PAINFUL SIGHTS & PURE DELIGHTS: review of the Princess Pepper Project since moving outdoors

One month after planting out most of our hotpepper varieties are going strong while others are still struggling from damage done by intense sun, heavy rains and hungry snails.

[youtube: Good, The Badass & The Ugly: vid-review one month after planting out.

Ever since Onkel Hotti and I had put the 100+ chilli plants into their final beds and pots at Prinzessinnengärten in mid May, it has been fascinating for me to watch them cope with full-blown outdoor conditions as well as the more protected environment of a greenhouse.

I’ve been visiting the premises once or twice a week ever since and have been surprised to find major differences in the plants’ capacities to deal with the challenges nature randomly throws at them. During their first month outdoors our chillies saw a mix of weather conditions ranging from as much as 14 hours of merciless sun a day to extended cloudbursts.

While the greenhouse plants enjoyed the hot days and kept showing good and steady progress, the exposure to the sun’s UV-radiation obviously was a bit too much for some of the chillies in the raised beds outdoors. Even though we had hardened all of them off before planting them out, some of the peppers – in particular the pubescens varieties – suffered from serious leafburn and chlorosis.

M3170008Left leaf: sunburn and chlorosis. Right leaf: snail gnaw-marks.

Prolonged exposure to intense UV-radiation will destroy the chlorophyll in the leaves, causing them to turn silvery white in colour (chlorosis) before disrupting them entirely by literally burning holes into them. Already at the chlorotic state the plant cannot produce energy from an affected leaf anymore and will thus let it die off and discard it over time. All of this will only set back the development of a plant to a certain degree as long as it still has some fully intact leaves left.

Another serious threat to the plants’ health are pests. While aphids and white flies, the notorious enemies of chilli plants, are not much of a problem at Prinzessinnengärten thanks to the abundant presence of ladybugs, parasitic wasps and other predators, many of the outdoor plants got heavily attacked by snails. The bigger ones had enough functional foliage left to compensate these damages but some of the smaller ones are still in a critical condition. You can see an example of the typical gnaw-marks of snails on the right-hand leaf in the image above.

Since the philosophy at Prinzessinnengärtnen is “strictly organic” means of artificial pest control are not an option. Therefore the only way to combat damage by snails is to pick them up when you see them and take them to a different end of the garden. That’s not too difficult to do because they usually show up right after there has been some precipitation. Admittedly, this method is only mildly effective but then again snails do seem to prefer munching on the smallest of the plants with the softest foliage so they only pose a more or less temporary threat to the plants.

M3170030Red Flame (c. annuum) in good overall health in spite of small damages.

The unwanted watering caused by intense rainfalls made it even harder for the plants to master the challenges imposed by snails and the sun. The good drainage of the raised beds prevented the roots from being too wet but at the same time allowed nutrients to be washed out from the soil. As a consequence, the plants are left with less resources in the growing medium to restore and rebuild disrupted foliage, so it’s a good idea to compensate the nutrients lost with a fresh layer of compost once in a while.

So one month into growing outdoors the project has seen its first severe setbacks while still making good overall progress. For me it was interesting to learn how much of a difference both varieties and environmental conditions make for successfully growing chillies.

The chinenses in the greenhouse are all looking entirely healthy or even downright badass and are a good month ahead in their development in comparison to what I’ve seen on my balcony in recent years. Outdoor baccatums and anuums suffered some harm which they coped with quite well for the largest part. Still they are clearly a few weeks behind from where they would be on my balcony at this point. Some of the smaller ones as well as a number of the pubescens varieties in the garden got almost reduced to a pitiful skeleton and some of them are only now starting to recover and to show some new growth.

The video at the beginning of this post will give you an idea of the wide range of conditions that the plants of the Princess Pepper Project are in at the moment. Steady and moderately hot weather would help the most right now. I wonder if there’s a ritual dance to encourage that.

M3170016Lots of happy healthy chinenses in the greenhouse.




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Filed under Grow-Log, Picture, PPP2014, Text, Video Grow-Log, Visual

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