Experiences winter sowing peppers?

saponariaJanuary 20, 2012

I could use some advise on winter sowing peppers. I did some last year and they didn't do near as good as my winter sowed tomatoes. Some like the jalapenos did great. Then things like the Jimmy Nardellos or Chocolate Bell pepper that I wanted most never germinated at all.

I have a ton of peppers I'd like to germinate. And I'm starting some inside. But I only have so much room and I'm wondering if there is some trick to winter sowing peppers I don't know. Or if anyone could share any advise regarding winter sowing them. When should I winter sow peppers if I'm going to winter sow them? Thanks!

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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Tomatoes and peppers are so durned easy to sow, and the plants are so big (thus limiting the numbers that you will want to grow), that I don't see any advantage to winter sowing them.

Plus, they are quite frost-tender, so it would be more prudent to start them under far more controlled conditions.

The only extra work that is really justifiable with pepper plants is overwintering mature plants. Peppers are actually a tender perennial, so each fall when the hard frost threatens, I dig up and pot each of my pepper plants. Then when you set them out in the spring they already have a monstrous root system and you get big peppers weeks earlier than if you had started from seedings.

Some of my pepper plants are five years old. I may have erred this fall by not devoting enough energy to properly potting my peppers--I was distracted trying to harvest green tomatoes. In a couple months I'll be able to tell if any peppers survived my poor handling. It will be a shame if I lost the five-year-olds...

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 5:52PM
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I've heard of doing that but never met anyone who had! So what kind of light do you need to provide. Do you just stick them in front of a sunny window or do they need grow lights?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 5:57PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

During the winter, you want too keep them fairly cold (but now freezing of course!) and provide minimal light. I put them in my frost-free basement (temps are in the 40s and 50s), and cut them down hard, leaving about 6 inches of stump. Water VERY sparing during the deep part of the winter, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.

I've got a single two-lamp fluorescent fixture down there, that I have turned on only for my convenience to find things.

As the seasons head towards spring, increase the light, temperature, and watering. As you do, if the plant is still alive you will see small green pepper leaves break from the dead-looking stump, and you know that you have a winner!

Bring it into the light, slowly increase watering, and when it comes time, harden off and plant out as you would a pepper seedling.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Oh, I had no idea you help provide conditions of dormancy. I can totally do that. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Peppers will continue to grow, flower and fruit indoors, although not as vigorously as outdoors in the hot sun. I've kept them alive for 3 years, and had fruiting during the winter. 5 gallon buckets, gro-lights and heat mats under the buckets. They never saw the actual garden.

Spend some time on the Hot Pepper Forum, and you'll see some astounding setups for not only starting seedlings early, but growing them indoors all winter.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:38PM
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You're in zone seven like I am and you can have a large and ripe crop well before frost sets in.

I've had great experience with WSing all hot peppers and non-bell sweet peppers, but bell peppers have always given me spotty germination. If peppers reseed in your gardens, and that can happen if you let them ripen on the plant, then they drop their seeds and they overwinter outside, then you can WS peppers. (I mention that because last time I talked about this someone said that their peppers never reseed but then went on to tell me how they're so good at cleaning up the garden before winter, obviously their peppers coudn't reseed because they weren't there anymore.) So, if you've had them reseed you can WS them.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 6:51PM
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Thanks, Trudi. Yes, we get a large ripe crop here. I love it. I have never seen a pepper reseed here though. I have a large raised bed that was nothing but tomatillo and jalapeno last summer. I did not clear it out but all my plant died midsummer. :/ I'm not sure why. Maybe not enough water. I was sick and the garden got neglected for a while. But all my other peppers grew till frost killed them.

Anyway, I was thinking about not messing with that bed for a while this spring and see if the peppers will come up. I know tomatillo reseeds here. I've just never seen it with peppers.

FWIW I just went ahead and sowed most of my sweet peppers inside. I didn't want to risk it. I've saved the hot pepper seeds though and will winter sow those later.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 8:02PM
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I wish you luck! It was a brutal summer here too--I have a hard time maintaining the garden when the heat goes over 90, I have a tendency to turn purple if I overheat, so I stay inside if I don't get out at dawn to tend the beds. This year I'll be doing a heavier layer of mulch and hopefully that will keep the soil from heating and drying so quick.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 8:32PM
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