The plants were so lovely in the window today on a sunny November afternoon. I could not help but grab a camera to capture the moment.
This is ‘Variegata’ hot pepper, a gorgeous and edible heirloom variety that has got a lot of play on the site recently. I grew it from seed for the first time back in the spring and it has become an unexpected favourite this year. The colours and shapes are so gorgeous, I find myself pointing the camera in its direction time and again. I brought it indoors before the frost kicked in and it has since continued to put out fruit. These will turn bright red when mature.
These are the flowering stems of two sundews: One the left Drosera aliciae and on the right, Drosera capensis.
This is one of two pencil cacti (aka Mistletoe Cactus) I have hanging in a window with indirect light. They are epiphytic jungle cacti which means they need a lot more water and richer soil than the desert cacti most of us are familiar with. This one is a member of the Rhipsalis genus although I have never been able to confirm the species.
I want this book! We took a week off last month, staying at the home of an avid tomato gardener whose name I have not sought permission to reveal (and therefore will not). While there she introduced me to the Kokopelli Seed Foundation, a non-profit organization based in France who are working to actively address issues of food security and preserve biodiversity by producing organic open-pollinated seeds as well as educating and promoting these issues globally.
One of their projects is the book, “The Seeds of Kokopelli” by Dominique Guillet is a massive 440 page, hardcover tome introducing Kokopelli’s work and farms, as well as proper pollination, seed production and saving techniques for an assortment of vegetables. The bulk of the book functions as a food plant directory introducing thousands of open-pollinated and heirloom herb and vegetable varieties. My host had the French version of the book at her home
(“Les Semences de Kokopelli“) which proved to be a bit of a tease given that I could only gaze at the photos, picking up a line or two of French here and there. Even still, on quick glance the book introduced me to a few interesting varieties that I’ve got on my list for next year including:
What I saw has absolutely convinced me to order a English edition for myself. $46 (includes shipping to Canada) is an excellent price for such a massive encyclopedia of plants. The price including shipping to the US is a deal at $34-38.
During the spring and summer months I grow indeterminant tomatoes (large, vine plants) in large garbage bins like this one purchased for $10 each a number of years ago at the local Ikea. The flat grey colour has faded significantly over the years but the containers are still holding up under the wear and tear of hot summers and winter heaving caused by fluctuating temperatures.
I typically fill each container with a single tomato plant and surround it with 4 basil plants. With the weather being warmer this fall I decided to try and keep the rooftop deck productive AND aesthetically pleasing by replacing the spent tomatoes with attractive, cold-hardy edibles previously growing in smaller, individual containers. This also allowed me to get a head start on clean-up bringing in some of the smaller, terra cotta containers that will eventually come indoors for the winter.
In This Container:
- Tri-color sage
- Pansy (will keep flowering. Flowers are edible.
- ‘Lacinato Blue’ Kale aka ‘Dinosaur’ Kale
- ‘Red Bor’ Kale
- Cinnamon Basil (not cold hardy but surprisingly still going strong.)
Everything in this container is edible. Unfortunately, while we were away a squirrel made a hearty lunch of the dinosaur kale but everything else is still thriving and ready for picking whenever we need a bit of sage for our eggs, some flowers for a salad, or kale to flavour a soup.
One of the things I love best about this site is checking out the fantastic gardening projects members of this site share via the forums. Last week, while making my morning rounds, I came across this fantastic, Godzilla-esque loofah (aka luffa) grown and recently harvested by forum user rachelanderson.
Isn’t it incredible?! There’s enough sponge there to wash dishes and scrub backs for years to come. I would suggest she enter some kind of local Fall Fair event with that thing. I’m afraid of Rachel’s mega-sized loofah, a trait that marks it as a potential candidate for first prize in The US of A or Canada where something as exotic as a loofah is bound to confuse and delight.
A loofah sponge is not the easiest product to successfully bring to full term in cooler climates. The plant needs about 110 days to go from vine, to flower, to fully mature fruit. I’ve covered growing loofahs in the past (page 164 of the You Grow Girl book) and even though I know a thing or two about the process I have never grown anything worth holding up alongside Rachel’s sponge. Her success is so inspiring, I just had to know her secret so I emailed her hoping she would be willing to offer up some tips.
Here’s what she said:
- She lives in West Virigina, somewhere between USDA zones 5 and 6.
- She shares a garden plot with her dad. They used a giant plastic sheet as mulch that was installed in the spring before any weeds had a chance to come up.
- She started the seeds in potting soil around mid-May and planted the seedlings in the garden when they were big enough to make the move.
- They put rock dust on the plants in the morning before the dew dried to keep the bugs and deer from eating them.
- They did not use any fertilizers.
- She attributes most of her success to the plastic mulch which kept weeds from stealing soil nutrients from garden plants. I’m going to add that the mulch probably helped to prevent drought and warmed up the soil earlier, keeping it warmer for a longer length of time.
Thanks Rachel! Your loofah is certainly inspiring and dare I say, ummmm… enviable.
Earlier this Fall I wrote about bringing your hot pepper plants indoors for overwintering. I’ve put together a short 2 minute clip showing how I dug up a ‘Variegata’ hot pepper plant from my community garden plot and transplanted it into a pot to spend the next 7 or so months indoors.
There are lots of different ways to over-winter peppers — some take space into consideration and involve pruning the entire plant back and storing in a cooler location, while the method I am using is about enjoying attractive plants as houseplants until they can be put back outdoors in the late spring to begin a new season of pepper production. By my method your plant isn’t likely to produce fruit during the cold months but should produce lots of pretty foliage to look at.
Here are a few extra tips:
- Soil: When transplanting from and in-ground garden gently remove as much soil from around the roots as possible and transplant into a container of potting soil. The soil from your garden will become compacted in a pot, eventually smothering the roots and preventing drainage and air circulation.
- Fertilizing: Peppers do not require much in the way of fertilizing. Be very sparing and apply fertilizers that are slightly higher in nitrogen keeping in mind that the goal is to produce healthy leaves, not bare fruit. I think a sprinkling of vermicompost at transplant time is just enough. Anything too high in nitrogen will enourage a lot of leggy, tender growth, just the kind of foliage aphids are most attracted to.
- Pests: And while we’re on the subject of aphids, chances are you will get a few or a lot this winter. A good spray in the shower or kitchen sink is the best chemical-free way to get them off your plant for good. So is keeping your plant as healthy as possible.
- Peppers like sun and warmth: Keep your plant in the sunniest window you’ve got. If the windowsill gets too cold and drafty move your plant as far away as possible while still providing optimum light. If that’s not enough try setting them underneath grow lights. You can also try setting your pepper’s pot on a crocheted windowsill cozy or pot coaster. Heating mats are great too but I usually wait to bust mine out until closer to the start of the growing season, otherwise the warmth prompts the plant to get active before the light is bright enough to sustain that level of activity.
- Peppers Prefer a Bit of Drought: Water less often then you would outdoors — with less drying heat and light your plant will require less moisture. Peppers like a bit of drought so test the soil with your finger first to see that it has dried out slightly before giving it a drink.
- Shock: Some leaves will turn yellow and drop off shortly after transplanting or bringing indoors. This is quite normal. If this continues, prune back bare branches and remove any remaining fruit and flowers so your plant can concentrate on producing foliage, not reproducing. You should see some fresh leaves spring up in the coming weeks. I’ve had peppers that looked to be on their last legs come back strong as soon as the warmth and sun came back in the spring. Give your plants some time, it will be worth it for that early season bumper crop. Of course some plants just don’t overwinter well, period. Give it a go, if it doesn’t work out chalk it up to experimentation and move on.