Monday, May 10, 2010

Progress Report on Experiments

Last fall I outlined two garden experiments I was planning to undertake for this year's growing season. The first was a King of the North sweet pepper that I wanted to overwinter in the house, the second was a giant Detroit Dark Red beet from which I wanted to collect seed.

Peppers, or more properly, chilies are not annual plants in their native environment, but here in Minnesota (and much of the US) peppers are grown primarily as annuals. So, last spring, I planted my most vigorous King of the North start in a pot, with the intention of bringing the whole works in the house. There were trials and tribulations. The plant suffered in the presence of low light and I believe that made it susceptible to aphids that must have come inside with it. Daily bug squashing and 4 doses of Neem Oil at weekly intervals took care of that problem. I did end up cutting it way back, leaving just a few leaves, so it is not (and still isn't) a very attractive plant to display in the living room. The second major issue that the plant suffered is a lack of temperature. I keep my home at 60 degrees in the winter and that is just not typically the temperature range in which peppers are happiest. This coolness, combined with lack of light and the aphids caused the leaves to yellow and eventually all the leaves from last summer fell off. I am happy to report that the plant is enjoying much more light and is making new leaves and even flower buds! It is still too early to put "the King" back out doors, but I have great hope that it will be an early producer and will overcome the awful haircut it received last fall.

The Detroit Dark Red beet is a much smoother success story. I wavered back and forth on the storage options for the beet through the long winter. I decided against storing the beet in sand in a cool, dark corner of the basement. I wrapped "big beet" in two layers of newspaper and stored it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. I picked a day that seemed early enough in the spring, but still cool enough to freeze and opened the bag. I was so tickled to see that there were new leaves forming and it had not gotten soft or rotten on the tap root. I then dig a hole big enough for "big beet" and planted it out in the garden. I am happy to report that this experiment is going quite smoothly, and "big beet" is pumping out new leaves and hopefully when the time is right it will flower and make a multitude of seeds.

Good Luck with your garden experiments!
See you in "The Backyard"!