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News from the Good Food Project

Peter Piper Picked a Peck Of Pickled Peppers

Planning to grow peppers this season? Great! That is wonderful! Peppers are chock full of good flavor and LOTS of nutrition. Rodales Organic Life explains that reaping your best pepper crop ever can be as easy as 1-2-3. The right location can make all the difference in how well peppers perform. a sunny, well-drained spot where peppers haven't grown recently provides an excellent growing location. The soil should be deep, rich and loamy. If your isn't, amend it with about 1 inch of compost. Avoid adding too much nitrogen to the soil, however. Excessive nitrogen can cause the pepper plants to grow too fast making them more susceptible to disease and less productive.

Keep in mind that before you plant your pepper seedlings, you'll need to harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions. So when daytime temps reach the mid-60's, set the seedlings in a shelter location outdoors, such as next to the house or garage, for a few hours each day for 3 or 4 days. Over the next week, slowly extend that outdoor time. As the pepper seedlings are becoming accustomed to the outdoor, you can warm the pepper bed by covering it with dark landscape fabric.

Just like their name, peppers like warmth, so wait to plant until nighttime temperatures have consistently reached 60 degrees and all danger of frost has passed. If possible, set out your peppers on a cloudy day to help reduce stress on the plants. space the plants 12 to 20 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the variety, and set them a bit deeper than they were in their containers. Peppers grow extra roots from the buried portion of the stem. After you plant the pepper seedlings, water them well.

Throughout the growing season, make sure your pepper plants receive at least an inch of water a week. Check the peppers often during periods of extreme heat and drought, when each plant can easily take a gallon of water a day. If you live in a very hot, arid region, add a thick layer of organic mulch to help retain soil moisture and to help moderate the soil temperature. Do this only after your soil has warmed because mulching cool soil will keep it too cool and stunt the pepper plants' growth.

If you want to get lots of large peppers later in the season and a higher overall crop you will need to pinch off any early blossoms that appear on your pepper plants. this won' t harm the plants. In fact, it help them direct their energy into GROWING.

You can harvest the peppers at their immature green or purple stage, but the flavor will be sweeter if you wait for them to turn their mature color---usually red, but sometimes golden yellow or orange. To harvest peppers, cut them off with hand pruners. Pulling them off by hand can damage the plant. Good luck and happy vegetables!

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