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Got peppers? Grow some plants in pots to be sure you do

Dig In video series: Grow peppers in pots as fail-safe

Having trouble getting ripened peppers by fall or want to keep your plants for next season? In this 16th installment of the Statesman's Dig In gardening video series, Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith talks peppers and the benefits of
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Having trouble getting ripened peppers by fall or want to keep your plants for next season? In this 16th installment of the Statesman's Dig In gardening video series, Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith talks peppers and the benefits of

When it comes to pepper plants, you’ve got nothing to lose — and everything to gain — by planting them around your garden and yard.

Put ’em in planters.

Tuck ’em in flower beds.

Don’t forget to put some in pots on the patio.

Gardening pros in Idaho who love peppers don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to growing peppers. They cultivate them in multiple ways to maximize the chance of getting fully ripened fruit before cool fall weather arrives.

“I put some peppers in pots — that’s my fail-safe,” says Debbie Courson Smith, an advanced master gardener with University of Idaho Extension.

Some peppers reach maturity in 60 to 90 days while others can take up to 150 days (particularly hot peppers). Growing in pots allows the flexibility of bringing the plants indoors when temperatures fall into the 50s and below.

“They’re very sensitive. ... These cannot tolerate even the tiniest bit of frost,” Debbie said.

The other advantage of growing in pots is that you can more easily “overwinter” the plants indoors. Not all pepper plants are going to make it but some will.

Debbie said she’s had good luck winter-overing hot pepper plants such as Carolina Reapers and scorpion peppers in her garage. The leaves fall off the plants, and they go dormant.

“I will give the plant a trim, and I’ll water it maybe just a little bit about once a month,” she said. “What I have found is that by around February, I start to see new growth and leaves coming out.”

What about trying to keep them green through the winter? That could be a challenge due to lower light in the fall and winter, but a grow light could help.

If you’re lucky, you can keep the same pepper plants for years.

“The longest I’ve kept a pepper plant is three years,” Debbie said. “They didn’t die, I gave them away because I wanted to experiment with other varieties, and I don’t have a lot of room.”

Some of the peppers that Debbie is growing this year include Anaheim, Aurora, Guernica, jalapeno and Rat Turd. Her plants are looking good — all have fruit except the Anaheim, so she’s expecting to have to bring that potted pepper inside in the fall.

The Aurora peppers are eye-catching.

They’re shaped like Christmas lights and change colors throughout the growing season, going from purple to yellow/orange to red. These medium to hot peppers are popular ornamentals.

The Rat Turd peppers aren’t as weird as their name. They’re small peppers that turn from green to red, and they pack a lot of heat.

What do they taste like?

“They have a bell pepper-like flavor but with a lot of heat,” Debbie said. They are a traditional Thai pepper that she uses in Asian dishes.

Some of her tips for keeping peppers happy:

▪  Make sure they get full sun.

▪  Water deeply and infrequently, about 1 to 2 inches per week.

▪  Lightly fertilize young plants. After that, fertilizing can delay fruit as the plant produces a lot of new leaves instead.

For more information, check out Oregon State University Extension’s “Grow Your Own Peppers” guide online.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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