Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Peppers (Capsicum sp.)

Hungarian Wax Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Peppers are a staple in many kitchens and backyard gardens.  They come in 'sweet' and 'hot' varieties, and a rainbow of colors, but are not to be confused with the spice, black pepper (Piper nigrum).  Peppers join tomatoes and potatoes in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and most are native to South America.  American's recent love of salsa has brought an already popular veggie to new heights in popularity.  We enjoy sweet peppers raw, stuffed, sauteed, or cooked into sauces, while hot peppers are most often pickled or used to flavor spicy ethnic dishes.  The spicy heat of peppers is measured by the Scoville Scale.  The hotter the pepper the higher the rating number it has.  As you choose peppers for your garden, remember that the ambient temperature and weather conditions will influence the relative heat of spicy peppers so that it will vary from year to year.

Peppers do not tolerate frost and cold, so plant them after all chance of frost has past and the soil has warmed.  Northern gardeners will need to start seeds indoors about 8 weeks before they plan to plant or purchase started plants from a garden center.  Plant individual peppers in full sun about 18-24 inches apart and support them with a 2 foot cage or stake as large fruit will weigh down the plant.  Maintain an equivalent to 1 inch of water/rain per week.  Pepper fruit are susceptible to blossom end rot if they are exposed to extreme moisture fluctuations (especially deprivation).  Mulching the plants after the soil is warm will help maintain an even moisture and reduce the potential for blossom end rot.

Peppers can be harvested green or ripe whether they are the sweet or hot varieties.  Ripe fruit will easily break away from the plant, but it is best to use a garden clipper to snip the fruit's stem rather than chance damaging a plant.  Handle the fruit with care as the capsicum that produces the heat can also be irritating to skin and mucus membranes (eyes, nose).  Pepper plants will continue to flower and produce new fruit as long temperatures are moderately warm. 

Happy Gardening! :)

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