pepper.jpgYears ago, I gave up trying to grow peppers in my garden – all types: jalapeno, green bell, small specialty bell, etc. The plants always stayed tiny and yielded very few peppers by the end of the season. Other gardeners told me that peppers just didn’t thrive in the Colorado Springs area because our season was too short and our nights too cool. Just down the road in Pueblo (home of a fantastic pepper festival in September), peppers grow terrifically well. So, just buy your peppers from the farmer’s market, they told me.

Then last year, Catherine Moravec (then Horticultural Agent for Colorado State Extension in El Paso County) gave a presentation on veggie varieties she’d had particular success with last summer. She grew alot of purple – purple beans, purple squash, purple carrots….somehow she missed the bright purple cauliflower I saw in this year’s catalogs. But then she got to the Carmen pepper. It’s a specialty sweet pepper with a short season and tolerance for cooler growing conditions. “If you want peppers in Colorado Springs, Carmen is a good one to try,” she recommended.

So….Carmen peppers were included in my order from Johnny’s Select Seeds this year. Additionally, I’d purchased a large self-watering container with a gift certificate (not the Earth Box, but something similar from Lee Valley Tools). I decided to try the peppers in the box. Wow. The plants quickly grew large, and soon I had quite a few little green peppers dangling from the stems. We kept the container on our deck so we could visit with it each day at lunch. It was fun to watch the little peppers grow larger. Eventually, our largest was about 8 inches long by about 2.5-to-3 inches in diameter at the top. Now the catalog said that maturity was 60ish days for green peppers and about 20 more days for red. I really wanted red peppers. So we waited….and waited….and waited. I started asking fellow gardeners if they thought the peppers would ripen to red after they were picked. No go, they said. So we waited some more. Finally! One day we noticed just a tinge of blush on the side of the oldest pepper. Over the course of about 10 days it went from green to bright red! And now I have four more that are nearly completely red.

I’m terrible at lab experiments. I suppose if I just wanted to see if this was a good variety for my area, I should have just planted them in the ground. But I added the extra variable of the self-watering container. I do think it made a big difference. The reservoir is only about 1.5 gallons, and for the past several weeks, I have been filling it every day. I truly have new appreciation for how much water some of my plants really need! Next year, I’m thinking of buying another container or two to try some smaller tomatoes or maybe another pepper variety…or….who knows?!