Over the past month the outdoor and greenhouse chilli plants at Prinzessinnengärten have been going heavy on the production of foliage, flowers and pods.
[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPf-jp2LBoo%5DProlific growth at Prinzessinnengärten. Vid of the project in mid July.
The ritual dance I mentioned at the end of my last post did apparently have an effect. Ever since early July the Berlin weather has been fair and sunny with temperatures in the mid twenties to even mid thirties on the Celsius scale.
To the plants this obviously came as a blessing. While the greenhouse ones have been thriving ever since they had moved there in mid May, some of the chillies in the outdoor raised beds had initially taken some damage from attacks by sun, rain and snails. Most of them have fully recovered by now and have entered into their generative phase.
As one would expect, the Baccatum varieties such as Aji Golden or Sili-A-Top are the first to throw out pods by the dozen but some of the Annuums as for example Corazón or Sweet Cayenne are close runners-up.
What I find interesting to observe as the project goes along is how the differences in the development of chillies set in diverse environments are slowly balancing out. A couple of weeks after bringing the pepper plants into the garden the outdoor ones were about a month behind in comparison to what I had been seeing on my balcony in recent years.
Now at the end of July the most prolific of these plants are doing even better than a great deal of the ones that I had been growning on my balcony so far (not counting overwinters, of course).
Admittedly, this came as a bit of a surprise because in contrast to the raised beds at Prinzessinnengärten my balcony offers protection from rain, hail and storms plus it’s entirely free of snails. So one might argue that the initially more adverse conditions in an outdoor garden apparently stimulate chilli plants to be more prolific.
While that may be true to some extend it doesn’t really explain the strong development which the outdoor plants have been showing during the past month. I’ve seen plants set back by aphid attacks and sunburn on my balcony but such a quick and heavy comeback is new to me.
Another factor that is unlikely to be part of the equation is the supply of nutrients. I ensure a steady stream of food for the container-plants on my balcony by means of long-term organic fertilizer and earthworm-castings. The same happens through continuous composting in the raised beds at Prinzessinnengärten.
The one circumstance I’m left with as an explanation is the volume of the growing medium. Each of the raised beds is formed by two grid-walled plastic boxes with measurements of 80cm x 40cm x 60cm piled on top of one another. Even though the plants can only root in the upper box which is filled with fully mineralized compost, this box alone has a volume of 192 liters. On the other hand, the containers on my balcony have only been in the range of five to 35 liters in the past.
It seems quite logical that the more space a chilli plant has for growing roots, the more nutrients it will be able to take up from the soil, and thus build up new biomass more rapidly.
This also explains the steady but, in comparison, rather slow development of the plants in the greenhouse. They are growing in twelve to 15 liter containers. Initially they were about a month ahead of the chillies both in the outdoor raised beds and on my balcony in recent seasons. But in spite of their protected environment, within just the last couple of weeks the greenhouse chillies have been overtaken by some of the outdoor plants while retaining a head-start of an estimated two or three weeks from former balcony ones.
In the two videos embedded at the top and the bottom of this post you can catch a glimpse of some of the prolific growth and early pods that the Princess Pepper Project has spawned recently. If the sunny weather holds up now, 2014 might turn out as a luscious season. In the pithy words of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPW5jRoepuQ%5DPod Party: traditional varieties and novel crosses setting fruit.