Mulching Sweet or Hot Peppers
Peppers do best when they have some type of organic mulch covering the soil over their roots. Mulch will keep weeds down but most important it will moderate soil temperatures which reduces blossom (drop)in the heat of July and August. In the early season, it is optional to use black plastic with holes punched into it to admit rainfall will warm the soil and increase early growth. Later, as the summer approaches, an organic mulch such as chopped leaves, grass clippings, hay or straw spread about 3 to 4 inches thick over the black plastic will cool the soil. Mulches also help retain soil moisture by blocking evaporation and discouraging run off.
For more information see Mulching The Vegetable Garden
Watering Sweet or Hot Peppers
Peppers need continuous moisture; they do not do well if their soil dries out intermittently. They require about 1/2 inch of water per week either from the rain or watering (probably closer to 1 inch in July and August in hot areas). When rainfall is sparse, water peppers every two or three days. In the heat of the summer, daily waterings with a soaker hose helps keep the soil cool as well as moist. A consistent supply of water from flowering through harvest is very important. For more information see Watering The Vegetable Garden and Choosing Watering Equipment
Feeding Sweet or Hot Peppers
Peppers are fairly heavy feeders. Add a slow-acting, general-purpose granular fertilizer to the soil when seedlings are put into the garden. If the soil is healthy and the plants are mulched with an organic mulch, this single application of fertilizer is sufficient for an average crop. To boost the harvest feed pepper plants lightly every month during the growing season. Either sprinkle some fertilizer around the base of each plant away from the stem for the rain to soak in or spray plant foliage with liquid fertilizer diluted according to label instructions. While optional, a foliar spray of a bioactivator such as kelp or seaweed once or twice during the growing season definitely contributes to a superior crop. On the other hand, over fertilizing (especially with quick acting nitrogen fertilizer) can be a cause of stress leading to more foliage and less fruit. Home made compost is not recommended for pepper plants because it can harbor diseases from potato peels and tomato scraps which also attack the pepper plant. For more information see Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden; also check out Choosing Fertilizers
Pepper Health Insurance – For Better Production
There are several relatively new organic products available that when applied to Pepper plants as a foliar spray, the disease resistance of the plant increases considerably and the plant’s ability to resist pest insects also goes way up. In addition these products help insure the best health of the plant which leads to the largest fruit with the highest nutrition possible at harvest.
Two products serve this benefit –They are Vegetable Thrive and Liquid Kelp. You get the results if you foliar feed these two products on all the leaves of the Pepper plants once a month until harvest is completed.
Staking Sweet or Hot Peppers
While many varieties of peppers do not need any staking, it is a good idea to support tall sweet pepper plants; any plant over 24 inches tall. Their many branches are fairly brittle, especially where they join the stems. Heavily weighted with large bell peppers, they are vulnerable to wind and rain from summer storms as well as to passing garden equipment. Use sturdy 2 foot tall cages to support the entire plant. Or, tie the main stem of each plant to a single 24 to 36 inche tall stake with a strip of cloth or other soft tie material. As large, heavy branches develop, use the stake to support them or use extra stakes for the branches.
Using Shade Cloth (optional)
Peppers do not produce well when the high heat of July and August hit the garden. You can protect those plants with shade cloth draped over the plants supported in some way by stakes or whatever. You want to have the shade on the peppers during the heat of the afternoon. Morning sun and late afternoon sun are not so harmful
Thinning, or pinching off young buds, flowers or fruit, can increase the yield of pepper plants significantly. Removing all of the early blossoms from a young plant for a month will delay the arrival of the first pepper of the season, but it will increase the total yield for the plant over the season. Thinning immature peppers by pinching several off after they form to leave only a few peppers at the initial fruit-setting stage will also increase the total yield. This practice also increases the average size of the fruit remaining to grow to maturity.