January 14, 2007

Frost Conditions Arrive

It seldoms dips below freezing here in Southern California. Snow is more a myth than a reality. Yet, last night the temperatures dipped down around 25 degrees. I was worried about my wintering chile plants since I don't have anything to cover the plants with.

I looked out the window this morning and so far, so good. The plants are still green and looking healthy enough. My pepper garden is in a narrow yard between two houses and I think that not only are they sheltered from the wind, but being so close to the house the micro-climate there might be a bit warmer. I think that it helps that although it very cold, it is a dry cold. So far, we have not been touched by snow.

I'll keep my finger's crossed that the plants will make it. Who knew that overwintering a few chile plants would prove to be so nervewracking?

January 04, 2007

Overwintering Begins

The temperatures outside have been steadily growing cooler as our brief "winter" here in Southern California begins. We seldom experience frost conditions, but our eight week winter has a great deal of rain, wind and cool temperatures. Sometime in March, it will all reverse and the warmth with return again.

Most of my chiles have stopped producing pods, the exception being the red scotch bonnet. It still has a number of red pods on it that are ready for harvest. Otherwise, my garden is entering its dormant period where little is being produced.

I've never overwintered chiles before, but I just got an email from a fellow chilehead who told me that his plants would generally live anywhere from three to eight years here in Southern California and all he did was leave them outside in the garden! I'm very interested in this since it is often hard to find the more exotic chiles as starts in my area. If I have a plant, I'd like to keep it! I'm a little uncertain about the techniques involved, but I will simply try and cut them back a little and hope that in the spring they put out new stalks and leaves.

I am going to overwinter the following: Blushing Beauty Bell, Red Corno de Toro, Gypsy, Ariane, Fresno, Bulgarian Carrot, Cherry Bomb Hybred, Fatali, Fish, Red Scotch Bonnet and Chocolate Habanero. By overwintering, I'm hoping to have fresh chiles for my cooking far sooner than the late fall. Only time will tell....