Eggplant, other veggies stunted from cold weather?

Peter1142(Zone 6b)June 17, 2014

I transplanted 2 Black Beauty Eggplants into my garden nearly a month ago.

They have not grown one inch. They both have 3 healthy looking top leaves and 2-3 yellowish bottom leaves.

We had some cool weather and they were put out too early, but I don't think it ever got below 40. But we have warmed up here and have not had a night below 55 in a couple weeks, soil temps probably about 70. Last week though we had non-stop rain all week, but we have had several sunny days in a row now.

Could they be permanently stunted? If so I would like to replace them before it's too late.

The Okra I've planted has also not grown an inch, but that's to be expected. I threw a few seeds into the ground a week ago just in case. The Peppers I planted at the same time as the Eggplant have also not grown and the leaves are pale, but they seem to finally be getting some new growth, and strangely they have already started flowering out in the garden and we have one nice fruit already forming on a small plant!


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

My Ichiban eggplants and peppers went in when the high temps were in the low 70s, and the lows were in the high 40s. They're 3-4 feet tall now and producing like crazy. Of course, the soil temps are now in the low 80s. Gotta start eating eggplant for breakfast soon! Never heard of cool-weather stunting of these.

A little odd your eggplants haven't grown at all, though. Are you sure you don't have other problems? Is this a bed that has actually seen success with eggplants and peppers? Drainage problems perhaps?

Of course, these are hot weather loving plants and it sounds like you really haven't had any hot weather.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:06AM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

This is my first garden..

The soil is loam. They are in a furrow. We have had a ton of rain last week but I don't think they should have gotten any wet feet.

The squash nearby have taken off. The peppers elsewhere in my garden, some are doing well and some not great but still ok (the ones not so great went out early like the eggplant). It's odd, they just kind of haven't changed at all in nearly a month.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:45AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Might be good to get a soil test, or compare notes with people nearby using the same kind of soil. If squash in the same soil are doing well, my inclination is that the soil is OK, but that maybe you just haven't had the temperatures to encourage strong growth of peppers and eggplants.

When the peppers and eggplant were put in, did they happen to be heavily root-bound (as in, roots wrapped around in a container they should have left long ago)? That can slow down transplants a lot.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:58AM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

^plus one on the roots question

IME, "teasing" the roots when transplanting goes a long way to getting the plants established much faster.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

Yes, it is entirely possible they were rootbound. I don't specifically remember the eggplants, but most of the plants I bought were. I did pull off the peat pots as I have already learned they do not degrade. I tried growing my own indoors but they just did not grow well. I think they needed grow lights and bigger pots.

Would it be a good idea to completely wash out the roots from the soil? How do you "tease"?

Should I try digging them up now and teasing out the roots?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:06PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

If that's what's going on, then the best strategy is just to be patient. The roots have to decide to start reaching out radially. That will happen eventually, and naturally. Rootbound plants aren't damaged goods, but you'll wait an extra few weeks for them to get happy.

But that's exactly right that if you pull a plant out of a pot and find it seriously rootbound, teasing the roots apart very gently before planting will help.

Now, if the roots had already started to penetrate the peat pots, pulling the pots off may damage the roots. If you're going to get them in peat pots, a better strategy might just be to make multiple slits in the pot before planting them. Someone may have more wisdom than I on this, however.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

Ok I will be patient :)

I have another question, I have some red pepper seedlings outside, not sure what variety I accidentally threw out the seed package. They are about an inch and a half tall and growing very, very slowly. I started them indoors someodd 3 months ago.

I also have some tomatoes I transplanted outside in worse shape, I transplanted them when they were too small and they got wind/sunburn then chilled and they nearly died. They appear to be still alive, but are just sitting there not growing at all either. I'd really like to see them take off. The other variety I transplanted recovered and took off, though they were a tiny bit bigger when they went out.

I have until mid October for first frost, though it will surely be very cold by then. Is there any hope of getting fruits out of these guys? I'm not too worried about these peppers and tomatoes as I have plenty others doing well. It'd be a shame to give up on them but I don't want to waste my time either and take care of a plant only to have it not produce anything, I know the red peppers can take a very long time to get mature fruits, and I could put something else there.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:30PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

As to peppers, you can harvest and eat anytime. They don't need to be red to be edible.

I'm a little confused though. You have other peppers and tomatoes that are doing really well? So the obvious question is what you did differently with them.

It might be interesting to buy a couple of new unstressed seedlings and put them in near where the non-performers are sitting. That might answer the questions about whether it's the soil or the first plants that is not favorable.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:06PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

To answer your question about washing the soil off the roots, no you don't want to do that. That is bare rooting, and is done with containerized perennials and such when potting up, but it is not something you want to try on your annuals.

You just want to knock a little of the loose soil off the bottom and edges and gently pull any encircled roots so they are not circling anymore, if that makes sense...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:42PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

The difference with the tomatoes started indoors is the variety (and the one variety also got bigger before it went out), and otherwise I went out and bought some plants. I put out eggplant seedlings I started indoors too but between the transplant shock and the flea beetles they were toast.

I guess that's true with the peppers, I could always harvest the green peppers.

Is there anything I can do to encourage the little tomato seedlings to start growing again? I don't have any other of that variety and I would really like to see them make it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:44PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Tomatoes are really hard to kill (aside from freezing them). You might want to pot them in some really good soil in a decent sized pot and get them restarted. Mound the soil up on the stems to increase the possibility of new roots, baby them, and cross your fingers. Might take a month. When they start to grow well, put them back in the ground. For a first freeze in October, it's not too late.

This certainly isn't going to slow them down, and ideally it'll make them grow faster.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:55PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

They seem to finally be starting to grow. My peppers on the other hand, still look not so hot and have not grown, as does the majority of my okra.

Lesson learned, planting these veggies with temperatures of 50 at night does no good, they won't grow and can be damaged. They go out in mid-June at best in the future. The tomatoes can handle a little more, but not if they are tiny seedlings.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 12:20PM
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A polytunnel is helpful. Even on cloudy (but not dark and overcast) days, the tunnel will capture enough heat from the sun to transform an 18 degree day into a 28 degree day. It makes a huge difference.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Thu, Jun 26, 14 at 12:41

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 12:40PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

"Lesson learned, planting these veggies with temperatures of 50 at night does no good, they won't grow and can be damaged."

It's not that simple. I routinely set our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant when temps dip below 50F and never had problems. Sure, they don't grow fast till it warms up, but they're not damaged. You might get your soil tested.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

Temps did not dip below 50F, they were in the 40's at night for a many days in a row. (Then there was also the week it rained non-stop the entire week and was in the mid 60's for highs...) Spring here is volatile and hard to predict, we'll have beautiful weather for a week then it'll be back to late winter again.

The peppers I planted later are doing completely differently. There is little doubt to me they were damaged by the cold. I do not think it is disputed by many that peppers and okra can develop problems in temps in the 40's that, at best, take a while to recover from.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 2:16PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

The eggplants have started growing thankfully. Even a couple of my okra plants which looked done for have come back to life, and a few of the eggplant I transplanted from indoors that looked totally shot have come back, if they all make it through production I will have way too many eggplant. If all my squash make it through production and get pollinated I will have way too many of those too. But that's ok!! I will freeze or give away.

My peppers still look like crap though. I tried giving them a little (just a little!) chemical fertilizer and have apparently burned them now. I already have a few small peppers, but the plants themselves are tiny with pale thin upward curled leaves that now have burns on them. I don't think they have done well with the heavy rains and cold start to the season. Don't know what else I can do but go buy another large fresh transplant and hope for another outcome, maybe leave it in a container. I really was hoping for a bountiful pepper harvest most of anything. I did put a couple tiny transplants from indoors in containers that look like they might get big enough to produce in time, they are the only ones I got that look nice and healthy.

My onions made tiny bulbs I would not waste my money on sets again unless I only wanted some quick scallions. The red onions I bought did make very nice pungent scallions though.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:54AM
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