Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Frost Watch 2007 - Day 8
Peppers are frost tolerant?

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Crabapple, Pretty plant interlude

It seems that the frost watch is nearing its end. We are heading into a mini heat wave, though there may be a few more dips in temperature, we should be leaving 4C and under behind.

All plants survived... (so far)

So to round it all up, a question... my big book of plants says peppers, even capsicum annum (the common garden pepper, including most hot kinds and all sweet kinds) are frost tolerant.

Heads turned on that one, didn't they?

So I endeavor to find out the truth. I figure they ain't that frost hardy! But exactly how hardy are they? Will they stand a light frost?

The Unintentional Experiment:

You may remember my frosted tomato post. That same night, I also left out my eggplants, peppers, ground cherries and sunberries. All frost tender but differently affected. The ground cherries seemed unphased. The peppers appeared wilted in the morning but recovered completely by midday - no obvious damage to the leaves at all. I can't remember what happened to the sunberries though they seem to have no leaf damage either. They may have been very immature at the time. The tomatoes initially seemed fine, but as the day progressed, brown marks appeared between the leaf viens, eventually these lower leaves fell off and new ones grew at the leaf axis.

Does this mean that peppers are marginally (like 1 or 2 degrees) more frost tolerant? Does this mean that ground cherries are husky northern cousins in comparison?

Googling peppers and frost tolerance

According to Plants of a Future database:

"Plants can tolerate a small amount of frost[171]"

My favourite source for plant info - Floridata - agrees, stating:

"Mature plants can tolerate a touch of frost."

That's all the evidence I need, for now. So it seems that a mature pepper plant could take a light or patchy frost occasionally but would be happier without one. I imagine it would drop its leaves but they would soon grow back, as happens when they are stressed for other reasons such as drought, change in light level, doesn't like the look of your shirt...

Ground cherry and frost tolerance?

I have been on this google romp before and found that there are solanum (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, ground cherries, sunberries, garden huckleberries all belong to this group) brothers and sisters that live, even thrive, this far north. Amoung them are ground cherries. They are not necessarily the best tasting ones (though I have never sunk my teeth into them) but they exist.

Amoung the solanum relatives up north are:

1. Deadly Nightshade - not recommended eating

2. Chinese Lanterns. Anyone with them in their garden will vouch for their hardiness.

3. Clammy Ground Cherry

There are others, I'm sure, but let's focus on the 'ground cherries'. Of the many species listed, I saw a predominance of those that preferred to be in warmer climes but there are some that grow wild here. So was it a fluke that my Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry seemed unaffected by the mild frost that singed my tomatoes and scared my peppers?

I have yet to find a definitive answer, but as always I will notify you immediately when I do.

Black tomatoes more frost tolerant?

And finally, let us think on this quote from Ferme du Zephyr:

"Black tomato plants tend to be quite cold-hardy, with some degree of frost tolerance".


Anyone have any experiences?


jodi said...

Hmmmm; which black tomatoes are you growing? Some of them are from Russia and other cold climates so I'm assuming that they probably ARE more hardy. I grow Black Krim which I love for its unique, smokey flavour, but I plant them and a few other heritage types in the greenhouse to keep them somewhat fog-free and also give them a bit of heat. They don't ripen until well into fall, but they hold up well until a hard frost this way.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I was going to say the same about the black Krim and other black tomatoes coming from Russia...

So how did your inadvertant experiment go?

Ottawa Gardener said...

I figured it was some Russian thing, but frost tolerant?? Really?? I am going to give it a try as I have some black cherry tomatoes. Let's see if they last longer this year.

I loved the Black Prince Tomatoes that I grew last year!

My experiment.. peppers - survive mild frost, ground cherries - aren't bothered, eggplants - same as peppers, tomatoes - lost some leaves.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Jodi, fog free? That is at least one thing I don't usually have to contend with.

It's always something isn't it? Wind, flood, drough, pestilence. Us gardeners, are experts in environmental havoc.

Patrick said...

Lots of Russian tomatoes are COLD hardy, and several popular black varieties are Russian, but frost is something completely different. Frost is frost, and tomato plants are not frost hardy.

If there's any difference with black tomatoes it's probably very small.