helping matters. Conditions are better now.
Next year I will figure a way to keep plants drier when excessive rain occurs, and also keep warmer.
Possibly row covers at night for warmth and overhead protection during rains.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:57PM
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Left to Right - Peach Ghost , Black Naga in a shopping bag , Butch T

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 8:54AM
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2 Chocolate Moruga Scorpions

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:02AM
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In ground growing is dependent on bed preparation IMO. My first couple of years I simply rototilled and added some manure available at HD. Plants grew and generally everything fine but I noted the bed compacted very quickly constricting root growth. So I did some research and found Lasagna Gardening.

That fall I cleared a fresh area, rototilled and dug out the topsoil to the underlying gravel and layered paper- grass clippings - topsoil - shredded leaves - manure - topsoil - grass clippings - saved coffee grinds - etc in two foot wide rows. There is no right or wrong way or what materials to use, simply improvise with what you have. Basically layer green and brown yard material that is chopped up, I use a lawn mower to shred everything, leaves, small branches, plants no longer fruiting, those pesky vines that never seem to die.

Simply layer them as the above illustrates then plant normally in the spring.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Interesting system. Probably works especially good in the clay soil that a lot of people on this forum seem to be dealing with.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:55AM
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I am in southern CT and now have a good mixture of top soil and compost in the garden. All of my peppers do well in the ground with 2 exceptions (unless the varmints get them). The one that I grow in pots are Manzanos because they like partial sun and because they take so long to ripen that I usually need to bring them in at frost time. My other potted peppers are the ornamentals that are doing great this year out on the deck.
John A

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 12:34PM
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Here in metro boston, space has always been limited, and I've always grown in containers with excellent result. I would buy a 12-gallon tub from Home Depot, and crowd 4 plants in each one. Great yields, and flexibility to move the plants to shelter during bad storms.

This is my first year with the opportunity to put in ground. I'm finding it to be a different animal. First off, pests seem to be more of a problem, with bunnies, insects, slugs, etc. Also, we had a microburst event a few weeks back that wreacked some havoc. I have no flexibility to move them in advance.

As far as size of the plants, I am finding very little difference going in-ground. I have not fertilized anywhere near as much as I'm afraid of burn in the ground. I find that my plants of years past in containers have been more robust, with thicker foliage and greener foliage. Total yield remains to be seen - there's still 3 months left. But as of mid-July I have not seen any advantages to in-ground. My 2 cents.

Let me amend this one bit: my habaneros are performing better in-ground than my containers ever did. My comments above relate to everything else.

This post was edited by peps22 on Sun, Jul 20, 14 at 13:26

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 1:25PM
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I only have one pot. I haven't ever grown hot peppers but these ones are doing well. I made a probable rookie mistake and my jalapeños and cowhorns are in the same pot. I just used regular dirt. I don't know much about them but am thrilled to find this forum to learn more. I love roasting peppers for salsa. Anyway, I picked my first jalapeño today and put it in our salsa. It was starting to turn red. We have maybe ten jalapeños but probably 50+ cowhorns. The jalapeños are coming up ready but cowhorns came in fast and furious but have slowed down. They are no where near ready for harvest. Maybe next year we can put some in the ground.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Very cool thread. Being my first year growing peppers, I have taken an all out experimental approach in regards to in ground vs. container. With rich sandy/silt soil that is littered with rounded creek bottom rocks both large (softball size) and small (water skippers), tomatoes and melons thrive in it. Here is what I am finding in regards to peppers.

I planted two ghost peppers, one in the ground with a mixture of MG soil, native soil and perlite. Then a week later I planted another in the bottom third of an old oak barrel with MG, perlite and millers mix (potting mix). Both receive equal sun (8 hrs afternoon eve sun). The one in the barrel has grown much larger and looks way better. Both were transplanted late in the season and I would be happy if I even got one pepper from them.

In ground ghost

In barrel ghost

In contrast I started Habanero seeds early, planted four in the ground with similar mixes, gave two to a friend who put them in a raised bed and planted two in pots. The Habaneros in the ground show impressive growth and very dense foliage but grew only a few buds initially (all dropped) and havent flowered since. The potted habs have less dense foliage but they are already on their second round of flowers, dozens upon dozens (first set ,also many flowers, mostly dropped)

In ground hab.

Potted hab

Aside from a few deer sampling the in ground peppers and packing a few roots, I feel the real key is knowing YOUR local soil and amending it to benefit what your planting. I will be doing a lot to control natural compaction in my local soil this fall and feel that with do a lot for next year....

Containers seem to be a little easier to control for a newbie(me).

There are so many other factors I haven't mentioned but I think(hope) I am on the right track, as I plan on putting a lot of waisted acerage to use for next spring.

The potted hab
may be a little calcium deficient....

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:33PM
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In ground reaper

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:23AM
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Another reaper

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Black Naga

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Black Naga

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:29AM
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Peach Ghosts on the way
sorry about the double post

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:31AM
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Peps22 - what did you mean by not fertilizing as much because afraid of burn in ground?

I'm a new grower as well, but recently moved a hab I had in a pot too small outside... I'll post an update in about a month or so (not a completely accurate sample as outside offers more light, but nonetheless interested to see how it goes).

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:10PM
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Peps22, I'm interested too!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 2:20PM
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david52 Zone 6

I garden in a high desert environment, the nights are in the 40's until mid july and never get out of the 50's. Its a 100 day season. So it takes forever to get the soil warmed up. I get far more production from container plants, its not even close.

I make my own 'potting soil' mix using all different sizes of pine bark from beetle-killed trees, perlite, pond-bottom soil and Azomite for trace stuff, charcoal I've sifted out from my wood stove, compost, styrofoam packing peanuts - what ever. Keeping in mind that drainage and aeration are crucial. And every fall I dump it out on a concrete slab, eyeball it to see if it needs more structure as the bits disintegrate, and this year I'll solarize the lot in trash bags to sterilize it. Then I mix it up with what ever new perlite or bark bits it needs and off we go.

I have 60-odd containers ranging from 5 - 15 gal. I can put 4 plants in the larger sizes.

I soak compost overnight in a big tub and sorta strain that out and use the water to feed the plants - 3 times a season.

Of course, your milage may vary.....

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 5:17PM
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In a cold area, like here in zone 3, there's no question that pepper pots raised out of the ground (like the ones on my deck) seriously outperform anything planted in the ground.

This post was edited by don555 on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 5:28

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 5:27AM
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This is the first year that I decided to do some container gardening. I have enough canned fruits and veggies in my basement to last through a zombie holocaust and while I enjoyed that tremendously I just wanted a more controllable atmosphere for myself this year. However I wonder if anyone can tell me why my mexi belle peppers are so tiny? Maybe the pot isn't big enough or something. But even though they are small they have wonderful flavor. Can anyone help me?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 5:19PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

blossom, that question merits a separate topic. Use the Post a New Message link up under the button bar.

The first answer you receive will be a request for pictures and information about your growing practices.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:35AM
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