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

    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.

  • 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.

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

    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.

  • 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!!

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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    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.

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