Here in the Seattle area we are, as you say, latitudelly challenged. We are fortunately to have the Pacific Ocean to give us mild winters and summers though our distance from the equator provides our plants with less intense light and a relatively short growing season for summer crops. One in particular difficult summer crop are peppers.
This is important because one of the major exports of my garden are the ingredients to allow me to make homemade garden salsa (tomatoes, garlic, onions, cilantro, jalapeÃ±o peppers) Al ingredients come from my garden (except for jalapeÃ±o peppers) This year I am determined to fix this.
I have a couple strategies for doing this, the first is to “start early” pepper plants require 80-110 days from seedling to harvest, timing is everything. Given our late winters here over the past couple years, I don’t really have much of a cushion here and would also be nice if the peppers were ripe when the tomatoes are getting red as well. To get a head start many weeks ago I planted several jalapeÃ±o pepper seeds and they currently are turning into some great looking pepper plants in my grow box. As they have grown I have potted them up to encourage them to continue to grow vigorously.
Not wanting to put my eggs peppers in one basket, I have decided to try a few different techniques in case one completely fails I hopefully have a couple backups:
- Grow pepper plant in grow box in WonderSoil
- Grow pepper plant hydroponically using a Grodan Gro-Blocks
- Grow pepper plant in the ground beside my tomatoes
- Grow pepper plant in large pot in sunniest location
I honestly can not really predict the outcome of this experiment. The grow box as the advantage of accurate temperature control but the CFLs though work great can’t compare to full sun. On the other hand outdoors has the great light intensity of the actual sun though given the pepper plants can stop growing lacking 60 degree nights and at least 70 degrees during day. Given we don’t have too many nights greater than 60 degrees the grow box might have a chance.
UPDATE — 05/25/2009
Plant grown in WonderSoil in grow box at temperature controlled to remain above 60 degrees at night and a high of 80 during the day. This is amazing results compared to the 2.5 inch plants I started with less than a month ago.
Plant grown hydroponically using a Grodan Gro-Blocks also in temperature controlled grow box.
Plant grow in actual dirt outside in good light
Plant grown in pot outside…well this one is already out after some high winds and cold mornings this one was looking pretty bad to I brought to the infirmary (the grow box) to bring it back to life, which seems to have done wonders.
The obvious winner at this point is the pepper plant in WonderSoil in the grow box, though I have noticed some recent growth in the outdoor plant now the weather has started warming up, so might be some time for Mother Nature to redeem itself. Overall I have been very impressed with the results of the grow box but still need to see if I can get flowers and fruit…until the next update…
UPDATE — 06/20/2009
We were blessed with some warm weather so the outdoor potted plant has been doing great blossoming and almost a dozen of good sized peppers growing.
I have seen plenty of blossoms on the pepper plants in the grow box though I have not have and fruit set. I have two theories what is causing this, first is we have hat some hot weather with the garage getting over 85 degrees even with best exhaust and airflow it was hard to keep the temperature from exceeding 90 degrees which causes the blossoms to drop. The second reason is I have been attempting to hand pollinate the flowers with the absence of some nice bees to do the work for me. I have been using a fine paintbrush without much luck. Switching to having better airflow and using a Q-Tip to simulate a bees bottom.
The plant I had in the ground eventually got overtaken by a pumpkin plant which I removed and moved to the grow box given it had not shown any significant signs of growth since I transplanted it there.
Right now seems the best method is grow the pepper plant to about 18 inches and just let mother nature take care of things at that point.