Peppers, We all love them, but can we all grow them?
Peppers of all sorts, are delicious when picked at the perfect time, but getting the perfect size, color and texture is an art form in itself. Here at Sassafras Hill Farm we will divulge some of the trade secrets on how to grow the best tasting, and perfect sized peppers, so you, as a home grower can impress your friends and neighbors with perfect peppers of your own!
Growing peppers, like most crops starts with the seeds. At Sassafras Hill Farm we buy Certified Organic seeds from High Mowing Seeds and Johnny's Selected Seeds. Buying Certified Organic seed is not only important to obtain our Certified Naturally Grown Certification, but crucial when it comes to the growth of the plant. When growing using organic methods, you want to start off by using organic seeds because these seeds were produced from a parent plant that was grown under organic farming methods.
For those of you home growers who grow using organic methods this little secret may mean the world of a difference in your garden. Because the seeds are Organic, it means the parent plants were grown using Organic farming practices, which in turn means that the plants are used to growing under Organic circumstances. Unlike conventional seeds, that are grown using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, Organic seeds often grow far better without these additions and are not reliant on the heavy fertilizer requirements. Starting with the right seed is the perfect way to start the perfect pepper.
In addition to buying the right seed, comes the next step in growing the perfect pepper. Seed starting in itself is an art form learned with years of practice. This could be the most important step in growing peppers as they are one of the few crops that will perform poorly if not started correctly. Peppers like most solanaceous crops are grown from seed and transplanted into the garden. Direct seeding peppers, often times, is a recipe for disaster as peppers are slow to germinate, and need high temperatures to germinate properly.
Once you have germination, making sure your pepper plants do not become root bound is by far the most crucial factor in growing peppers. Root bound peppers, meaning that the roots of the plant become tangled and choked out in a container, will perform poorly, and may not rebound at all! Here on the farm we start our peppers in small 128 cell trays, and as soon as they have two true leaves we pot them up into a four inch pot, making sure the peppers roots have room to grow.
So if you have success germinating peppers, and make sure they don't become root bound, you're off to a good start!
Planting peppers into fertile ground is very important. They prefer a sandy loam, with well drainage, but plenty of organic matter. So add some compost or peat to your soil before planting.
Once you have transplanted your peppers, the following step is the second crucial factor in pepper production. TEMPERATURE. Temperature is almost just as crucial as making sure your peppers do not become root bound.
Peppers will die if they are exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees so be sure not to plant your peppers out too early, however; peppers love cool nights and warm days so planting time can be tricky! Here on Sassafras Hill Farm we plant our peppers out in early May, when the days are warm in the upper 60's, but our nights are in the lower 50's.We then cover our plants with floating row cover to make sure they receive the heat they need, as the row cover raises the temperature during the day. We remove the row cover when the day time temperatures start to reach 80 degrees, or the plants start to flower, as they need to be pollinated.
The cold nights are important for flower development, and if the night time temperatures are too high, peppers are known to abort their flowers, which means no peppers! That is why peppers are tricky in NJ as most humid summer night time temperatures stay in the upper 70's or even 80's in August!
When it gets that hot your peppers will grow tall, so be sure to stake them up, because the plant will become heavy once peppers start forming.
All peppers start off green, and grow until they begin to ripen, which is when they will turn color. Pick green peppers early to help encourage more flowers to develop, and wait for those colored peppers to arrive later in summer.
SO... if you have planted your peppers correctly, in a nutrient rich soil, and they experience the cool night time temperatures, and warm sunny day time temperatures, your peppers should grow and grow until they produce nice large peppers!
We hope you have enjoyed this blog about peppers, and that you all learned a little something about the way they are grown. Hopefully you home gardeners can take away some tricks, and try and grow big peppers.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more about our Farm Blog.