PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
Whether hot, sweet or somewhere in between, peppers are a staple crop in many fields and gardens. But, their production can be lackluster because of numerous factors, including soil fertility, weather conditions and even varietal selection. To keep your peppers producing at a hearty clip all season long, there are a few useful strategies you can employ. If you want to know how to grow more peppers, read on and utilize as many of the following techniques as possible.
Peppers vary. Gardeners and farmers in northern areas with shorter growing seasons need to pay extra careful attention to the varieties they plant. Some bell peppers require a very long growing season in order to fully color up and develop their sweet flavor profile. Choose a variety that’s bred for a shorter growing season and you’ll have greater success. In the south, where extreme heat can inhibit flower production, look for varieties with noted heat tolerance. Though most varieties of peppers abort their blossoms in temperatures above 90 degrees F, some are tailor-made for places where summer really brings on the heat. Look for noted heat tolerance when shopping from seed catalogs or purchasing starter plants from a local nursery.
One of the most important things to consider when you want to know how to grow more peppers is your soil’s fertility. In order to produce a good number of flowers and fruits, pepper plants require adequate phosphorous. Adding phosphorous-rich organic fertilizers, such as bonemeal and rock phosphate, helps add this essential nutrient. But, it’s easy to overdo it and create a whole other set of problems. Get a soil test from your local extension service before adding any fertilizer to make sure you don’t over-apply. And don’t forget about supplying other nutrients as well, if a soil test calls for it. A good-quality, organic granular fertilizer that’s complete will contain not just macronutrients but important micronutrients, such as boron and magnesium, as well.
As mentioned above, peppers use a lot of phosphorous during growth and fruit production, and if your soil’s pH is not optimum, the plants can’t access the phosphorous in the soil. Phosphorous is most available at soil pHs between 6.0 and 7.0. If a soil test indicates your pH is out of that range, take measures to adjust it according to the test results. Doing so will improve plant growth and pepper production greatly. Soil pH is key when learning how to grow more peppers.
Peppers, like any other fruiting plant, have one life goal: to make seeds and spread their genes. When you let ripe fruits sit on the plants unharvested, the production of new flowers and fruits is greatly reduced. Keep your pepper plants picked on a daily basis to encourage more flowers to be produced. In my own garden, I find this is especially true of smaller hot pepper varieties. The more you pick, the more they make.
Like tomatoes, peppers are prone to a physiological disorder known as blossom-end rot. Blossom-end rot causes a dark, sunken canker to develop on the bottom (or blossom-end) of the fruit. Though it’s symptomatic of a calcium deficiency in the plant, it doesn’t necessarily mean your soil is lacking calcium. Instead, it’s more likely to mean you aren’t keeping your pepper plants regularly watered. The only way calcium can move into a plant is with water, so if your peppers are subjected to periods of drought, no matter how brief, a calcium deficiency in the plant can be the result. Water your pepper plants deeply and thoroughly, before wilting occurs. If they’re growing in pots, this means a daily irrigation during hot weather. Mulching helps to regulate soil moisture as well.
With these tips, you’ll discover how to grow more peppers and fill your kitchen or farm market stand quickly.