If Peppers do Better in Pots

digit(ID/WA)March 2, 2014

And, that has been your experience, how would you describe that method?

⢠size of pot
⢠moving from indoors to outdoors, back
⢠production compared to in-ground planting
⢠opportunity to grow longer-season varieties


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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

For me, it's not really a fair comparison. My containers are on the east side of the house, so they are protected from most of the winds, and the late afternoon sun. They are also right outside the sliding glass door, so they are easily accessed, and get watered regularly. The inground peppers at the community garden are in much harsher conditions.

I can buy a couple of extra weeks to a month by moving them in and out of the garage in containers, so that is an advantage, but I've never had much luck overwintering them due to aphid issues.

As far as production goes, that seems more dependent on the quality of the growing medium, rather than the location of the plant. I've used container mixes that gave me big bushy plants and few peppers, but I've also had compact container plants loaded down with peppers, same thing for the ingrounds. A 5 - 10 gallon pot size is ideal, but I've gotten away with a 3 gallon on a compact type pepper plant before.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 11:19PM
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Do you make your own soil mix, Bonnie?


    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 10:09AM
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mayberrygardener(z5a, Broomfield, CO)

I propose an experiment! I'm sure you're all sick to death by now of hearing how when I was in Broomfield, my entire vegetable garden was strictly in self watering containers, and as long as I rotated crops from year to year, the production was AMAZING. As in, hundreds of jalapenos and serranos on each plant, easily 20 bells per, and the elongated peppers never quit producing--probably 30-40 each. I declare, if there was a way for me to get kickbacks from the company, I'd be able to retire for all the recommendations I have for the Garden Patch Grow Boxes--those things are great! They do need watered 1X per day when plants are at their largest and hottest weather, but we always grew more than we could eat--we're still eating some of what we pickled two years ago. I loved their ease and simplicity, and if you follow the directions, things can't. help. but. grow. Subsequent years, we would skip the refill kits and just put down a strip of organic fertilizer in the middle and use black plastic mulch instead of their fancy schmancy (and expensive) replacement patches.
However, this will be the first year in my new digs, and very much looking forward to seeing how things grow in-ground, given the lovely three-tiered beds that the previous homeowners put in (they were Mormon, so it's a good-sized garden plot for a girl like me!). As this is the case, and as I also have my SWC's still, I will probably plant some peppers and tomatoes both in-ground and also in containers. Since this is my first year doing anything in-ground in... well, in more years than I care to admit, I don't know that I'll be able to give a fair result, but hey, that's gardening, isn't it?
General recommendations, I could never keep anything wet enough in our dry climate if it wasn't self-watering; I even had some peppers and tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets (that didn't sound right--only one plant each bucket) and no matter how I watered them (often/much/drip tray/mix up the soils), they never seemed as "steady" and certainly didn't produce nearly as much as the SWC's. Although, in Washington, that's not likely a problem for you, Steve?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 1:04PM
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⢠Arid down to 20% humidity on many summer afternoons.
⢠Annual precipitation doesn't amount to 20".
⢠Average summer rainfall doesn't amount to 2".
⢠Often there will be a month with no rain and 1/4" is about all we can hope for on a "rainy" summer day.

So, it is dry here but not desert. The treeline is about 35 miles west and beyond that, there is no forest and is probably considered desert.

I am encourage by your idea of an experiment, Mayberry'! I am terrible about watering pots during the summer altho' I kept several tomatoes alive last year.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:16PM
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david52 Zone 6

Steve, my production is similar to what mayberrygardener reports. Here, I'll get one or two bell peppers off plants in the ground, the same variety, same size plant in a container will give me 8 - 10 peppers. When it comes to those sweet Italian peppers, I can pick dozens off one plant.

Gosh, where to start. It's fairly expensive getting started - buying the pots and soil. However both can be reused for years - I have pots that are 15 years old and going strong, and I continually recycle and reuse my potting mix. I just bought 10 more 10 gallon containers, see link below. These are stiffer, sturdier than others I've found, and I like them. You can put 4 plants in each one.

When it comes to the soil mix, that can get expensive. I experimented using pine bark with good success - making up 1/3 the mix. This also acidifies the soil which the peppers love. You can buy that bark-for-mulch, untreated, that works pretty well. I get mine from firewood.

This year I'm going to incorporate about 15 - 20% charcoal in the mix. Apparently, there is a whole group of gardening fanatics who swear by 'terre prete' gardening, and I'll see how it goes in containers.

Anyway, this isn't rocket science. The biggest issue is drainage - you're far more likely to drown the roots than anything else. Another risk is what they call "perched water" which is some anaerobic blob of saturated potting soil in the middle of the pot where the roots won't grow. To address the drainage issue, think perlite, pumice, bark bits, etc, making up about half the mix, then potting soil the other half. To address that perched water issue, run a cotton rag through the middle of the pot and out one of the drain holes in the bottom to wick out the moisture.

There is a container forum here on Gardenweb often with decent advice, however its increasingly some kind of cult worshiping a particular soil mix, and you'll see someone who comes in with bark bits that are 1mm to big, and they tell them they have to throw it all away. Nonsense.

I have a whole lot of charcoal. So my 2014 soil mix is about 1 part perlite, 1 part charcoal, 1 part pine bark (I use pretty big pieces) and 2 parts of some peat-based potting mix. I also throw in a few handfuls of some rich pond soil, and a handful of that Azomite, more trace minerals. I can buy a 40 lb sack of that at the local farm store.

You can water with miracle grow, but for best results, I soak a couple shovels of compost in a large bucket over night and use the "tea" once a month.

I'd start with a ten pots, see what you think. Those self-watering ones are the best, if you can find some at a reasonable price.

I had trouble posting on Gardenweb all day, but now its working. its late, I'll add some more tomorrow.

Here is a link that might be useful: good pots

This post was edited by david52 on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 1:20

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 1:02AM
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david52 Zone 6

I've tried planting tiny, 2 true-leaf plants in the container on the theory that their taproot would enjoy all that container space, I've grown them to 8" high plants in small pots then transplanted. At the end of the season, they all end up pretty much the same.

I have mine set against the west wall of a building where it gets pretty hot. The others are out on black landscape cloth in the regular veggie garden. The heat helps, not harms.

One note - that Azomite is supposed to help with developing flavor, on the theory that most of our soils have lost these obscure trace minerals. I dunno if thats what it is, but the chili peppers I grew last summer have far more flavor than I ever thought possible.

This post was edited by david52 on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 12:00

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 11:55AM
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Thank you, David.

"The heat helps, not harms." I'm sure the caveat is "with sufficient soil moisture" but this makes sense because they could be placed in optimum locations regardless of the usual garden placement.

Yet, you say that some are in the garden!

It must be the pots!


    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 12:26PM
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david52 Zone 6

My theory, and I'm stickin' to it, is that the soil warms up much faster in the pots.

For watering, when they're small, once a week. But when they get big and are covered in fruit, once every other day or even every day if its really hot and windy. - and thats the same with self-watering plants. So it helps to have them near a water source.

The plants benefit from staking - the wind early in the season but more important is when we get thunderstorms in August when they're really heavy, and wind gusts can just knock them over. The stems don't break too often, but its a real mess. I use dead willow branches.

This post was edited by david52 on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 12:38

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 12:33PM
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david52 Zone 6

Series of pictures. Here's a 10 gal pot (I think) with a standard tray to give perspective, with a bit of the container armada in the back ground.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 4:19PM
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david52 Zone 6

This is what it looks like dumped out on a tarp. Now to my eye, thats too fine a mix. Which means that some of the organic stuff from last year has broken down. And you can also get an idea of how much bark is in there.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 4:21PM
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david52 Zone 6

The bark is what intrigues me. Pretty much throughout the pot, any time the roots find a piece of bark, they go nuts. Every little nook and cranny has a rootlet growing in it, and a whole mat of roots in the 1/8th inch of soil covering the piece of bark. You will also notice these pieces are pretty big.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 4:25PM
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david52 Zone 6

So I've taken another smaller pot with its soil, dumped it out, shook off and threw out the bigger roots, added some saved, old perlite from doing cuttings, and a bunch of charcoal I've saved from the wood stove. I spent a few minutes breaking up the now-soft bigger pieces of bark.

I mixed it up by lifting one side of the tarp and rolling the mix down to the other side, doing that a couple of times, then put it back into the pots, filling up a third pot what with the added volume of charcoal. When the pots were full, I added about half a cup of Azomite to each one.

I usually just mix it all up by dumping it directly on the concrete and using a flat shovel. I thought using a tarp might be easier. The jury is still out.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 4:32PM
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David, I am also having someone look at this who may have access to more than gravel.

Thank You!

edit to correct word order

This post was edited by digit on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 19:02

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 1:07PM
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I have grown peppers & eggplants in pots for quite a few years. I agree that I think it is the warm roots that help, especially the eggplants.

David, I am curious about the pine bark. I have some bark from beetle kill trees. The beetles are long gone but can that bark be used?

I haven't read about charcoal. Do you buy it?

Do you or does anyone use a portion of the previous years soil? I have if the plants weren't diseased as part of the mix and haven't noticed problems. However I might be reducing my yields.

Thanks for this discussion.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:38AM
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This is just "through my hat" since I haven't grown peppers like this but I do fill a few larger pots for perennials each year.

Up-potting for them is usually in early summer. I mix peat, perlite and garden soil. If I also use compost, it is likely to have old potting soil in it. Certainly, the garden soil from here in the yard will. The compost has been aging for nearly a year by early July.

I don't think most of us would worry about potting soil that is cycling thru the compost pile.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 12:09PM
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david52 Zone 6

comary - I'm using beetle-killed bark, several years old. The best stuff is starting to decompose, covered with fungus on the inside as the cambium layer rots. Every little beetle hole has a root through it. In a perfect world, I'd like to have pieces about 1 inch sq, however thick the bark. But I end up using much larger pieces just because I have no way to break them down - unless its my hands.

For several years now, I'm seeing this affinity for the roots to crawl all over the bark. I'm far from a botanist or soil scientist, but from what I see in the forest and now my pots, I *think* that the slowly decomposing bark is a good thing, the fungus breaking stuff down to usable elements.

I just keep reusing my potting soil, adding compost, or more likely these days, watering with compost tea. Over the course of 1-2 years, its too fine a mix, too much organic matter and too slowly draining. So I add bark and what not to beef up the structure. Over the course of 5-8 years, then I'm getting far more perlite and large structure bits and pieces as the fine organic matter decomposes and disappears. So I just keep mixing it all up, adding what ever the mix looks like it needs - the point here is that it isn't rocket science, just go with what looks good, keeping the idea of good drainage in mind.

As for the charcoal, we finally got around to replacing our 40 year old cho-cho train wood stove with a new, EPA approved, highly efficient model. The old model required emptying out the ashes every 10 days. The new model is every day, and with the ash comes a reasonable amount of charcoal. So I shovel it out every morning into an air-tight container, let the coals go out, then in the afternoon when the breeze picks up, I use a soil sieve and sift out the ashes, which blow all over everywhere including my trousers and shoes, while my kids hide and pretend they don't have any idea whose Dad is an eccentric old coot sifting charcoal.

I've filled 2.5 of those giant contractor trash bags so far. At the link is the best description of terre prete - charcoal and soil - that I've found - now how it will work in containers is anybody's guess. At the least its free, lightweight, structure.

Here is a link that might be useful: link to terre prete .pdf

This post was edited by david52 on Sat, Mar 8, 14 at 14:21

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:48PM
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