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Points on Peppers

Peppers are easy, fun, and satisfying to grow. There is a pepper plant out there to suite whatever your taste, both visually and culinary. Peppers are also a fairly compact plant, making them perfect for container gardening.  As you may suspect, peppers like warmth and are a perfect fit for a sunny spot on your patio or garden plot. Peppers are attractive in any garden; from their bell-like blossoms to the pop of colour when they ripen. Their waxy coat makes them shine like ornaments.

As with tomatoes, I like to mix up my selection of pepper plants each season. There are as many choices between size and colour as there are between sweet and hot. Boring is not a word you will find associated with peppers. Some of my favourites are the colourful bell, sweet banana, jalapeno, and Thai chili. I’m still discovering peppers so this list is sure to expand in the future.

This year I grew jalapeno and banana peppers (I like to grow a hot and a sweet pepper each season). I put two jalapeno plants in one pot, which was 12 inches in diameter and 9 inches in height. I planted one banana pepper in a similar size pot and added a marigold companion plant to help shade the soil and deter bad bugs.

If you are starting from seed or with young seedlings, it’s important to protect them during cooler spells and lower nighttime temps, especially in the early spring. Bring them indoors or use outside plant covers at night. Once established, however, they are quite hardy and grow without much problem. Along with sun, well-draining soil is an important factor in the pepper’s success. I keep soil in my pots moist, but don’t allow it to become too soggy. Pruning the plants isn’t necessary, but I find removing a bit of the new growth below the main, fruit-bearing stems will keep the plants from getting bushy and allow more nutrients to the peppers. As with the rest of my garden, I fertilize mid-season with an all-purpose fertilizer. The rest of their amazing transformation is of their own doing.

Depending on the variety, many peppers will go through a colour change to indicate when they are ripe. It’s helpful to know what the finished pepper looks like in order to gauge when to harvest, and some peppers will become sweeter or hotter the longer they are left on the plant. My jalapenos were milder in taste when they first ripened compared to the ones that stayed on the plant a bit longer…some even turned reddish in colour. Sweet peppers will be tastier the longer they are allowed to ripen. Colourful bell peppers all start green and the green peppers you find in the supermarket are just not fully ripened. With multiple peppers on each plant, you can always taste test as they start to transform and harvest when the flavour suites you. Since peppers are such a dynamic plant, it’s not surprising to find them on the top of many gardeners’ favourite plants to grow.

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