Peppers

Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to plant. Simply plant them and watch them grow. Peppers need to be planted in full sun with soil that drains well and contains plenty of organic matter. Typically pepper plants should be planted 12-18 inches apart. Most sweet peppers mature within 60-90 days while hot peppers can take up to 150 days to mature.

Watering: Peppers plants need a regulated amount of water. Pepper plants do not tolerate soil that waterlogs their roots. Soil must hold enough moisture to keep plants growing, but also must drain well. To maintain a balance, work oragnic matter into the soil before planting. Mulch is a great way to prevent water evaporation during the dry summer months.

Avoid Overfertilizing: Overfertilizing will cause bountiful foliage but at the cost of fruit production. Peppers are light feeders. Espoma Garden Food or Dr. Earth All Purpose Fertilizer are recommended to use as organic fertilizers.

Staking: Pepper plants can become heavy as fruit begins to mature. Pepper plants can be tied or staked to help support the stem. Twist-ties and twine are not recommended. They will break or choke the stem. Use old nylons or another stretchy material that will 'give' as the stem grows.

Insects and Diseases: For the most part pepper plants are problem-free. Occasionally pepper plants are attacked by the same pest that attack tomato plants. One precaution to prevent this from happening is to use an orgainc pesticide. Organic pesticides that contain Pyrethrins or Rotenone are highly recommended. Bonide Tomato and Vegetable Spray is a recommended organic product.

Harvesting Tips: Peppers are generally harvested at an immature stage. Bell peppers are harvested in their green stage, but a full mature pepper is orange, red or yellow. Peppers can be harvested at any stage of growth, but the flavor isn't fully developed until maturity. Picking peppers early for harvest increases yields at the expense of flavor. When peppers are continually picked before maturity, they will continue to produce fruit. However, allowing fruits to ripen magnifies flavor, but at the expense of yields. Plus, you will have to wait until later in the season before harvesting can begin. To avoid this dilemma, and if you have plenty of planting space, plant two kinds of each variety that you choose. This allows one plant to produce fruit to full maturity and the other to be harvested as the fruit is produced throughout the season.

Freezing: Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve peppers. Peppers will be soft when thawed, but are great in casseroles and other recipes, such as soups and stews. Stuffing peppers before freezing is a handy trick to have dinner prepared in minutes.