peppers in the summer?

daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)January 20, 2011

Everyone says that peppers grow well in the summer, but here in central Texas we know better. In fact, you plant them in the spring, and by summer you have beautiful bushes that, because of the intense heat, refuse to produce. Flowers falling off left and right. You keep them watered and then, maybe by October, you start to get fruit, and try to hang on for a month or two until it gets uncomfortably cold for the plants. My experience with peppers the last few years has been like a bad joke.

So, are there any tricks here? Or, at best, how do you encourage their leafy growth in the summer so they'll go gangbusters in the late fall? Wat's the trick to growing peppers in central Texas? Yes, I know that Jalapenos are a bit more tolerant of heat than others, but in my experience it's just a bit.

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rowdysmom

I was told to use turkey manure compost around the pepper plants and it really worked summer before last - had lots of peppers, made LOTS of pepper jelly and other pepper things. I didn't get any turkey poop compost this past summer and very very few peppers.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 10:43PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Mine go great this last year. I don't know what I do. I have a rich garden soil. I do have some afternoon shade. They were planted really crowded with mulch and they were well watered. They produced hundreds. I still have them frozen in the freezer, in the fridge, and in paper bags on the woodshop floor. I had Cubanelles, Mariachi, Jalapenio, seranos, Big Bertha and some others that I forget, Hungarian sweet, I love the mariachis. The plant got large and was hugely prolific. So were the cubanelles and sweet hungarians. I think they might be heavy feeders. I did keep them fertilized with tomato green pepper organic fertilizer mix that I raked into the soil around the roots..

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 11:39PM
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sfmathews(7B/8A)

I also mix up the pepper variety, not just bells, like Italian frying, pimentoes, etc. I agree the heat slows them down, although I do get some I can harvest during the summer. Some afternoon shade helps too. I also (like WM above) bagged up LOTS of peppers this fall, when they went nuts. I use bunny poo on everything.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Lynn Marie

I don't have as much trouble with peppers as with tomatoes! The jalapenos did great in the heat of the summer and even better in the fall. The bells didn't do as well in the summer, but they lived just fine and went nuts in the fall. I think if you just keep them watered, you'll be fine in the fall.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 9:21AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

Thanks. I guess I should not give up. I have them planted where they get full sun all afternoon, but they have no direct sun in the morning. My soil is quite good, and deep, as I've been digging in humus in large quantities for at least four years. Now, in the worst part of the summer heat, they wilt if they aren't watered almost every day. Should I expect that?

To the extent that I'm waiting until fall for them to set fruit, what should I be trying to do with them in the summer besides just keeping them alive? Pruning? Last year, the plants got almost four feet tall. Impressive plants, but they just wouldn't set fruit.

BTW, they're right next to my cherry tomatoes, which go absolutely crazy in the summer every year, and my basil, which is also very happy.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 1:46PM
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ruthz

daninthedirt, what kind of cherry tomatoes do you grow?
None of my tomatoes did well last year. Porters produced a little all thru the summer, but they weren't that good.
I've heard cherry tomatoes do better in heat, so I have lots of different kinds of seeds for this year. I don't have that much room so I have to narrow my list of tomatoes and peppers.
I grew about 10 kinds of pepper last year. I got them started late but most produced really well in the fall. I grew them in a raised bed and watered a lot.
Some people over on the pepper forum use shade cloth when needed.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 6:40PM
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honeybunny2(Z9TX)

I am in San Antonio, my husband gets me to plant red, yellow and green bell peppers in his garden. Over the years he has added living compose to his garden. I add a small handfull of slow release fertilizer when I plant. His garden is full sun, we plant around Valentine's Day. He sprays with miracle grow about once a month, and we always have lots of peppers, that last us thru December. Barbra

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 9:31PM
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phoenix7801

In my master gardener class last year they said that you have to let it warm up to plant peppers. Then when they start growing well, you fertilize them almost to the point of burning them. Yes...this is what I was told.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 12:08AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

ruthz, I just do Red Cherry or Sweet 100s. Just the kind you get at Home Depot. Both indeterminate. The results are always really spectacular. I put them under a free-standing chicken-wire wall, and tie them to it as they grow. The vines easily get up to six-feet high, and produce huge numbers of tomatoes. Had a problem one year with stink bugs, but that was just a matter of not picking them off routinely.

Now if I could just get my peppers to behave. Shade cloth on the peppers might be the way to go to encourage fruiting. I've avoided that, because they're supposed to like "full sun". But our summer sun may be a bit too full. I worry about high nitrogen fertilizers, because I want peppers more than I want leaves, but ...

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 10:11PM
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sfmathews(7B/8A)

Dan, some of my pepper plants are pushing 5' tall by the time fall rolls around. I don't prune or anything. I figure a bigger plant can support a larger fruit set. Also, yes, leaves are going to wilt with afternoon sun. This happens with my maters, and other things as well. But they usually perk right up once the sun is close to setting. If they don't then you might need to water.
HTH,
Susan

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 4:53PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

Yes, that's the way I treat them. The peppers wilt every afternoon, but if they don't start to perk up in the evening, I water them. No pruning sounds good too, though when they're really big, I wonder if they're going to be top-heavy. I don't stake them.

My tomatoes actually don't wilt, unless they get really dry. I wonder if their roots are deeper.

But again, the big issue is getting them to fruit more or less consistently. I too plant around mid-February, and get maybe a pepper or three in May and June, and no more until October. Not sure if I said, but I've been doing Anaheims, Jalapenos, and Bananas.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 7:09PM
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sfmathews(7B/8A)

Dan, yes my plants do need staking, but I stake em when I plant 'em. Hots and sweets both. I can't explain why your jals aren't giving you more fruit during the summer, I get plenty. I don't grow the others, so I can't really comment on those. I guess you could try shaking the plants, to make sure the flowers are getting pollinated.
Susan

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 4:28PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

I was talking to a fellow that works in the Aggie research center in Richardson and he showed me some interesting pics. He noticed that some veggies that didn't get morning sun did not grow as large a plant as the ones that got morning sun. I think large leafed veggies need the morning sun because photosynthesis will really slow down as the temperature rises. Remember photosynthesis makes all the sugar that the plant needs to grow and most growth happens at night.

The pics he had showed beds that were planted parallel to a tall fence on the south side. Each row of beds was further from the fence and thus was less affected by the shadow of the fence. The plants looked like stair steps with the row closest to the fence being the shortest. All beds were planted at the same time with the same crop. It really made me examine planting locations and sun movement much closer.

Now all this info might mean you need shade cloth over your peppers during the middle of the summer. We get plenty of light intensity so if you could drop the temp by ten degrees during the hot part of the day, then the plants could photosynthesis longer.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:25PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

Good ideas. The idea that photosynthesis could slow down in the afternoon heat is remarkable. That would mean that sunlight in cooler temperatures is more important than in warmer temperatures.

I can try staking. Once the summer heat subsides, and I get more flowers that last for longer, I just rub my finger in each flower. Don't know if it makes any difference, but I get fruit on almost all my flowers! But that's only once it cools down and the flowers don't fall off.

As to shade cloth, well, it isn't clear to me if the fruit set issue is light or heat. For example, even with shade cloth, the air temperature is still high. The shade cloth doesn't affect the air temp much. If the soil temp is the issue, then certainly shading the soil will make a big difference. Direct sun on dark soil can be almost too hot to touch.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 1:37PM
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cynthianovak

this is fascinating!

Did you ever notice that those TV shows about GIANT veggies are all in Alaska? Cool temps really long days and GIANT fruits. I guess here in TX we get reallylong growing season and the plants are less motivated...like me in the hottest months

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 10:24AM
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