In the outdoor garden, almost all crops are seasonal. Sure, you have common perennial favorites, like rhubarbs, asparagus, horseradish, and Jerusalem artichokes that produce a harvest year after year, but not many people realize that some ‘staple’ garden plants are actually ever-bearing perennial plants in the right climate.
Naturally, if you haven’t experienced common garden plants beyond those mentioned above giving you multiple years of service, your outdoor garden doesn’t provide a tolerable climate for this to happen. All peppers – sweet or hot, and some tomatoes actually will live and produce for years – if you provide them with the perfect growing space. One thing you should be warned about before attempting to pull such a feat off is that the older they get, these plants will increase greatly in height and girth. Just so you’re aware that you might have to be prepared to house a monster you’re totally unfamiliar with.
Sound pretty crazy? Yeah, I know. I’m used to tomatoes that get less than 6 feet tall, and peppers of any kind that top off at less than 3 feet. The thing is, what you know, and what is possible in these plant’s temperate growing range are two different things. Have you ever harvested 5 – 5 gallon buckets off of less than 10 bell pepper plants? Most people would think that’s a tall tale, but it’s not. That’s the kind of production you can get off of just 9 sweet pepper plants in their second season – at a time. Better yet, you’ll be pickin’ huge fully mature peppers in June from a greenhouse situation. In the indoor garden, where summer is perpetual, you’ll be harvesting them a lot earlier.
How long will a pepper plant live in it’s preferred climate? Years. Hot or sweet, peppers are actually a shrub. They will develop bark on the older stems and trunk if you can keep them alive for several years. Get ready to accommodate even one of them. In their second year, a bell pepper plant that’s loving life will reach 7-8 foot tall. A totally different plant than many gardeners are familiar with. Just look at the size of these things in year 2 in Bobby the MHP Gardener’s greenhouse, and picture how you’ll fit one into your grow tent!
And on to tomatoes. How long can you expect a tomato plant to be productive? It appears to have a lot to do with what kind of tomato plant it is. In the perfect climate, a tomato can produce so many fruits there is simply no way the gardener can harvest them all before they drop off and disappear at the ultimate moment of ripeness. In such a setting, the tomato lover will never be without delicious fruits. The aging plants readily regenerate your plot from seed.
According to tomato aficiandos, if you want long-lived tomato plants that will continue to bear fruit for you over multiple years, you want indeterminite tomato cultivars. It seems that the ‘bush types’ aren’t just limited in size, but also in productive life expectancy. An insurance company would call them a poor investment, because they seem to deliver about a full year of fruit production and kind of give up the ghost around the time they reach a year old.
You need some substantial trellising to keep the growth of an indeterminate tomato in control indoors in it’s second year. Like any other vine the ‘top’ of the plant continues to get farther and farther from the roots over time.
While all of this might sound like something you don’t want to mess with providing accommodations for… remember that production of both tomatoes and peppers in their second year of production is simply colossal. This increases your efficiency of putting food on the table a great deal, making it far more feasible to feed yourself from a small space than you may have thought before.
So… it’s not so much your particular plants, but the climate and growing conditions that determine the life length of some kitchen garden plants.Indoor gardens can be so much more productive then you can possibly imagine based on your outdoor gardening experience. Looks like 1 tomato plant, and 1 sweet pepper plant might be all you need to provide plenty of fresh food, year around.
Image courtesy of MHP Gardener.