In Event No.3 of Ed’s Reaper Growing Camp, Smokin’ Ed Currie and the PuckerButt crew are going to show you how to safely transplant your pepper plants so they can continue to grow in the best possible environment. At this point, your reaper plants may have been growing for a while, maybe indoors in a small space like the seed starting trays we recommended in Event No.1. Once they start flourishing, you’re going to need to move your plants somewhere that gives them more space to grow.
Make sure you watch the Event No.3 transplanting video to take a look at Ed’s plants to help determine if yours are the right size to be successfully transplanted. Transplanting a smaller plant before it’s ready is possible, but you have to leave it in the shade and keep a close eye on it. Chances are, it will die anyway. Jump ahead to 4:32 in the video for a helpful visual example of plants that are ready to be transplanted vs. plants that aren’t.
In the words of Smokin’ Ed, to start transplanting, you don’t need anything fancy. To transplant their Carolina Reaper plants, the PuckerButt crew grabs a seven gallon bucket to fill with Miracle-Gro Performance Organics potting soil. Ed recommends a seven gallon bucket because he has found that it gives plants the best outcome, but anything 4.7 gallons and above will do.
Next, you’ll want to make a hole in the soil, move your pepper plants from the trays to the hole, and pack in the soil at the base of the plant. No need to add anything special to the soil or even break up the roots, they’ll spread and continue to grow outwards on their own. Remember, you need a bucket or some sort of potting vessel for every 1-3 reaper plants, so keep moving them from the seed tray to the bucket until each plant has a new, more spacious home.
It’s important that you don’t place your newly potted plants directly into the sun; they need to get used to a more intense light source first. If you have access to a greenhouse like the PuckerButt crew, you’re in luck. A greenhouse works well enough as a protective barrier so that the young plants aren’t scorched by the sun. However, because most people don’t have a greenhouse, you can acclimate your plants to the sun through a process called hardening off.
For the plants he grows at home, Ed starts the hardening off process by bringing his plants outside when the sun comes up for about an hour, the perfect amount of time to enjoy a cup of coffee, bring the kids to school or relax before you start the day. In the evening, put the plants back outside for an additional hour. Repeat this process for about 3-5 days. Increase the outdoor time to two hours in both the mornings and evenings for the next few days, and then move up to three hours twice a day. After a slow-build period of about 14 days, most plants will be hardened off and acclimated to the sun so that you can start to leave them outside all day long.
Pro tip from the PuckerButt team: if you’re watering your plant and the soil is hard, causing water to run right through to the bottom of your pot, poke a couple of holes in the soil at the top of the pot, bucket or whatever the plant is situated in. This will help the water get to the roots and absorb into the soil as opposed to just running straight down the side of the vessel.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for aphids, small, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that cluster the undersides of leaves to suck the new plant’s juices dry. At PuckerButt, the team uses ladybugs, green lacewings and parasitic wasps for all-natural pest control. At home, you might not want to release a bunch of bugs onto your porch or in your backyard. So, another option is to coat the leaves with neem oil, a naturally occurring pesticide found in seeds from the neem tree. Neem oil will make your leaves less appealing to the aphids so they’ll leave your plants alone.
Make sure you check out the video to see the set up Ed’s got going on at PuckerButt Pepper Company, as well as to get additional tips like what to do with a plant that appears to be dying. Overall, give your plants time to grow! Be patient with your Reapers—they’ll get to the right transplanting size and eventually start growing the dangerously hot peppers we all know and love.