Thursday, January 05, 2006

Extending the Pepper Season

Floating row cover on a PVC frame keeps Marconi Gold and Tequila Sunrise peppers ripening.

Sometime in mid November, I realized the peppers were getting way too cold. Maybe it was earlier than that. I had a crop of Marconi Gold ripening, sweet italian frying peppers that I adore but that didn't really do well until the late summer. I had a little PVC frame from a laundry bag holder that didn't really work for us, so I took that, some cable ties, and some floating row cover and made a little 3/4 shelter, extending some extra floating row fabric out to the small tomato cage supporting the nearby Big Jim pepper and securing it with a cable tie.

Not only did I harvest the Marconi peppers, but the mini-greenhouse effect of the row cover, even open on one side, persuaded all 5 plants under it to flower again and set fruit. From one small investment in a few minute's time and care, we reaped:

  • a handful of green 'mystery peppers' (some kind of sweet bell, about 3 inches round)
  • a handful of lipstick sized and shaped Tequila Sunrise orange and Tulip Tree red sweet peppers
  • in two batches, about 8 large Marconi Gold peppers, 8 - 12 inches in length and 2 - 3 inches wide
  • one more batch of Big Jim Numex peppers, which didn't color up much but were still tasty and had quite a kick to them

So if you're thinking, gee, should I take the time to try extending the season of this plant, even if I don't have the resources to do something fancy, my answer is YES, absolutely!

BTW, I recycle the floating row cover if it doesn't get too ripped up-- it washes clean of mud, and smaller bits can be used to make individual mini-hoops over wire mesh to give seedlings a better start. I fold it up and store it in an unused pot on my garden shelf outside, making sure it's out of the sunlight. The stuff is quite UV-stable, but why waste that property when it's not deployed over plants?


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