We started this experiment way back last year, in September but it was a whopper that took a full season afterwards and we have only just now, been able to give you the results. For those of you who haven’t been following along with us on our journey, let me give you the back story.
So this is an experiment with 2 main parts, firstly, overwintering your peppers.
So here in the UK, the climate isn’t even close to being warm enough to be able to keep pepper plants alive never mind producing over winter, even though technically they are perennial, meaning in the right climate they will continue to grow and produce. So usually for us UK growers, that means chopping down spent plants in September or October and then starting again in the spring the following year by sowing new plants. As you can imagine, this means having that period where you are bringing on a seedling and young plant until usually mid to late summer before they actually produce any fruit. Giving us a very short season before we are sadly cutting down plants before winter comes.
Now I’m guessing you understand the excitement that would come with being able to keep a plant alive over winter so that you are starting the next season with a grown plant, meaning it can produce fruit sooner.
This was the first part of the experiment. The second part was to test something I’d heard about on ‘tinternet where it was claimed that pruning your pepper seedlings encouraged them to grow into a bushier plant and to produce more fruit. Great so far, but… that this fruit would be smaller and may actually have less actual flesh to it (thinner walls). I had never noticed this, although to be fair, I had never thought about it so it may just have passed me by. So the next experiment? Well, I grew 4 pepper plants, all of the same variety – “King of the North”. I sowed them all on the same day and looked after them all the same. However, I pruned two when they were young seedlings. By this, I mean that I cut them back to 4 leaves to encourage them to produce more stems and bush out. Now with 2 pruned plants and 2 plants which had been left to grow naturally, I could now compare them as they grew and decide which were the best producers.
So how did things fair? Well, the overwintered pepper was true to form and produced flowers and then fruit first, but not everything went as expected. The overwintered plant was a bit of a disappointment in terms of the size of the peppers, although it did produce more peppers than the other plants.. I have to say, I don’t think I would do this again. The amount and size of the fruit just wasn’t worth it for the effort it took to keep a plant alive over winter.
The other plants, both pruned and the ones which hadn’t been pruned, produced the same amount of fruit, but… the peppers from the pruned plants were MUCH bigger.