Overwintering Peppers

I’m giving it another go this year. The candy cane peppers I purchased and planted out earlier this year failed to start from collected seed. They were great producers despite beneficial neglect, i.e. overshadowed by neighboring melons and tomato plants. So I dug them up and potted them in grow bags for storage in the garage over winter.

Candy Cane peppers pruned heavily and ready for overwintering
Last Candy Cane Pepper Harvest

I also got around to potting up some ornamental peppers that I started from seed early winter. They eked out a meager existence in 4″ starter pots all spring and summer-long until they moved into bigger digs, got a healthy shot of fertilizer, and sat outside during the hot days of fall. So now I’m faced with a surplus of pepper starts that I’ll also be overwintering.

We’ve been doing the nightly dance of shuffling pepper plants in and out of the house to take advantage of this mild fall weather. There’ve been a few nights when temperatures dipped below 40, but lately daytime temps have stayed relatively stable in the 70s.

It will only be a matter of weeks before winter chill comes on and our official frost date here in North Texas begins.

Nasturtiums! November Seed Starting Adventures

Nasturtium seeds: Alaska, Jewel and Black Velvet
I’m bound and determined to grow nasturtiums this year. I had some old packets of Alaska Variegated, but turns out they were too old to germinate. So I picked up several packets at Calloway’s and online from Amazon. While seed shopping I also picked up Spinach and Lettuce seeds, along with bunching onions, chives, marigolds and coneflower seeds. I’m also looking forward to my order from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, consisting of baby bok and Chinese broccoli, coming soon! As it turns out, my last seed starting venture left me with a lot of unsprouted soil blocks: arugula, spinach, bok choy, and various types of basil. Cleaning out the old seeds from my collection turned out to be a simple matter of dumping packets into wet paper towels and storing them in plastic zip lock bags. No surprise here…well except for a single spinach seed that germinated. It just wasn’t worth the effort to keep it. I also started another flat of soil blocks. The Parris Cos lettuce germinated within a few days. I’m hoping that the basils germinate. I also broke out the fenugreek seeds and sowed them in a pot. I purchased these seeds from Amazon pantry a few years ago, which sold them as spices. But whole fenugreek can also grown from these spice seeds. Even as sprouts, they are very fragrant. If this batch of soil blocks fails to produce any basil, I may have to run them all through the paper towel method. I’m still hopeful I’ll get some to germinate. Stay tuned.

Soil block adventures

Thanks to Prime Day, I picked up a soil blocker. I’m on my way to seed starting and cultivating plants in soil blocks.

This meant also making my own seed starting mix, something that I’ve been wanting to do ever since pandemic gardening switched into full gear. I came up with my own DIY mix with media I was able to collect locally.

  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part organic raised garden soil (Miracle Gro)
  • 1 part organic compost
  • 1-2 handfuls of organic plant food (Espoma Garden Tone)

I used a 1 gallon ice cream plastic container to bucket out my portions into a seed tray and began mixing away.

Realizing that mixing this media in a shallow tray would result in a mess and lots of wastage, I made sure to create a 2nd batch in a stainless steel full size steam pan. We were previously experimenting with high sided steam pans to double as litter trays, but decided it was impractical to keep lidless trays with dogs roaming about looking for “kitty treats”.

Those high sides made it easy to contain the soil mix that turns to slush once you add water. Then it’s just a matter of finding the right jig/dance with the soil blocker to pack the slushy mix and eject the molded blocks.

I forgot to measure the amount of water added to the mix. I was mainly trying to go by feel…so some of my extruded blocks ended up a little crumblier than the next batch. So it’s trial and error for now until I come up with a system that I’m satisfied with and produces the desired results: mainly healthy seedlings.

By the 3rd day, radish, lettuce and kohlrabi seedlings popped up. Success!