Peppers come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors from sweet bell peppers to hot habaneros that will light up your mouth. And they’re easy to grow. Peppers are great in salsas and stir-fries, or grilled, stuffed, or pickled (Peter Piper’s favorite).

  Soil preparation: Choose a well-drained site that gets at least eight hours of sunlight a day. Peppers need more fertile soil than most vegetables, so add lots of compost. They won’t do well, however, if they get too much nitrogen (you’ll just get lots of leaves and not many peppers). If your soil is lacking in phosphorous, add some rock phosphate or bone meal before planting.

  Planting: Plant your seedlings after the threat of spring frost and when the soil has reached at least 65°F.

 Spacing: Dig your peppers’ planting holes about 18 inches apart to let sunlight in.

 Watering: Peppers like moist soil, but they won’t stand for wet feet, so be careful not to overwater them.

 Fertilizing: After the flowers have turned into baby peppers, side dress with a balanced organic fertilizer with an NPK  (Nitrogen -Phosphorus-Potassium) of 4-6-4 or 5-7-3 around the base of the plants.

 Special hints: In hot climates, shade peppers by planting them in the shadow of taller crops, such as corn or trellised beans, or by planting them in a dense block to help protect the fruit from bright afternoon sun.  30% shade cloth helps prevent sun scald in the hottest summer months.

 Pest Watch
If your pepper plants have been chewed off at the stems, chances are you have cutworms.  Cut a toilet paper roll in half fit over young leaves and push tube 1 inch into soil.  This helps to protect the young stems from all size teeth.  Holes in blossoms or buds that result in mutated fruit are the work of pepper weevils. Aphids are also frequent visitors to peppers

Disease Alert
Verticillium and fusarium wilts sometimes affect peppers, yellowing the leaves at the bottom of the plant. Peppers are also affected by early blight, a leaf spot disease. You can identify blight by the dark, concentrically ringed spots that form on your pepper’s leaves

 Harvest Hints
You can eat most peppers when they’re green, but they don’t develop their full flavor until they turn color—whether it be red, orange, or yellow. Cut sweet peppers off the plant with a sharp knife or shears, leaving about a ½-inch stem attached. Cayennes and some others usually pop off with ample stems attached.Peppers will usually keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freeze or dry any excess fruit.Harvest all usable fruit before the first hard frost. Or, if you have unripe fruit you don’t want to waste, cut the entire plant and hang it indoors to allow the fruit to continue ripening. 

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