One of the most surprising things we’ve learned about cold climate growing, and the use of greenhouses, is that the greenhouse isn’t always the best choice for growing your plants. Logic tells us that “warmer climate plants” would generally perform better in a climate controlled greenhouse, at least in cold climates. Curiously, we’ve learned that is not an immutable fact!
We see this a lot, particularly so in peppers. Sometimes, outdoor grown (and technically, growing in cooler ambient air) ends up performing far and away better than the warmer temperatures of a greenhouse. For our example, we’re using our new-to-us variety of Cayenne pepper to demonstrate this point. Here, we have many outdoor grown Cayenne peppers that are well into maturity, whereas our greenhouse grown counterparts of the exact same genetics have not yet matured! Not just that, but plant yield is increased outdoors as well! This is decidedly counterintuitive and honestly, has continually baffled us for many years now.
Over the years, we’ve validated that this phenomena has nothing to do with pollination timing, growing technique, nutrition profiles or general sun exposure. While we generally do observe that our greenhouse grown peppers become physically larger in stature, this doesn’t necessarily translate into faster fruit maturity. Our best theory at this point is that the plant is focusing on that larger plant growth, benefitted by the increased heat, meaning resources are diverted away from pursuing fruit maturity.
This is one of the main reasons why, for every plant we “might” grow in a greenhouse, we generally also trial it growing outdoors. It has not been uncommon for us to discover that growing that plant outdoors is the better choice. This is heavily reflected in our pepper gardens where we end up growing the overwhelming majority of them outdoors! This is in part due to our limited greenhouse space, but much more heavily influenced that we’ve found certain pepper varieties simply perform better outdoors.
Of course, this isn’t always true. For some things like tomatoes and basil, you’re always going to see better performance in the greenhouse. We see less variability in the growing preferences of these plants. But, it’s always worth exploring the opportunity to grow outdoors as this is typically associated with lower costs and sometimes better growing performance!
Oh, and we previously featured our Cayenne peppers this season and had some promising, but “unconfirmed” results. We are officially upgrading the status of Cayenne peppers as “recommended” for subarctic growing conditions. We are seeing exceptional maturity in our outdoor grown examples and they will definitely see multiple season trials here based on these results. It can be challenging to find particularly hot pepper varieties that do well in our growing conditions, but Cayenne is exhibiting all the traits we generally look for in our pepper trials.