Saturday, May 9, 2009

Growing Powerful Peppers

I must say, I've gone a little crazy with the amount of peppers I'm growing this year. To be exact, two varieties of Bell pepper, four Thai Hot pepper plants and two jalapeno pepper plants.

I took path of least resistance by purchasing transplants, instead of growing from seed. I gleaned from McGee and Stuckey's "The Bountiful Container", not to be seduced into buying tall plants that were already flowering and producing tiny fruits. Instead, opting for the dense, compact plants. If you transplant a plant that is already ahead of the growth curve (producing blossoms and fruit), it may end up permanently stunted. These never turn into vigorous and productive plants. Simply nip off small fruits and blooms to keep this from occurring.

Three micronutrients have a particulary profound effect on peppers, and all of them are contained in common household items:
  1. Sulfur ---in matches. Before tranplanting pepper plants into their containers, take a book of matches and remove the cardboard cover leaving the matches intact. Dig a hole for the plant, lay in one match bunch per hole and cover with an inch or so of soil. Then put in the plant. By the time the plant's roots reach the matches, the sulfur from the matches will have dissolved into the surrounding soil. Sulfur promotes plant protein and increases the nutritional content of the pepper.
  2. Calcium ---in eggshells. Save a few eggshells and leave them out on the counter for a few days until thoroughly dry. Then crush them. (Place them into a plastic bag and run over them with a rolling pin). Sprinkle a spoonful in the bottom of each pepper's planting hole. Calcium prevents blossom end rot, which creates round, black tips at the end of fruits.
  3. Magnesium ---in Epsom Salts, which is also magnesium sulfate, and is therefore a source of sulfur. Mix a bit of salts into plain water and spray the solution on the plants when blossoms begin to appear. Magnesium helps the pepper's fruits develop from flowers, and so promotes higher production.
Peppers respond well to fertilizer rich in phosphorus (the middle number in the fertilizer trinity). If you have some superphosphate, bone meal or bulb food available, mix a bit into the soil around planting time. All are proportionaly high in phosphorus. This micronutrient helps to promote the production of flowers.

One micronutrient you don't want to add to your peppers in nitrogen, or you'll have lots of beautiful foliage and very few fruits.


FashionKitty said...

I am trying to grow a bunch of peppers in my garden and this post was super-helpful. Thank you!

Alexandria Sewell said...


I'm glad to know that my post will help you in your gardening. My work is done here... :-)

Devil's Trumpet said...

I usually do well with peppers. I don't eat them but love to grow them. This year I tried a different spot and they are not looking to hot. Maybe I will try some of the soil enhancers you mentioned. I hear the more you don't water peppers the hotter they get, not sure if it is true or not.

Alexandria Sewell said...

Devil's Trumpet, it's make your peppers turn out hotter, it's good to make them a little "thirsty". You just don't want to take the "water conservation" when it comes to peppers to the extreme.

Unknown said...

Great information.

I'll be back often.

Anonymous said...

I always thought calcium in egg shells wasn't available for uptake by plants unless dissolved so sprinkling crushed shells or powder wouldn't do anything. I would be interested in knowing your results. Thanks.

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