Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
December, 2000
Regional Report

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Winter's pepper crop includes 'Peperoncini', 'Serrano', and 'Jalapeno' peppers.

My Winter Peppers

Whether it's because I got lazy or because they just looked too good to pull up one year even though they'd quit producing new fruits, I now leave my spring peppers in the garden for about 10 months. My collection of hot peppers includes favorite varieties such as 'Tabasco', 'Jalapeno', 'Peperoncini', 'Serrano', 'Hot Wax', and 'Red Chile'. Their colors dazzle against green leaves and gray skies.

The Second Pepper Crop

Once the plants get their second wind in fall, they put on new growth and a crop of peppers bigger and bolder than the summer bunch. I fertilize them on the same schedule as the summer crop, using cottonseed meal in August and a complete fertilizer in late September. The peppers are plentiful by November and December.

Better Pepper Weather

The slightly cooler conditions in fall do the trick for my peppers. Once the autumn rains begin, the drought-stressed plants recover quickly. Their abundant leaf growth provides a canopy for the new fruit, which ripens now without cracking. To keep the ground from cooling off too quickly beneath the plants, I refrain from mulching them in fall.

Seed to Save

I've saved 'Tabasco' pepper seed from at least five mother plants over the last 20 years. It's easy to do and ensures that I'll have plants. Either of two rather unconventional methods works well for me.

Normally, you harvest the seed from a fresh pod and dry it to store. I have a hard time with the capsicum content of the fresh peppers, so I let the pods sit awhile before slicing them open. I put a few bright red tabascos in the kitchen fruit basket until they shrivel slightly. Then I cut them open and shake the seed onto a paper towel. They're dry in a few days and can be stored in paper envelopes in the refrigerator. Sometimes I drop a few peppers into an envelope and store those, too. The seeds sprout in February and are back in the ground for another crop by late March.

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