Monday, September 17, 2012

Jalapenos and Heat: The Problem of Temperatures

Oh, dear.

It's pretty obvious that the climate of Southern Minnesota is very different from that of the Mexican American border.  Even a total dummy could figure that out.  But because I'm from a different region, I still get things wrong, and I still feel the shock of that difference.

Take my jalapenos, for example.

healthy jalapeno growth

They were doing wonderfully.  The plants were growing within their Topsy Turvy Hot Pepper Planter, and producing a great deal of fruit.  The fruit was smaller than what I'd get in the grocery store, but even more flavorful.  The leaves reached up toward the sun, green and vibrant.

But I learned something that needs to go into my mental filing cabinet for next year.

This region's September temperatures drop too low for jalapenos in hanging containers.


Jalapenos require temperatures that stay above fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

I knew that this climate was very different from my desert home, but I figured I had until at least the first day of Fall.   In the past, I had always been able to pick all of my jalapenos long before temperatures had dipped that low, and taking into account the temperature differences, I deducted time from my original growing season in order to compensate.

I didn't compensate enough, however.

wilted jalapenos after a temperature drop

Now, one night of temperatures is not usually going to cause wilting like this to occur.  What caused this was three different days in a single week that had temperatures below 50.

How did they end up in this situation?

That's an easy one to answer.  I had forgotten the fifty degree rule.  I treated it like any other plant, and since you're pretty safe with temperatures above 42 degrees in most cases, I didn't worry.

Some of you are shaking your heads at me, trying to figure out how I could've forgotten something so important.  So am I.  The only excuse I have is that I come from a region in which Winter temperatures are generally in the mid 30s to mid 40s.

Thinking that temperatures wouldn't dip below 50 until the beginning of Fall, therefore, seemed perfectly reasonable to someone like me.  I'm used to it being in the 60s at that time.

Oops, again.

The good news, though, is that even though my jalapenos have decided that their growing season has come to an end, I was able to salvage 6 fruits from the plants.  If you look closely at the image above, you can see four of them.

It could have been worse.  This was a good learning experience.

We're scheduled to have the temperature drop to around 38 degrees, tonight, so I'll be trying to keep my tomatoes warm enough to survive it.  I'm thinking lots of bundling, and a plastic bag or two on the plants themselves.

Wish me luck!

Have you ever had a sudden 'Oh, dear' experience like this one when gardening with something new, or in a new region?  How did you handle it?

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