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How to Grow Pepper Plants
If you have a vegetable garden, chances are you are growing a few pepper plants. In your grandma or grandpa's garden, there were sweet bell peppers, and then there were sweet bell peppers. My how times and taste buds have changed! Chances are, your garden has it's share of sweet bell peppers. But, you most likely have a variety of hot peppers, from Jalapenos, to Habeneros. American taste buds have awakened to Capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot), using it in all sort of recipes.
Pepper colors have changed, too. While grandma only knew of green peppers, your can select from red, orange, yellow, and even purple fruit.
Most garden hobbiests go to a garden store to select among a wide range of pepper varieties. Some gardeners, including me, will grow start them indoors at home. It's more fun to start the seedlings yourself. If you are going to start them yourself, they take a long time to sprout and to grow. A germination mat will help them to get off to an earlier and healthier start.
Sow seedlings indoors, eight to ten weeks before the last frost date for your area. They are a difficult seed germinate, and seedlings grow slowly at first. Provide bottom heat or heat lamps to raise the soil temperature to 80 degrees. This will promote better and quicker germination. A heated germination mat works well.
Find more information on starting indoor transplants.
How to Grow Pepper Plants:
While your seedlings are growing, get your garden ready. Add plenty of compost, manure, and a general fertilizer.
Peppers like hot weather. Transplant young seedlings outdoors after the last chance of frost. If the weather is still cool, delay transplanting a few days, and keep them in a coldframe, indoors, or next to the house.
Space 18-24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 30 inches apart.
Mulching around the peppers to keep down weeds, retain moisture, and help to feed the plant. As the peppers develop, switch over to a fertilizer higher in Phosphorous and Potassium. Gardeners often make the mistake of providing too much nitrogen. The result is a great looking bushy, green plant, but few fruit.
Peppers can be picked as soon as they reach a size which is edible. Continuous harvesting encourages the fruit to produce new flowers. Depending upon the length of your growing season, you might get a second crop from your pepper plants.
Insects , Pests and Disease
Spider mites and aphids are the most common problems, along with an occasional borer insect. We have never sprayed for insects on peppers. For the infrequent problem, try an organic insecticide or dust.
While many viruses and diseases can affect Peppers, it is somewhat infrequent. Fungal infections can be treated with fungicides. Apply treatment as soon as you see it.
No doubt about it, peppers do not like frost. In the spring, frost will stunt or kill the plants. Cold weather can cause the plant to slow down or stunt it. In the Fall, cover the plants, if frost is expected. Use a hot cap in on cold and frosty spring nights. If they are vented, they can they left on all day.
Tip: For a quick cover-up on cold fall nights, use five gallon buckets. They are the perfect size, and can be quickly placed over the plant.
A little bit more about Hot Peppers:
The ingredient in peppers that makes the "hot" sensation is called Capsaicin. A sweet green pepper is devoid of this chemical. The hotter the pepper, the more the level of Capsaicin. It is measured in parts per million (ppm).
Garden Recipes - Find Pepper recipes and garden recipes galore!
More on growing peppers at The Gardener's Network
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