Garden Journal – Week of April 20

Some undersized habanero peppers

The sections in the post

They’ve always been small – I want to know why!

It seems to act like mint. I want to learn more.

The Forget-Me-Nots are blooming for Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day!

April 24th


The Curse of the Tiny Pepper

Ever since I’ve put these peppers in, the majority of the fruit have been quite small.

Only one plant has put out larger peppers

Hungarian sweet yellow pepper

First off, a bit about peppers.

One: They’re delicious.

Two: There seems to be two types: Sweet and Hot

Three: They grow in similar conditions to tomatoes

This tells me that solving this might solve why my previous tomato plants died.

A side note: I’m partially running this blog to improve my gardening skills and keep a record of things that happen in my garden. The current tomatoes are new. The peppers are not, and I’m trying my best to make sure they aren’t forced to become new.

Okay, but a bit more seriously:

PlantingGrowingHarvesting
To plant, make sure the soil is warmer than 65F and there’s bonemeal or fishmeal to the hole before planting.Enjoys full sun to ensure full growth.Side dress peppers with aged compost or blood meal when fruit starts to form (about 2 tbsp per plant)
Likes soil rich in organic matter. Prefers that the soil remain consistently moist. Keep it most until the fruit forms, then it’s alright to cut back on the water a bit. Sweet peppers harvest at whatever color is right.
According to legend, more fruit means smaller fruit. You could pinch off a few flowers.Hot peppers are harvested as desired.

Terms:
Blood meal: A plant food made of dried animal blood. High in nitrogen, and lowers the PH of the soil to make it more acidic. *Note: May attract vampires.
Aged Compost: (I think it’s just regular compost that’s further along in the process)
Side Dress: Pouring or piling fertilizers next to the stems, sometimes a few inches away.

Step one is diagnosing the problem.

Let’s look at the symptoms:

The peppers are tiny on all the plants. Or, to be more specific, one sweet pepper died. One sweet pepper plant has grown two peppers in two years, and both are the size of my pinkie. The other four pepper plants produce peppers roughly the size of a pea. They go through green, yellow, orange, and red – full coloration. But they do not grow.

Plants have lush foliage do not fruit or have little fruit. The soil may be nitrogen rich and lack phosphorus. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting and side dress plants with aged compost. If night temperatures are cool place a wire cage around peppers and drape the cage with plastic at night. Increase pollination and fruit production by lightly tapping plants to make sure pollen is distributed.

Harvest to Table

What seems to be the problem(s)?

Well, I know these planters are terrible at draining. And whether it’s COVID related weather change or just spring showers, the planters have flooded multiple times.
In addition, I may be trying to fit too many pepper plants next to each other, and the soil may not be deep enough.

Plants do not grow; blossoms drop off; fruit does not develop. Temperatures are too cold. Plant when the weather is warmer. Plant varieties recommended for your region.

Harvest to Table

What am I doing to solve these things?

Monday: Poked holes in the sides of the planter to allow old water to drain out. Poked only a very small hole, such that the container can still retain water reasonably well, but drains. I’ll plug the hole back up depending on how things go.

Wednesday: Thorough watering with plant nutrients. Used a 4-2-3 (4% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, 3% potash). I read that my plants likely need the phosphorus more, but I’d like to work with what I have on hand. Getting gardening supplies during COVID can be tricky here.
Also, moved peppers (and tomatoes) into a better, sunnier position in the day. I’ll move the planters back to the regular, more aesthetically pleasing spots in the evening. This time next year, I’ll instead be saying ‘when I’m home from work.’ It’ll be like walking my pets every day.

Thursday: Checked on peppers closely. Noticed brown patches on leaves, maybe some honeydew fluid. It existed prior to today, and maybe me paying attention to it today makes it seem more. Or maybe there’s a second thing going on. Will investigate for next week’s post.

Friday: Trimmed off the smaller peppers that had turned red or seemed not to be growing any more. Made them into an olive oil dip to feel like I had been growing peppers I could eat.

This blog seems to be an ongoing show that plants can take a lot of mismanagement. They can survive a heck of a lot, and come back from almost just as much.


Stevia, but barely

The end?

I really hope this thing grows like mint and comes back from (apparently accidental) pruning.

Let’s learn about stevia

It’s an organic, non-sugar sweetener. You can use the powdered version that you see in stores, or you can grow it and home and use the leaves however you might make use of them. Use fresh leaves in tea or salad, dried leaves in… tea or salad. Really, it’s just a not-as-sweet version of the store kind. I’m sure you could make the powder if you tried hard enough.
That’s really all there is to the plant itself.

What does it like?

SoilSunWater
Rich and well-draining.Loves it, loves more of it.Likes not becoming too soggy. Sogginess can cause root rot (look for wilting that doesn’t get better when you water more).
Ph of 6.7 to 7.2. So, pretty neutral, maybe a little acidic. Grows best in Zone 11 (40F) and up (That means no chills! It’ll catch a cold).
Not too tough to grow.

So how do we get this little plant to put out some more growth?
One option is to pinch off a portion of the plant when it’s about 8 inches tall. Then, you can either eat the pinched part or get it started as a cutting. (Apparently the seed germination rate is abysmal).
Side note: Pinched the buds on a Thursday, stuck it in some damp potting soil. Forgot that I had done that until late Friday, after a heat wave. So, no propagating for now. I have to save the only stevia I have left.

Of course, I think the (potential) root rot might also be a problem – and not just the only problem – that’s keeping it from growing.

Another issue is the plant’s love for Zone 11 conditions. We’re slightly cooler than that, and not near as humid as most. In optimal conditions, this plant gets to about 24″ tall. Sub-optimal conditions might get it up to 16″. My stevia has barely ever been as long as a human foot, so it’s probably sub-sub-optimal.

The Plan

Pinch the tip

‘Walk’ the plants into sunlight each morning

Try to drain soil better by poking more holes in bottom of plastic trough

Hopefully that’ll be enough to save this plant. Seriously large amount of hope.


Catch up on last week:

The mint is doing fabulously better than before. Some new shoots poking out, plenty of healthy growth. Looks like some more sun (every day), some nutrients (going again every 3 weeks through the spring), and some pruning (as needed) were all it needed. Nothin’ to it.

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