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grow tomatoes and peppers during winter without greenhouse and lights

ahappy camper zone10
December 3, 2018

i live in san diego, zone 10 and a lot of people here will overwinter their tomatoes or peppers but i am wondering if its possible to actually get fruit during these colder months.


from my research, it appears possible if you have a green house and artificial lighting. while i am looking forward to establishing a green house in the future, its just not something i want to do now. what if i had some tomatoes, peppers in transportable containers in a garden cart of some sort and simply wheel them inside my house or garage every night to avoid the below 60 degree fruit killer ive been reading about but made sure to bring them outside every morning to soak up any sun?


im sure i wont be able to get anything as fruitful as a summer harvest but do you think i could get a decent harvest or would this probably be a waste of my time and efforts?


reading says bell peppers will fruit between 70-80 and our daytime temperatures are in the mid 60s but maybe i could add further insulation to the pots to try to bump it up into the 70 range? Thanks


im also hoping i could do this with other summer type crops that dont get too bbig such as basil, etc.



Comments (15)

  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    Adding insulation to pots won't change the temperature of them. It'll just delay the change in temperature. The pots don't generate their own heat, like human bodies do, so adding insulation to them won't warm them up, like you can warm up human bodies by insulating them.

    If you want to make something warmer, you need to add heat.

    I am amused when people try to protect their plants from frost by wrapping the stem and foliage with insulation. Nope. Won't work.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I assume these are being grown in containers. If so, if you can position your containers where they will receive reflected heat, that can help. So any sort of stone or concrete surface or even better, that combined with a nearby south or west facing wall, preferrably light colored. That will absorb whatever heat is generated by winter sun and reflect it back onto the containers.

    That's one of the tricks of growing them successfully during the 'normal' growing season here in the PNW, as our summers tend to be pretty cool for the best fruiting and ripening.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    Yes, black pots in the sunlight will get warm. But that warmth will not necessarily be conveyed to the foliage. If you've got any breeze, it certainly won't be. That's why a south-facing wall (paint it black!) is helpful, because it will collect heat and block the breeze.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Don't paint the wall black!! Black will just absorb the heat (i.e, black pots) - white, gray or a very pale color will reflect it back. That is an important distinction!!

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    Nope, you want to paint the wall black. The wall absorbs the light, and that energy is dissipated by heating the air around it. Conductive heating. You want warm air. If you have a black wall with the sun shining on it, blocking the breeze, the air is going to be warm around it. You paint it white, and it reflects the light, and most of the light that bounces off will miss the plant and the pot entirely. You're sitting there ten yards away admiring that bright white wall with a plant sitting in front of it. That bright light from the wall that you're admiring isn't heating any air near the plant.


    Don't imagine that a black wall is sucking up heat and the heat is disappearing. Doesn't work that way. Heat doesn't disappear. The heat departs the black wall mostly by warming the air around it. If the heat didn't depart, but was just sucked up by the wall, the wall would eventually just melt.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)
  • yolos - 8a Ga. Brooks

    I used a wagon and set a couple of tomato plants on the wagon in late fall and rolled it into the garage at night or left it inside if real cold outside. I managed to get ripe tomatoes into January. I think it would all depend on your daytime temps.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked yolos - 8a Ga. Brooks
  • zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

    Having previously lived & gardened in San Diego county for 13 years, I know the risk of frost there is usually brief, if it comes at all. Mid-January was about the end of "winter"; and mid-city, or closer to the water, frost was unlikely most years. You should be able to just tent your plants with clear plastic, to raise the daytime temp, and minimize the night chill. If the plants are in pots, place a black tarp under them too, to create some rising solar heating... something wider than in the photo above. You would also want to block the wind, if the plants would be exposed to it.

    Although I over-wintered peppers & eggplant in the garden, I never tried actually keeping them in production... good luck! I hope you return to this thread to inform us of your results.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin
  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    A black tarp under the plants is the "black wall" strategy, where the plants are sitting on the wall. Setting the plants out on black asphalt will have the same effect. But the issue here isn't frost. It's about maintaining temperatures that would encourage fruit production.


    Changing the local temperature significantly without an enclosure will be very hard. Note however, that while most tomatoes will suffer blossom drop with temps below 55F, that are cold-tolerant varieties (mostly short season ones) that are said to do better. Never tried these, but I have to say that if allegedly cold-tolerant tomatoes do as well as allegedly heat-tolerant tomatoes, you won't gain much.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)
  • nancyjane_gardener

    I can't answer your question, cause I'm only on my first year gardening "in town". I was for the last 33 years out in the country where we got hard freezes.

    I pulled a couple of my tomato plants that weren't doing well, but left the Early girl that still looked good.

    This puppy is HUGE! We're still getting flowers, but no fruit. Just as an experiment we are leaving it in ground til it starts to look sick.

    At or old country place during the drought, we occasionally got tomatoes into December.

    At our new place we are surrounded by city stuff (streets, sidewalks, buildings) that retain heat, so less frost.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked nancyjane_gardener
  • namahc

    Over Wintering plants keeping indoor or in the Green house or Sun room will save the plants for the next season. In my experience, they do not produce fruits while inside, For production of fruits, plants need exact duplication of the seasons as good as when they are growing out side, in this case a summer like season indoor, requiring diurnal variation of temperature ,light flux and light intensity in the Summer Solar spectrum.

    I am in Maryland and save the Pepper plants indoor. The advantage in saving plants this way is plants start fruiting earlier and the fruits are little larger than plants growing out side during the season.


    ahappy camper zone10 thanked namahc
  • namahc

    I've taken some pics of my pepper plants that are wintering in our sun room.



    This pepper plant has spent 3 winters indoors and has not produced any fruit while inside.

    This pepper plant has been inside for 2 winters and also never produced any fruit.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked namahc
  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    I think that's a good rule. Vegetable plants can *live* fine indoors with minimal light, but they need a LOT of light to fruit. It's more than temperature. When I look at plants outside, those that don't get as much sunlight don't produce as much fruit. So if you can get indoor lights that approach the intensity of real sunlight, you should do well with fruiting, but that's not easy to manage. A kilowatt of incandescent equivalent, spread over a square meter or so, might do it.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)
  • Lars
    Cherry tomato plant in February. These grow best for me in the winter, and some years I have volunteers that make tomatoes in January. Chilies produce for me all winter as well
    Serrano chilies in February.

    I also grow chocolate Habanero chilies, and often the plants continue to make chilies through January, especially if I feed the plants. Normally, they don't even start making chilies until November, and this year my plant did not produce until December. It's important to have a very large pot, unless you plant them in the ground. People here who plant them in the ground get chili plants that grow into bushes that look like small trees, and some of them produce throughout the winter. Each plant is different - some produce a lot and some don't, and for me, it seems to be luck more than anything else, but as I said, feeding the plants helps.

    I have basil in my yard right now also. If you want winter basil, best to plant it in the late fall.

    ahappy camper zone10 thanked Lars
  • ahappy camper zone10

    Wow, very impressive. Thank you Lars. What's your secret? Are you bringing them back and forth indoors to make sure they're not getting too cold at night? Extra mulch? Their very own personal heater? What?

  • Lars

    I don't move them at all. They are on the south side of the house, fairly close to the house, and I guess the house retains enough heat to keep them warm. The center of the back yard is the coldest spot, but still it does not get below 42° in the winter here - at least since I've been living here, which is 30 years.

    The only secret would be to grow cherry tomatoes, as they do the best in the winter for me.

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