EarthBox 2013 Recap — The Peppers

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

The 2013  harvest came to a little over 230 pounds, not counting the shiso and lemongrass. Of that, eleven pepper plants produced just over 22 pounds of fruit.

The quantity of peppers could have been a lot higher had I actually followed the EarthBox directions and not mixed plant varieties within the boxes. That’s a recurring theme below:

The October 7 harvest.

The October 7 harvest.

 

The Hot Pepper Box:

The three pepper plants in this box were buried behind the lemongrass and shiso, and I think it dramatically impacted the output.

Anaheim — 2.9 pounds.  The Anaheims basically filled a one gallon freezer bag. We’ll be planting these again next year.

Banana — 0.4 pounds.  Just a few peppers. This plant was the most buried of the three, and it showed. Needs a fair trial in 2014.

Jalapeno — 2.2 pounds.  This again is way more peppers than it sounds like. Visually it’s a couple of freezer bags worth in a single layer, about 50 Jalapenos or so. A few got a tinge of red, but that was about it as far as ripe Jalapenos. A 2014 keeper.

That’s 5.5 pounds of sun-demanding peppers out of the shady, cramped side of 1/2 of an EarthBox. –*facepalm*– On the bright side, it’s still enough peppers to easily last into next spring. We’ll be throwing Anaheims and Jalapenos into everything.

 

The Anaheim peppers on September 15.

The Anaheim peppers on September 15.

 

The Sweet Pepper Box:

18.2 pounds from the six peppers in this box. No competition for sun = the output per plant was 65% greater — 3 pounds per plant vs 1.8 pounds per plant for the hot peppers. Not mixing plant types is the “right” way to do it:

Cute Stuff — 1.5 pounds.  They weren’t cute; they were actually fringe-deformed in appearance. They weren’t particularly productive. (SW corner of the box, which should be about the best spot.) The interior was a little pithy. I think it’s fair to say that we weren’t in love with these. They may not make the cut for 2014.

Gourmet — 1.5 pounds.  The yellow ones that eventually turned a little orange. Definitely photogenic. Moderate output, but then they were in the middle-front (middle-west side) of the box. Probably a keeper for next year.

Gypsy — 3.2 pounds.  Good production from the NW corner of the box. Probably a keeper.

King of the North — 5.3 pounds.  Excellent production from the SE corner of the box. It’s basically a standard bell pepper. Winner.

Lipstick — 1.7 pounds.  Another photogenic pepper that ripened to red. Decent production from the East-center part of the box. Fairly thin walled. Probably a keeper, though I’d be fine with something else.

Tequila — 3.3 pounds.  Purple peppers that turned white when we grilled them. They’re more of a crudite pepper, and even then they don’t taste like much. Not making the 2014 cut.

The sweet peppers on August 25.

The sweet peppers on August 25.

 

The Straggler:

Even though we tried to pre-plan the garden layout, the piecemeal approach to purchasing things meant that we wound up with one “extra” pepper plant that had to be shoehorned in somewhere. That somewhere was behind the brussels sprouts and the lemon cucumbers:

Bell — 0.3 pounds.  One pepper from this plant. It never really had a chance. I’m actually inclined to do a mono-box of these next year to see how much it would produce in favorable conditions.

 

This year we budgeted 1.5 boxes for peppers. Next year I think it will be either 2 or 3 boxes. I’m leaning towards three. No sharing space next time though.

4 comments to EarthBox 2013 Recap — The Peppers

  • My jalapeños did well, though they suffered from a late start and didn’t have the chance to redden. Taste tests between green and the very few that did redden proved that the extra weeks would be worthwhile. Sweeter, fruitier, but no less heat. I alder-smoked and dried a bunch–will share some with you this week.

    My golden cayennes did great, but it’s a lot of real estate for what is essentially a spice. I will be giving that up for food plants, next year.

    What is the theory behind the “no mixing” guideline?
    K

  • A.J. Coltrane

    I think the “no mixing” thing is trying to ensure that one plant doesn’t overwhelm the others. The EarthBoxes aren’t very big relative to the amount of stuff that we’re packing into them. If you go to the EarthBox forums you’ll see people (mostly noobs) trying to do things like(say) mix tomatoes with basil. [“Will this work?” Or worse, “I had xxx, yyy, and zzz together. Total failure. What a letdown, this whole system is messed up.”]

    When of course it was really user error causing the problems.

    I know that our tomatoes crushed the marigolds in the same box. The lemon cucumber basically squished the bell pepper. The lemongrass and shiso stunted the hot peppers.

    All of the less than ideal output could be attributed to mixing plant types.

    I think that it *can* work, but it’s got to be all stuff that grows and matures at the same rate. By and large that means either all herb varieties, or stuff that’s either basically or literally the same plants, such as the six sweet peppers that we put into one box.

    I’m at the point where I think it might be best to do fewer varities of everything. (Which is easy to say now.) At the very least, we’re going to plan it out a little better next year.

  • Jim Schmer

    enjoy your thorough eval to the earthbox…I’m an avid 40+ year veg gardener and looking for LARGER self-watering containers. Have you ever looked into any or have any resources on same?
    Thank you

  • A.J. Coltrane

    Thanks for the interest Jim.

    I don’t have any leads on larger self-watering containers. Depending upon how much larger you’re interested in, (and how dyi you feel,) you could try something as crazy as “nesting” two of the Rubbermaid plastic horse troughs. They’re available at up to 300 gallons. I’d imagine that you could simulate the EarthBox effect by drilling through the bottom of the inside unit and vertically installing a few soil-filled perforated drain pipes.

    I’d guess the reason that it’s hard to find larger self-watering containers is that they’re molded plastic. The mold fee for something that size would likely run several thousand dollars. (That, and the capillary action may not work well above a certain draw height.)

    Let me know if you come across anything, I’d be interested to know too.

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