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tutorial The Comprehensive Guide to Over-Wintering

For many growers alike, the growing season starts at the seed. Its an all too familiar feeling; the smell of the seeds as we sort through them, looking for the "one" that will morph into the towering giant of our dreams, acquiring the perfect soil mix, temperatures, and saturation. Its one of the most addicting parts of our season in this culture. This time of the year is when we have that "fire" inside that burns and screams "This year, will be the year. The year where I will make everything right, and learn from all the mistakes made in the previous years." Think of it as a grower's right-to-passage, if you will. Even I myself, will admit that I thoroughly enjoy witnessing all my love and work break the top of the soil in the form of hooks, spread their baby wings, reach for the warmth of the sun and grow into beautiful young plants. There is something very enlightening about watching this whole event take place. This is one of the most primal processes of earth. Its nature's way - organic, raw and very special.

While seeds will always remain at the beginning of our culture and passion for growing, there are a great many cultivators, including myself, that have also begun to experience the benefit of taking things to the next level. Knowing your plants at the fundamental level is something that is often times over looked as prerequisite for growing a crop each year. Most people just do what they know and what works for them, without ever really knowing the plants themselves and/or why their habits produce certain results. Sometimes old habits die hard and your product suffers because if it. Sometimes we skate by on the fly and have an extended period of time I like to call "beginners luck." Then we learn, we progress, and we become educated through experience that builds up over time.

This plant we all love, just so happens to belong in a class of plants called "perennials," which directly translates to "through - year". What does that mean? It simply means, that if kept in the right conditions, pepper plants will continue to grow forever. Unlike another classes of plants i.e. Annuals and Biennials, peppers will continue to grow and flower simultaneously throughout all parts of the year regardless of photo period change. This is good news for us gardeners! Instead of cultivating "within the box" of the status quot and treating them as annuals, the enlightened grower can begin to expand his knowledge and base of experience.

One such way to honor our work and research of these beautiful plants is through "Over Wintering". If you're in a climate where the temperature rarely drops to or below freezing then this won't directly apply to you. For all the other grower's, I say stop letting your hard work go to waste each winter! Start Over Wintering! If you have the space, time, desire to extend your season and like the sound of getting one hell of a head start on next year, then this is for you. The benefits of starting to include this practice in your repertoire, far outweigh the cons of choosing not to. All you're doing is allowing the plant to continue to live just the way nature intended. Since I have started overwintering, I can attest to the garden mojo that occurs each year. The energy is better, the plants become huge and pump out hordes of pods, the experience is much more rewarding. The plants thank me for it, the bugs thank me for it, reptiles, birds...so on and so forth. Everyone's happier :) What's not to love about that?

"So how do I experience this magical world of plant-human symbiosis," you say? Its simple. In just a few easy steps, one can ascend to the next level of garden zen. Here we go:

Choose your plant. I chose a small first year plant for the purpose of the tutorial. All you will need is a container, pruning shears, and a shovel.

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Start by pruning back most of the foliage to the main branches that formed as the plant grew. You will want to start with a rough trim at this point. A more detailed pruning will be in order depending on how much root system you remove during transplant.
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up close example of initial pruning on a plant this size going into a three gallon container
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Here is a time lapse of the Fatalii Mother cutback. Enjoy while I add more to this.


Next we will add a little Guru mix to our container. You can use any medium you prefer.
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Example of how much root system would be ideal for a cutback like this going into three gallon.
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Add a little soil to top off the container and pack lightly
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Detailed prune to remove any remaining flower or fruiting tops. This will promote new top growth at different nodes.
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After a good watering in, I like to set them in a place that has diffuse sunlight for a while, so as not to induce shock.
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Under the back deck works great for me.
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October in Atlanta is usually still a great time for pod production and the days remain fairly warm enough to get some substantial harvests. I can take my time over the next few weeks getting things prepared for winter, but for those of you in crunch time, I made sure to get this out sooner than later.

You see, over wintering can be a multiphase process depending on how you want to do things. Are you going to bring them in under lights immediately or leave them outside in their new containers for a a while? If you're lights are strong enough indoors then by all means, bring em in. For you the hauling around containers is over. For those of us confident in our temps for the next few weeks outside, our journey will continue a bit longer outdoors. We get more sun :) To be continued...
 
Great post Guru, say you have a plant thats already in a pot and you wanted to overwinter, after pruning it back , do you take it out of the pot and prune the roots back also
allowing for new potting soil and a bigger pot? if so how much can you prune the roots back without killing the plant?
 
Great post Guru, say you have a plant thats already in a pot and you wanted to overwinter, after pruning it back , do you take it out of the pot and prune the roots back also
allowing for new potting soil and a bigger pot? if so how much can you prune the roots back without killing the plant?

I want to know this also. Say you have a few plants you started way too late in the season and they never really got going. Can you just prune them back if its already in a small pot and leave the roots alone? Will this affect the overwintering?
 
Great post Guru, say you have a plant thats already in a pot and you wanted to overwinter, after pruning it back , do you take it out of the pot and prune the roots back also
allowing for new potting soil and a bigger pot? if so how much can you prune the roots back without killing the plant?


I want to know this also. Say you have a few plants you started way too late in the season and they never really got going. Can you just prune them back if its already in a small pot and leave the roots alone? Will this affect the overwintering?

Sure thing. Well, there are two ways to go about it. It all depends on what you want to do. Like with the Fatalii mother in the video there. She will be dug up now and placed into a smaller pot. 65 Gallon Smart Pots are far too large for my basement! LOL I cut mine back to fit whatever containers I have and that can be placed into my basement near the windows.

Roots can be cut back as far as you want really, so long as you remove the same amount of foliage. The roots system has to be big enough to sustain what leaves are left over. If you're simply trying to preserve the plants in a dormant phase, then you can cut them WAY back. If you're trying to continue their growing season indoors and have a better amount of light to work with then only cut them back so far. Its up to your container size and workspace growing conditions. If you have been growing in containers and you just want to bring them in, then that's fine too. No need to prune back at all then. Just make sure you have enough light to sustain a fully grown plant! If I decide to prune back a plant due to light conditions, then I generally like to prune the roots and repot with nice, fresh soil too. I just see better results that way. :)

:)
 
Sure thing. Well, there are two ways to go about it. It all depends on what you want to do. Like with the Fatalii mother in the video there. She will be dug up now and placed into a smaller pot. 65 Gallon Smart Pots are far too large for my basement! LOL I cut mine back to fit whatever containers I have and that can be placed into my basement near the windows.

Roots can be cut back as far as you want really, so long as you remove the same amount of foliage. The roots system has to be big enough to sustain what leaves are left over. If you're simply trying to preserve the plants in a dormant phase, then you can cut them WAY back. If you're trying to continue their growing season indoors and have a better amount of light to work with then only cut them back so far. Its up to your container size and workspace growing conditions. If you have been growing in containers and you just want to bring them in, then that's fine too. No need to prune back at all then. Just make sure you have enough light to sustain a fully grown plant! If I decide to prune back a plant due to light conditions, then I generally like to prune the roots and repot with nice, fresh soil too. I just see better results that way. :)

:)

Could you please elaborate a bit on the preservation of a plant in a dormant phase. I'm limited on space and my biggest window option is western facing. Can it be placed in a room with predominately "ambient light" (i.e. a very well naturally lit room) where the plant won't get "direct" sunlight? Thanks again.
 
Could you please elaborate a bit on the preservation of a plant in a dormant phase. I'm limited on space and my biggest window option is western facing. Can it be placed in a room with predominately "ambient light" (i.e. a very well naturally lit room) where the plant won't get "direct" sunlight? Thanks again.

Sure. So long as you are not putting them in a room with only windows that face north or no windows at all, they will and should do quite well. I recommend supplementing this "ambient/indirect light" you speak of with a cfl or two just to be sure.

By "dormant" I mean you cut this thing down to nothing, you slap it in a cold dark basement, and boom! All of a sudden you've got brown sticks sticking out of dirt....lol Sometimes they come back from this, sometimes they don't. The key is to monitor your new growth carefully to determine what state your plants are in. If they need more light to have to ability to keep going, they will tell you. Your stems' "green" will fade into brown or balck and parts of branches will begin to die back. Naturally. You don't want to start down this slippery slope. You want to have a bit of a buffer for error on the growers part. Hence the reason that I suggest supplemental lighting when in doubt as well as being familiar with your temps. If you keep your temps and your light in a place that promotes new growth, then you will experience it. Dormant doesn't mean dead, until shes really dead though. I have neglected them before and allowed temps to get into the lower 40's for and extended amount of time, hardly watered and yet still, somehow they manage to spring back year after year once you set em back out in the spring. Its wild :)
 
i am in SD next to the coast and we very rarely get below 40F so i thinki can grow year round(so i will try) but this was VERY informative and does your screen name justice! thanks for the tutorial just in case i fnd myself needing to over winter my pepper plants!
Eric
 
I agree with all your advice on overwintering and your choice of pruning scissors, those little fiskars are amazing for getting into tight spaces, and they cut even woody stems well
 
Just wanted to remind you guys, that this will be a continuing tutorial as I end up into later parts of the season. Most of my plants are still in the ground as well as the mothers, so as I dig em up and give em a haircut for an indoor winter, I will continue to post and add more pictures. No one will be able to say they were left behind on this one. :) I will update with pics once all the ladies are under the back deck, then again once first frost hits, then again throughout the winter months to show growth in the basement( winter managment), then the set out back under the deck in March, and finally the re introduction into the garden in April! Its a full cycle baby!

I think tomorrow morning, after my coffee, I will post back and elaborate some more on all the benefits to over wintering. I know there are some guys in here who have had unspeakable luck with over wintering and I just hope that something I do may spark an idea in some of those dudes who just need to catch a break! Pests seem to be most everyone's bulk of common issues, specifically aphids. They can ruin your hopes and dreams I tell ya! But not if you ruin theirs' first! :hell:
 
Thank you for doing this, I for one will be following it. I will be plucking the last of the ripe peppers this weekend and deciding on which ones to cut back first. I saved 75% of my plants fro a light frost a couple of weeks ago and they have been inside ever since. Even on nice days I don't put them out just in case.
 
+1 thanks. Great project.... :cool:

I'll be trying a few plants using dormant techniques. I'll be pushing the light and cold limits with some in the garage. A few might get to stay in the house but will not get much direct light as I'd like them to sleep as much as possible. So I like what you're saying about trimming roots and foliage to suit the conditions.

Do you plan to overwinter any C. Annuum? Just curious if they are tougher to o.w. than the pubescens and chinsense as another website claims. My main effort will be frutescens, but have one C. annuum to try to keep.
 
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