Gardening TipsWhat you Need to Know When You Don't Have a Green Thumb
Its not too early to begin thinking about growing peppers. Peppers require a long growing season, so if you want to be able to enjoy home grown peppers this summer, seeds should be started indoors at least 8-10 weeks before they go outside or in the greenhouse. You can purchase young pepper plants from the greenhouse in the spring, but by starting your own seeds the selection of varieties is much larger. There is a large selection of different varieties of peppers that come in various shapes, sizes, colours, taste and heat. Make sure you read the description on the seed packet to find what you are looking for. There is a good selection of pepper seeds available at the garden centre right now. At home we always like to have a variety of different peppers growing in pots.
Growing peppers is similar to growing tomatoes. Start the seeds in either peat pellets or plastic inserts filled with a good quality starter mix. Moisten the starter mix before placing it in the insert. Place 2-3 seeds per pot and cover lightly with starter mix. To help with germination place a plastic dome over the planted pots and place them in a warm area or on a heating mat. Seeds need warm soil temperatures of 25 Celsius to germinate, and moist soil. As soon as the seeds have germinated (10-21 days) remove the plastic dome. Give young seedlings lots of light by placing an adjustable light over them and continue to keep the seedlings warm. When the seedlings have produced their first set of true leaves they are ready to be thinned out and/or transplanted into individual containers. To grow healthy plants, continue to give them lots of light and fertilize first with a plant starter such as the water soluble 10-52-10 and then switch to an all-purpose 20-20-20. Later when the plants are mature and ready to set flowers, fertilize with a flower/vegetable fertilizer such 12-36-12 or a tomato fertilizer.
After all threat of frost has passed and the soil temperature is 17 Celsius or more, pepper plants can be planted outdoors. They do very well in large containers that are at least 30-30 cm wide and deep. The nice thing about growing peppers in containers, is that the container can be moved into a protected area, when the weather becomes cold, wet, or windy. The best place for peppers to grow is a protected south facing area where temperatures are hot. They also grow well in a greenhouse.
Peppers are relatively low maintenance. They need to be kept evenly moist and fertilized weekly. They can become heavy when they are loaded with fruit, so placing a tomato cage around them will help prevent the branches from breaking. A common pest on peppers is aphids, and these can be controlled by blasting them off with the water hose, or a weekly application of insecticidal soap. A preventive option would be placing yellow sticky strips around the plant at a young age. Aphids are attracted to the colour yellow, but once they are on the pepper plant they tend not to leave it.
Peppers are harvested when the wall of the pepper feels firm and they have achieved their full size. During the start of the season, pick the fruit as it grows, as this will encourage new fruit, but later in the season, the peppers can be left on the plant longer, allowing them to change colour. Red peppers start off green and mature to red as they age. Red peppers are sweeter and higher in vitamin A and C. When picking peppers use scissors or pruners and cut the pepper from the plant.
If you have never grown peppers before, why not give it a try! They do not require a lot of space and will be quite happy growing on a warm, sunny patio.