- Prepare your soil in the fall. Lay in a foot or more of bio-degradable mulch — chopped-up leaves, grass clippings, pine bark, decayed vegetable compost, humus, and even newspaper all break down into the soil over time. This feeds the soil just what it likes so that when you approach it with a tiller or shovel in spring, it just needs to be turned over and mixed up a bit. Then top off the whole rich pile with a piece of plastic to keep the mulch “cooking” as long as possible into winter and to prevent all the good nutrients from running off in hard rains.
- If frost still threatens after you plant your Peppers, or if you live in a short-season climate where late frosts are just part of spring, there are ways to keep your Peppers going. One way is to place a tarp over the plants, weighting it down at the edges to keep it from blowing away. Be careful, however, not to lay the tarp or plastic directly on the plants. You will need to use blocks, sticks, or whatever you have available to form a tent over your tender young Peppers. You can uncover it during the day and re-cover it at night, or leave it in place for several days and nights without damage to the plants.
- Once your seedlings are in the ground, be sure they get sufficient water — Pepper plants are quite thirsty in early growth. Also, make sure the soil is well drained to help prevent root rot. The soil’s pH level should ideally be around 6.5 to begin with, then increased or decreased afterwards to determine the chosen flavor (more acidic soil will produce a sharper, hotter taste).
- Onions and peas are good companion plants for your Peppers. Onions repel pests like aphids, while peas fix nitrogen, and similar to Peppers, like slightly cool conditions and close quarters. Although appreciative of warm temperatures during the day, both peas and Peppers set fruit better if they can get some relief from the heat during the evenings.
- If necessary, stake plants when they are loaded with fruit.
- Pick your Peppers as soon as they’re big enough to eat, or you can leave them on the plants to change color and flavor gradually. Don’t pull them off, but rather cut them off cleanly — Pepper plants are fragile and pulling the fruit off may damage the stems. If a stem does get broken, use a knife or cutter to remove it cleanly. Otherwise, no pruning is necessary.
- Be careful not to over-fertilize — too much nitrogen will result in a great-looking bushy, green plant, but very little fruit.
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