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Growing Peppers  

Growing Peppers

I've been growing peppers for a lot of years, as have my parents before me, and their parents before them. The art of growing peppers has changed a fair amount over that time, in that we now have far more varieties of peppers to choose from, as well as many more techniques to try.

I've begun assembling information below for the purpose of assisting those who wish to try their hand at this very rewarding hobby. The first time you have a full stand of bright, colorful and healthy chilipeppers is a moment you won't quickly forget. It's a wonderful feeling, growing peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, etc. for the purpose of making salsas, hot sauces and dips, as well as a big Crock Pot of 4-alarm chili. When your guests comment on the freshness of the flavors, you can take them out and show them where those flavors grew.

This article will change regularly as I remember tips and tricks, as well as when I have results on which to report.

Please stay tuned.

Where to Buy Seeds and Plants

Here are some links to a few of the more popular types of pepper seeds:

Cayenne Seeds, Habanero Seeds, Jalapeno Seeds, Ancho Seeds, Bell Pepper Seeds, Hungarian Yellow Seeds, Sweet Banana Pepper Seeds, Thai Pepper Seeds

Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is a form of gardening that uses substantial diversity in pest control to reduce the use of pesticides and tries to provide as much fertility with local sources of nutrients rather than purchased fertilizers. The term may have ironically arisen as a response to the effects observed in farming during the first half of the twentieth century and the evolving science of organic chemistry. It is said by some of its supporters to be more in harmony with nature. Organic gardeners emphasise the concept that "the soil feeds the plant".

Soil fertility Soil fertility is enriched by the addition green manures, minerals and humus. Minerals are obtained from a variety of sources, such as calcium from fossil or recently deceased shellfish, potassium from wood ash, nitrogen from the animal urea in manures or leguminous plants, and phosphorus from bone. Humus is a product of composted vegetable matter. The cellulose in humus acts like a sponge and holds moisture in the garden soil, available for the growing plants. Composting is a process by which vegetable matter (e.g., grass clippings, food waste, leaves) are allowed to be consumed by bacteria, fungi, earthworms and insects until what remains is mostly the cellulose and minerals of the original vegetable matter. This mixture is then utilized as a soil amendment.

See: Organic Fertilizer

Pest control Control of animal pests can be achieved through natural methods, including crop rotation, physical removal of insects, introduction of prey species, and through the use of companion planting of plants which may demonstrate pest-repellant characteristics. Marigolds and Basil are examples of such plants.

See: Organic Pest Control

Weed management
For the organic grower, unwanted plants (or weeds) are suppressed without the use of herbicides. Barriers are often used to prevent weeds from reaching the light they need to grow. Generally called mulches, they can include stones, leaves, straw or wood. Paper can make an excellent barrier which, like leaves, straw and wood, will return its cellulose to the soil. These barriers have the added effect of keeping moisture in the soil below them. Some writers even refer to soil loosened by hoeing and tilling as dirt mulch. There are many forms of tilling devices and cultivators which suppress weeds by mechanically disturbing the weeds' roots and preventing them from absorbing water and nutrients.

See: Organic Weed Management

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a type of intensive gardening popularized by Mel Bartholemew. It is based on the idea that the wide rows in conventional home gardening are a waste of time and space, and that more quality vegetables can be grown in less space with less effort.

In this method, the garden space is divided into beds (a 4' x 4', 16 sq ft or 120cm x 120cm, 1.4m² garden being recommended) and separated by paths. These beds are further divided into squares of approximately one square foot, and planted with your vegetables. Common spacing is one plant/square for larger plants such as broccoli, basil, etc.. four/square for medium large plants like lettuce, nine/square for medium-small plants like spinach, and sixteen/square for small plants such as onions and carrots. The beds are weeded and watered from the pathways, so the garden soil does not compact.

See: Books on Square Foot Gardening

Raised Bed / Cubed Foot Gardening

Raised bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3-4 foot (1.0-1.2m) wide beds, which can be of any length. The soil is about 0.5-1 foot (15-30cm) above the surrounding soil, sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood or concrete blocks, and enriched with compost made from leaves and grass clippings. The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which moisture is conserved and weed growth suppressed. Since the gardener does not walk on the raised beds, the soil is not compacted and the roots have an easier time growing. The close plant spacing and the use of compost generally result in higher yields with raised beds in comparison to conventional row gardening.

See: Books on Raised Bed / Cubed Foot Gardening

No Dig Gardening

No dig gardening is an approach to cultivation favoured by many organic gardeners. The primary reasons for digging the soil are to remove weeds, to loosen and aerate the soil and to incorporate organic matter such as compost or manure. However there is a strong case against digging, which argues that in the long term it can be deleterious to the soil's health. Whilst digging is an effective way of removing perennial weed roots, it can also cause dormant seeds to come to the surface and germinate. Digging can also damage soil structure and cause problems like compaction, can disturb and damage balances amongst soil life and by exposure to the air, tends to burn up nutrients which then need to be replenished.

No dig methods rely on nature to carry out cultivation operations. Organic matter such as well rotted manure, compost, leaf mold, spent mushroom compost, old straw, etc, is added directly to the soil surface as a mulch at least 2 or 3 inches deep, which is then incorporated by the actions of worms pulling it downwards. Worms and other soil life also assist in building up the soil's structure, their tunnels providing aeration and drainage, and their excretions bind together soil crumbs. No dig systems are said to be freer of pests and disease, possibly due to a more balanced soil population being allowed to build up in this comparatively undisturbed environment, and by encouraging the build up of beneficial rather than harmful soil fungi. Moisture is also retained more efficiently under mulch than on the surface of bare earth.

See: Books on No-Dig Gardening

Things to watch for

Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot is a nutrient deficiency affecting several garden plants, including eggplant, tomato, and peppers. The disease starts as sunken, dry decaying areas start at the blossom end of the fruit, furthest away from the stem. While the outward appearance of the fruit is that it is affected by a disease-causing pathogen, the disorder is actually the result of calcium deficiency. This may be the result of low soil calcium levels, incorrect fertilizer selection, ion competiion, or drought stress. Sometimes rapid growth from high-nitrogen fertilizers may cause blossom end rot.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map USDA Plant Hardiness Zones are areas in North America categorized according to their lowest winter temperatures. The current map was revised and published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1990 and can be used as a guideline for categorizing locations suitable for growing a particular annual plant variety.

The temperatures are referred to as "average annual minimum temperatures" and are based on the lowest temperatures recorded for each of the years 1974 to 1986 in the United States and Canada and 1971 to 1984 in Mexico. The map shows 10 different zones, each of which represents an area of winter hardiness for the plants of agriculture and our natural landscape. The latest version also introduces zone 11 to represent areas that have average annual minimum temperatures above 40°F (4.4°C) and that are therefore essentially frost free.

As of 2001, a new map with climate data up to 1998 was produced, placing many areas in a warmer zone and a few areas in a colder zone.