Friday, September 7, 2012

Pepper and Eggplant Update

It was going to be a crappy year for peppers in my garden, that seemed to be certain. All the plants displayed symptoms of CMV or something similar, with distorted leaves and stunted growth. The weather has been everything but hot. The bed the peppers were planted in had all new imported soil, which in my experience takes a couple of seasons to reach its full plant supporting potential. What was I thinking, trying a whole lot of new varieties of sweet peppers to evaluate how well they produced in my climate and sticking them in the new soil? Oh well, I decided to let the plants grow and waited to see what happened. Oh, and the eggplant, it seemed that I had kept them in pots a bit too long before planting them out and they seemed rather unhappy also, the leaves kept yellowing and falling off.

Eggplant and Peppers on June 24

Three weeks and it seemed like the plants hardly grew.

July 17, 3 weeks later and still runty looking

And they really didn't seem to be any healthier.

July 17, still with stunted leaves

But at least they were blooming. I pinched the flower buds off of most of the plants to try to allow them to put what energy they could find into producing vegetative growth. Then I got tired of watching the plants just sit there pouting and I decided to try a few interventions. First, I gave them a treatment with Actinovate, an organic fungicide that can be used as a soil drench that helps to protect plants from harmful fungi. I figured, they already had one yucky disease, I could give them a leg-up by perhaps preventing them from getting even more sick. And then, in spite of adding organic fertilizers and amendments to the soil when I filled the new bed, I gave them all a couple or three feedings with half strength fish emulsion and a bloom promoting fertilizer. Hmm, they seemed to appreciate all that, or at least it didn't hurt them, and they filled out a bit. Was it the food, the Actinovate, the combination? Who knows...

By August 5 there were some pretty nice green peppers on some of the plants. I still wasn't happy with the plants though and just throwing more fertilizer at them seemed somehow not right, there are enough nutrients in the soil, the plants were just not utilizing them very well. So, intervention #3, a treatment with beneficial mycorrhizae. The mycorrhizae form a symbiotic relationship with the plants. They take up residence in and/or on the plant roots and then send mycelium throughout the soil, virtually extending the reach of the plant roots. They feed on the carbohydrates that the plant produces through photosynthesis and the plants feed on the nutrients that the mycorrhizae take up from the soil. Healthy soils have resident populations of mycorrhizae, but soils that have been abused or dessicated are generally lacking in healthy mycorrhizal populations. The soil that I put into the new bed was extremely dry so I knew that it was pretty lifeless, which is why it takes a couple of seasons to bring it to life. I hoped (still hope) that innoculating the soil with the mycorrhizae will help to jump start a healthy population of soil microbes.

August 5, green pepper on a Jimmy Nardello plant

August 5, Shephard's Ramshorn

So, at least there were some peppers coming along, however, the scanty leaf coverage (look at those runty leaves above) was allowing the exposed peppers to become sunburned.

Sunburned Lady Bell pepper

So, after watching more than one good looking pepper get an ugly nasty brown spot from too much sun,  I rigged up a covering with Agribon row cover. The smaller fruited peppers didn't seem to be as susceptible to getting sunburned, so I only suspended the fabric over the large fruited peppers.

August 15

I kept the ends of the cover open and kept the sides raised a few inches to allow plenty of air movement, the plants are rather crowded in there and I didn't want to encourage pests and diseases.

August 15

By this time, it seemed that all the plants in this bed were starting to get a bit more perky. The eggplant was sporting some good looking fruit.

August 15, Salangana eggplant

I was harvesting the first few Pimento de Padron peppers which I was so eager to eat that I didn't get around to photographing any for the first week of harvests.

Then I started to harvest the first eggplant.

August 27, the first eggplant harvest

Then the first nearly ripe sweet peppers started to come in, some Jimmy Nardello's and Melrose.

September 1, Jimmy Nardello's

In the meantime, I'd just taken a few peeks under the row cover at the large fruited sweet peppers but it has been difficult to really see what has been happening under there. So, today I pulled back the cover to take a good look.

September 7, the sweet pepper plants unmasked

Whoa, not too bad!

Look at some of these peppers coming along:

The sunburned Lady Bell

Shephard's Ramshorn

Flamingo bell

King of the North

Wisconsin Lakes

More Lady Bells


Sunnybrook Pimento

Odessa Market

Large Sweet Antigua

PI593480 (Morocco), a sweet pepper with small upright fruits

PI593480 (Morocco)

What a sweet surprise, lots of good looking peppers and some of them are ripening. The leaves are still stunted and the plants aren't exactly huge, but they are looking healthy otherwise.

And the eggplant isn't looking too shabby either!




The one and only Sicilian (which started as a real runt)

The basil got most of the same treatments, just not a flower growth promoter, although it doesn't seem to have paid attention to that. I keep cutting it and it just keeps growing.

Profumo di Genova basil

And while we are here, let's check out the rest of the peppers also:

Sigaretta Dolce

Dolce means sweet in Italian, however, it seems to be a relative term. I tried the first of these just the other day and they surprised me with bit of a spicy kick, a sweet Italian girl indeed...


Both the Melrose and Jimmy Nardello's are sweet Italian/American frying peppers. When I was cutting them up the other day to use in a Ratatouille like dish I kept thinking that they smelled spicy. It was so strange, spicy on the nose but entirely sweet on the tongue, and truly delicious. I can't wait for more of these boys to ripen. Mix them up with some Sigaretta Dolces and ooh la la!

Jimmy Nardello's

Big Jim (nothing very big yet)

Pimenta Biquinho

Pimenta Biquinho is a totally sweet chinense pepper (habanero relative) from Brazil. I tried to grow this variety last year and wasn't able to harvest a single pepper (that CMV thing hit the plants really hard). I'm more hopeful about getting to try a pepper this year, so long as winter doesn't send an icy blast too early, these look like they will be very late to produce.

And the tried and true, beloved Pimento de Padrons. I've got nine plants this year!

Pimento de Padron

Mostly Padrons here

So, in spite of the plants being stunted and the less than optimal weather this year, I do think the pepper harvest is going to be a respectable one. What a relief, I really thought that all the work that I put into selecting and growing the numerous seedlings that I raised this spring was going to be a huge waste of time, effort, and expense. I just hope we get some semblance of our usual long mild (maybe warm  - pretty please) autumn to extend the season as looong as possible.


  1. Wow.... A lot of peppers! Your eggplant are beautiful too. With 9 pimento de pasting plants, do you keep up with eating them fresh or do they preserve well?

  2. They look sensational, imagine what you'll get in a couple of years once the soil improves. I love all the different varieties. Do you have a prefered dish for each?

  3. Thank you for sharing how you thought through and progressed forward through the intervention processes. It is good to gain insight in how others problem solve issues like this as we all encounter them. I also had some problems with poor vegetation growth this year on the peppers - particularly the bells - and did many of the things you did as well to solve it. Used some Actinovate and sprayed them well with it and I think that was largely the best action I took (wish I had done it earlier actually), and I also gave the plants a drench/drink of a fairly strong kelp/fish emulsion tea. They did a u-turn in health in early August and are looking much better now and producing fruit. I may give them another drink of kelp/fish emulsion tea in a few weeks to push them on to maturity.

    No problems here with sun scalding - we would have to get a lot more sun than we typically get to deal with that problem. ;)

  4. My theory is that certain plants like to play mind games with you. I had a similiar problem with my bell peppers and eggplant - they just weren't happening fast enough - so instead of pinching off the early flowers like a good gardener, I left them on in hopes of atleast harvesting one fruit from each plant. Well I got my initial one pepper and one eggplant and then the plants sort of got lazy even if I fed them fish emulsion. It's not that they didn't have more fruit set, it's just that the plants didn't seem to be getting bigger. So I let them be and just made sure they didn't die of thirst and voila! Now they're all bushed out and I'm like, well I guess they just wanted to have some peace and quiet instead of me ranting and raving at them for doing nothing.

  5. Every year my pepper plants had a certain wrinkly texture to the leaves. I found out from "Pepper Joe" based in South Carolina that peppers are heavy feeders of calcium and that the wrinkly leaves are crying for more calcium. I feed my plants with gypsum and the new leaves are normal. is a great source of pepper information. June


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