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Over-wintering Chili Plants

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Chili plants are remarkably hardy in containers. In the tropics, they are perennial shrubs. So, why not take advantage of these two features and keep them growing indoors over our New England winters?

Should you want to try your hand at over-wintering, there are two general approaches. The first is to let the plants go dormant. With this method, the plant is pruned back to a stump with no leaves and put in a cool place (50°F is good). Since the plant is not growing, no sun is needed. You are simply keeping the root stock alive for a quick start in the spring. We've found the biggest problem with this method is soil moisture. Too much moisture, and the roots rot in the cool conditions. Too little moisture, and the roots dry out and die. It's like Goldilocks; the soil moisture has to be just right.

The second method of over-wintering is to keep the plants actively growing. You need a warm place with good sunlight for the plants. Regular watering and fertilizing will keep the plants going strong. The problem we have found with this method is aphids. Inside there are no natural predators for aphids. Keep an eye out and remove any aphids immediately. Immediately! These little critters propagate at a prodigious rate. Organic control methods include mechanical removal (soft artist's watercolor brush works great), insecticidal soap solutions, and natural fungus to attack the aphid (Beauveria bassiana, available in commercial preparations).

The turn of the season is upon us. Transition into winter mode is in progress. Never an idle moment on the farm.


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