Friday, September 9, 2011

Growing Sweet Peppers

Peppers take up very little space in the garden, less than a tomato plant, in fact. You can always squeeze in a sweet pepper plant or two, no matter how small your garden space. Peppers even grow really well in containers or planters!

Green, red, orange, and yellow: these are the colors of sweet peppers! Right? No, there are tons of varieties of sweet peppers. Almost any color imaginable: purple to black, blue, white and even chocolate brown sweet peppers!

Preferred Growing Conditions
You’re probably seeing the similarities in the best growing conditions for vegetable plants: full sunlight and the soil should be well drained, fertile, and rich in organic matter. Sweet pepper plants are no different. Except, in really hot climates they could use a little late afternoon shade.

Compost is your best bet to work into the soil, whether you’re planting in a raised bed, row garden, or container gardening. Compost is rich in organic matter, and makes your soil a different ball game. No joke. Try it. Compost is an easy way to prepare your soil for successful vegetable growing. Peppers, also, like greensand added to soil to help with drainage.

How to Plant Sweet Peppers
Sweet peppers are a warm season crop, needing a lot of warmth to ripen on the plant. Make sure if you start seeds indoors, you will need to do so 8-10 weeks before they are ready for transplant.
Reality check, folks! You have to be on your gardening game to remember to get these started this early.
Usually, this is when you’re starting to think about planting the garden.

Spacing these plants will depend greatly on the variety. Generally, pepper plants need 18-24 inches between plants, and 24 inches between rows. Here’s a great tip with bell peppers: plant a little closer together for more successful plants. Reducing the spacing between plants helps prevent sunscald on the fruit and prevents weeds.

Companion Plants for Sweet Peppers
Growing these companion plants around sweet peppers will be helpful: tomatoes, geraniums, and, petunias.

Some plants actually are bad to the health of sweet pepper plants.
Avoid these plants around sweet peppers: beans, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.

Maintaining Your Sweet Pepper Plants
Water your sweet pepper plants regularly. Blossom end rot can be caused by inconsistent watering. Mulching around sweet pepper plants will help control moisture loss, too.

When to Use Organic Fertilizer
Fertilize sweet pepper plants when transplanting, and then again after the first fruit is produced. Be careful not to over fertilize. Over fertilizing sweet pepper plants can cause blossom end rot.
Focus on overall plant health and fruit production with fertilizers. Stick with something low in nitrogen. Try something with seaweed or fish emulsion: these are low in nitrogen.

Harvesting Sweet Peppers
Your best bet is to let them ripen on the vine. That’s how to get most flavor out of your pepper. But, if you wish you can pick them and let them ripen off the vine to sweeten. Who knows, maybe you like sweet peppers not so sweet? They’re still good this way, just maybe a tad bitter like the green peppers.

Sweet Pepper Pests and Diseases
Insect pests, typically, aren’t too big of a problem for sweet pepper plants. But keep an eye out for aphids, pepper maggots, and pepper weevils. Aphids will be the most common. Begin to look for them at the popular aphid hangouts: under leaves and along juicy stems.

Make sure to use organic pest control around food sources. Pepper plants are more likely to have trouble with sunscald, blossom end rot, and blossoms dropping off than garden pests. Prevent those pepper problems by adding compost to the soil, consistent watering, mulching, and planting slightly closer together to protect fruit from the sun.

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