Dave Baumler is my pepper guru. (see my previous posts on his exploits The Brave New World of Not So Hot Peppers and Peppers in History and in Your Garden ) He grows an amazing collection of peppers from around the world by starting them in his house and raising them in pots outside. He grows more than he can use and sells the rest, making some pretty unusual peppers available. How cool is that?
his year he set himself the ambitious goal of nurturing 100 different types of pepper and growing 1,000 plants. He’ll be selling his plants at a workshopat Paradigm Gardens (Madison, WI) this coming weekend. He just let me know that his website, Midwest Chili Peppers, is officially up and running with all the details about the where, when and how of the workshop/sale, and photos and descriptions of all 100 types are available. You can also order them online.
This is great timing because the weather is just about warm enough to plant those little peppers outdoors and let ‘m rip. “Everyone gets the gardening itch as soon as it starts warming up, but the pepper gardener has to be a little more patient,” Dave said. “If you look at the Wisconsin Garden Guide, it tells you to put peppers out June 1.”
Dave started his 1,000 seedlings in five different waves spaced a week apart so he could keep up with transplanting them. “I’ve learned 1,000 peppers is a lot of plants!”
I asked Dave what tips he has to pass on to those of us who also want to start our own plants from seed. Here is his answer:
You would be surprised, he said, that even indoors and in sterile soil how many pests can pop up because there are no predators in the house.
I brought a couple of pepper plants from last year indoors. Within a month, this huge colony of aphids surfaced. When we have plants outdoors we don’t appreciate how much their natural predators keep pests in check. I had 100 plants in my drive and couldn’t find a bug on any plant. Bring them indoors — and bugs appear.
Aphids are the worst. People call them the plant lice, even though they aren’t related at all. The adults can sprout wings and spread through your whole pepper garden very quickly. I went on vacation for a week and in a week all my young plants had aphids.
There is a very good product, AzaMax. It’s all organic. It’s an abstract of some other plants. Last year I sprayed it as a topical. This year I found the best way is to mix it in the water and feet it systemically. Aphids nibble on the plant and learn quickly that the entire plant can kill them.
Then I purchased some natural predators – Lady Bugs. They sell them in packages of 1,000. You can keep lady bugs in the fridge, and they stay dormant. I put a handful on each tray a couple days after the AzaMax. That did it.
My wife wasn’t pleased when she found out I had released hundreds of bugs in the house, but they stayed on the pepper plants.
Right now the plants are looking great, and I’m ready to let them go to new homes. It’s hard to keep watering 1,000 plants. It’s a delicate process. If you overwater, you get fungus gnats. In years past, I had a tendency to overwater, but the plants will tell you when they need water.
Dave will be selling his peppers at his workshop, but if you can’t make it you may be able to order them.
“I’ve seen how people ship plants,” he said, “and I’m prepared to do so. Ideally, I’d prefer people to buy them here, but I think they are tall and strong enough to survive shipping.”
If you try any of Dave’s peppers, let me know how it goes.
Categories: SUSTAINABLE FOOD