We are in late November and one topic that is popular this time of year is overwintering the peppers and eggplants. I'm by no means an expert in this and in fact I've looked at other people's content (YouTube vids) to get some ideas and best practices. That being said, I did overwinter eggplants and peppers last year. That endeavor was successful, although it's not clear to me that the overwintered plants produced a lot earlier than the newly-started plants. Some of the chili peppers produced earlier and I even had some that fruited over the winter of 2020. The peppers were overwintered in my basement nursery with plenty of heat but little light. The lighting was just some fluorescent lights overhead a good four to five feet away from the plants, but that seemed to be enough.
So this year, I'm doing it again. Besides harvesting all the peppers left, trimming down the leaves and branches, I’m just hosing off the outside of the pot and using an insecticidal soap to in hopes of decreasing soil bugs or whatever that might not be good for the basement nursery. Typically if you use outdoor soil in your indoor nursery you’re asking for trouble. I am concerned about that possibility of fungus nats, molds and the like, but that wasn’t a problem last year when I did something similar. These pots have not been hanging out outside.
You can find plenty of other authors and YouTubers who will show cutting the branches and leaves back of plants and I did my fair share of that, but I’d say my version is more like trying to make pepper and eggplant bonsai plants.
So why is this an activity for November? Well I didn't need to do it earlier because the temperatures were not near freezing here in Portland Oregon. Now this weekend temperatures are down to about 34 degrees. That’s still not freezing but my understanding is that the temperatures at ground level can be significantly less than the projected air temperature that is quoted when you look at the forecast on your phone app. So with that in mind, if 34 degrees is the estimated air temperature tonight, then I would anticipate at ground level, which the shelves in my Greenhouse are still considered ground level, I would expect that those temperatures are going to be freezing. The nice thing about the greenhouse is that it keeps the windchill off and keeps the rain off so it's not both cold and wet. I think that even before you get to freezing temps, if it rains and/or is windy that makes the plants feel colder. That's what I find is the benefit of the greenhouse. It keeps the wet off. It keeps the wind chill off, but it doesn't actually keep the air temperature any warmer than outside, maybe a half a degree at the most. The estimated air temperature outside that I see on my phone is typically the same as the air temperature on the thermometer I keep in the greenhouse.
All of that is to say that it is definitely time to bring these peppers into the basement nursery. Of course the perpetual problem that I have in all my gardening activities is that I am behind schedule. Primarily from trying to fit too much into each activity. So I’m not quite set up for this yet. I've got the shelving set up in the basement but I don't have the lights set up. These peppers will do fine without light for a couple of days. I'll get them in there and they'll stay nice, cozy and warm. Then I'll get the lights set up. I have a lot more shelving this year than I did last year, about a 50% increase.
I'm going to need to get some more lights. Oh and I’ll have to give the plants some fertilizer. Just something to keep them fed for the winter.