Growing Peppers in Canada
Growing peppers in Canada can be a tricky thing to do some years. Here at Atlantic Pepper Seeds we try new ways to grow pepper every year but we owe our success to pots and poly plastic.
We use almost exclusively 3 Gallon pots with compost and potting soil and the magic ingredient Bone Meal. We have greenhouses and we also use homemade hoop tunnels. Are hoop tunnels are just raised box beds with a depth of about 18 inches. We use 1 inch plastic water pipe and bend it in to a hoop and place every 3 feet apart at a height of 3 to 4 feet depending on what varieties we plan to put in that bed. See picture
We have made beds with the hoop height of 5 to 6 feet for higher growing varieties like Capsicum Baccatum which can grow up to 6 plus feet. We use one layer of plastic and we use the cheapest plastic we can get ( medium to heavy poly) because it is only good for one year and you can’t leave the plastic on over winter because the snow will crush the hoops. See picture
They almost made it but we got 25cm of snow two days in a row. We know better so learn from our mistakes. You might get lucky and get one year and maybe two.
It is always the snow from the sides that take them out and if you keep the side clear of snow you can keep them from collapsing. We have even put wooden supports up Vertically and horizontally that works good but high snow on the side took one out. We have had great snow shed on our addon but it has a good slop and we keep the snow away from the side only because we have a compost back and beside it.
We put the plastic on as soon as we can in the spring to warm up the soil usually in early April. Once we have peppers in the tunnels we open the ends up to control day time temperatures. We also white wash the tunnels with white latex paint we just add water to the paint to thin it out so not to block out to much light. We just brush or spay the tunnels leaving some open strips at the very top (about 4 inches wide )and strips along the sides again about 4 inches wide starting at the bottom leaving the bottom clear.
This white wash can be washed off by rain and sometimes needs to be reapplied if there is a lot of rain. But this has only happened to us a couple of times in the years we have been doing this.
Once the nights are warm enough around 14c or higher we just leave the ends open. On some tunnels we have put automatic shutters on the end this can be very convenient so you don't have to rush out at the crack of dawn to open up the ends cause it can heat up very fast in the tunnels. We don’t use hydro to open our shutters we use Rion Automatic louver opener. Which use heat to open the shutters. We get these openers from Home Depot.
There are many different ways to incorporate these openers. We have even seen tunnels with fans at the ends and in the tunnels half way down. We find that with just opening the end is good enough because the heat that is escaping is drawing in lots of fresh air. The length of the tunnel also should not be to long no more then 20 to 30 feet.
We also use pots in a open plot once the night temperatures are over 14c with good results.
The pots heat up very well in the mornings and that really helps to keep the soil warm for the peppers. We usually don’t get our pot plots out till mid to late June here in Atlantic Canada because we still get some very cool nights. So before we put are pot plots out we keep them in a greenhouse or in the homemade hoop tunnels. This has been very good for us over the years as well. In the fall we close the end of the tunnels at night to hold in the heat to extend the growing season. And in the fall you can let them warm up good in the mornings before opening them.
We have grown all sub specie of Capsicum in these tunnels with very good results. We have found these tunnels to be one of the cheapest ways to get around the cool weather here in Canada. In recent years we have invested in greenhouses. We have had just about the same results in the greenhouses as we did in the homemade tunnels. The only difference is that we have more room for peppers and we can move them out a little earlier.
We start all of our peppers indoors in mid to late January and than again in February and early march and then move them out to the tunnels in late May early June and into the greenhouses around the middle of May early June depending on the weather that year. The real key to growing the long season varieties in Canada is to start them as soon as possible we have even started some Varieties in January. And if you have the space wintering you Pepper’s that are in pots it the way to go you just cut them back bring them in and in the spring they will start to grow again you can add some Bone Meal it repot. For more on wintering peppers see our page Wintering Peppers
For more Information on growing peppers and starting peppers please check out our Growing Peppers page.