February 26, 2011

The Essential, Edible Eggplant - This Versatile Veggie Tastes as Good as it Looks!


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Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that's an essential ingredient in dishes from around the world! It's naturally low in calories, fat, and sodium, yet high in fiber and loads of other vitamins and nutrients, and it comes in a number of varieties that are just as beautiful as they are tasty! There is a wide selection sure to provide something for everyone. If you're not already a fan of the excellent, edible Eggplant, you soon will be!

Choosing A Variety
When choosing which Eggplant to grow, you have a lovely variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to pick from! The basic types are globe-shaped, elongated and cylindrical, and egg-shaped, with the possible colors for the fruit including white, purple, rose, green, black, yellow, orange, or red, and solid or striped. The most common type found in North America is the Western or oval eggplant. Its large deep purple fruit is used for stuffing, baking, sautéing, and grilling.

When To Start
Eggplants are best started inside approximately 6 weeks before the last frost or about 8 weeks before you expect the outside temperatures to remain above 60°F at night. They can be sown outdoors only in climates with very long growing seasons, when the soil is warm and all danger of frost is past.

How To Start
You can start with seed starting pot-packs, pots, or a good seed starting mix to sow your eggplant seeds. And you have several options, depending on how many eggplants you want to grow.


Place your pots or flats in a 70-75°F room, or you can use a seedling heat mat to raise the temperature. You should see the first sprouts in about 10 to 15 days and fruit should appear in 45 to 90 days from sowing, depending on the variety. As soon as your sprouts are up, place the seedlings under strong light.

If you're using a potting mix, plant at a depth of 4 times the size of the seed (below a ¼ inch of soil). You can use Jiffy Pots and Strips - Jiffy Pots are constructed of lightweight, biodegradable peat moss, so as the roots develop, they will grow right through the Jiffy Pot walls and into the garden soil.

Using fluorescent light for around 14 to 16 hours a day is also ideal for the fastest growth. You will want to keep the seedlings just a few inches below the light so they don't "stretch" and get "leggy". If you don't have strong artificial light, a sunny window will work, too.

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Planting Out
About 2 weeks before your transplant date work the garden soil thoroughly. Eggplants like a rich, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter so add compost or manure before planting. You can also work in a time-released fertilizer, which can be reapplied every 4 to 6 weeks. Then cover the soil with a tarp or plastic mulch to keep the weeds from sprouting until you're ready to plant. The use of mulch or a pop-up cold frame will also warm the soil, an important step before planting your young Eggplants.

Three to five days before transplanting, you'll need to start "hardening off" your young plants by setting them outdoors in a lightly shaded area for an hour or two. The next day, give them a longer visit outside until they remain outdoors overnight, still in their pots. Naturally, if a cold spell hits, bring them indoors again to wait for the temperature to rise.

Your plants are ready to be transplanted when they have at least two sets of true leaves. Plant them 1 ½ to 2 feet apart in rows that are 2 ½ to 3 feet apart. Site them in full sun in well-drained soil, where they will receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Water well and mulch to conserve moisture. If you're growing the plants in straight rows, plastic mulch is far easier and effective than loose mulch.

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Special Considerations
Eggplants dislike root disturbance, so transplant carefully.

Eggplants are very sensitive to extreme cold, so after you've planted your seedlings, if there's a chance of a really cold or frosty night, securely cover them with a plastic bucket, plastic bag, or row cover.

Unless you have no other choice, don't plant your Eggplants in the same place you planted Tomatoes, Eggplants, or Peppers the year before. These veggies all belong to the same plant family and therefore have similar nutritional needs and are susceptible to similar diseases. Their presence can deplete the soil of important nutrients and possibly leave remnants of diseases in leaf litter the following year.

Some varieties of Eggplants have spines, so be careful when harvesting the fruit.

Growing Tips
    * Use a row cover to reduce insect damage.
    * Encourage the presence of ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficial insects in your garden. These "good" insects prey on aphids and other destructive insects.
    * Use cages or supports to keep fruit-laden plants from falling over.    
    * The mature size of each plant will determine how much space you need to provide. For standard-size varieties, allow 18 to 24 inches between plants. Smaller types can be placed closer together, perhaps 12 to 18 inches apart.    
    * In order to remain productive, Eggplants need about 1 inch of water per week. A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch will help retain moisture as well as offer weed control.
   * If the nights become cool once your Eggplants have been planted in the garden, you can protect them with row covers or a tarp. Be careful, however, not to lay the tarp directly on the plants. You will need to use blocks, sticks, or whatever you have available to form a tent over your tender young Eggplants. You can remove it during the day and replace it at night, or leave it in place for several days and nights without damage to the plants.  
    * Growing Eggplants in containers adds beauty to decks and patios as well as offers a solution if you have limited gardening space or if you simply want delicious veggies within easy reach. You can grow dwarf varieties in an 8-inch pot or a deep window box. Larger Eggplants will need a 12-inch pot or 5-gallon container to allow for root development. Only use containers with drainage for excess water, and choose a potting mix designed for container gardening. Water as needed, especially during the heat of summer and as fruit begins to form on the plants.
    * Harvest fruits regularly to keep the plants producing. Don't pull them off, but rather cut them off cleanly - pulling the fruit off may damage the stems. If a stem does get broken, use a knife or cutter to remove it cleanly. Eggplant fruit is best used fresh but will keep for about a week if it's loosely wrapped in a perforated plastic bag and stored in your refrigerator's crisper or a cool pantry.

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Pests And Problems To Watch For
    * Flea beetles, so named for their tendency to jump when disturbed, love Eggplants. They produce a characteristic injury to leaves known as "shot-holing." Young plants and seedlings are particularly susceptible to this damage. You can use Sevin Dust or organic Neem oil to control them.
    * Aphids are often found on the underside of leaves and on stems and young buds. You can wash them off with a strong stream of water or use an insecticidal soap (be sure to follow the label instructions). Check the plants regularly, as aphids can be a recurring problem.
    * Mites are extremely small and often not noticed until the damage has been done. A fine webbing on the underside of the leaves may indicate their presence. They thrive under hot, dry conditions, injuring the plants by sucking out the juices, which causes the leaves to discolor and yellow. Mites can be controlled by washing the plants with water every day for about a week or by applying an insecticidal soap to the underside and top of the leaves.  
    * Verticillium wilt can affect Eggplants, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Potatoes. A soil-borne fungus that makes the plants wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die causes this disease. Rotating these plants to different areas of the garden every year can prevent this problem.

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Garden Geek
The Nightshade Family - Friend or Foe?
Did you know that the Petunia and the Eggplant are cousins? Incredible as it seems, both are members of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade, family. And if the word "Nightshade" makes you think "Deadly," you're right - many members of this family are highly toxic. Yet others, such as Eggplant, Tomato, and Pepper are deliciously edible!

If you look closely, all of the Nightshades really do look similar. Their flowers are funnel-shaped and 5 petals, usually connected. The leaves are hairy or clammy. And the fruit is either a berry (such as the tomato) or a capsule that breaks open when dry, releasing round, flat, tiny seeds.

So from fragrant Flowering Tobacco to delectable Paprika, the Nightshades bring us beauty and spice. They aren't all deadly, and several are among our most popular garden vegetables!

February 22, 2011

Garden Weed: Hairy bittercress

picture of HAIRY BITTERCRESS
Cardamine hirsuta


Other Names: Small Bittercress, Common Bittercress, Hoary Bittercress, Popping Cress, Pennsylvania Bittercress, Jumping Jesus, Flick Weed


IDENTIFICATIONStrolling through your garden in early spring, you spot a small, bright green mound, usually less than 6 in. tall. It’s up, and sometimes even flowering, with the daffodils. You’ve just discovered hairy bittercress, an annual weed that’s found throughout much of the United States and into Canada.

The leaves are small and rounded. Tiny white, four-petaled flowers bloom in early spring. However, in a cool, moist spot, you may find flowers blooming at any time of the year. Seed pods are narrow spikes that point straight up. When they’re dry, they spring open to eject the seeds.

FAVORITE CONDITIONS — Often hairy bittercress comes into a garden with new plants from a greenhouse or nursery, where it’s a common pest. It’ll grow just fine in sun or shade, moist or dry soil, and given time, will spread around your flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.

CONTROL — In moist soil you’ll find hairy bittercress has a taproot, but in dry conditions the roots tend to be more branched. Either way it’s easy to pull. Or if you cut it off with a hoe it won’t resprout. There’s really no need to use a herbicide unless you’re dealing with a very large stand of this pest.

February 19, 2011

Enjoy Healthier, Tastier Tomatoes

Tomato Heirloom Rainbow Blend
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Choosing A Variety:
The variety of tomato you decide to grow depends on where you live. If your growing season is short, as it is in the far north, you will want to choose an early variety to ensure yourself the best harvest. Early season tomatoes ripen quickly, typically being ready to pick within 4 months of sowing the seeds.

If you live in the deep south or another warm-climate area with humid summer nights, you'll want to grow varieties that are heat tolerant and resistant to blossom drop. Whatever your location, you'll need to grow your plants where they can receive at least 6 hours of full sunlight a day.

You will also need to consider when you want to harvest - all at once or gradually over the season. If you enjoy canning the fruit, a determinate variety is your best choice. These plants grow as a 3- to 4-foot-tall bush and set all their fruit within a few weeks. If you want to enjoy your tomatoes throughout the season, choose an indeterminate variety, which grows as a vine and needs staking. And for a little of both, consider the new semi-determinate varieties. These plants stay small enough to grow in containers, yet keep bearing all season long!

When To Start:
Tomatoes are best started indoors. This needs to be done 5 to 7 weeks before the last anticipated frost date. The seedlings can then be transplanted into your garden anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks after the last actual frost date. You can check with your County Extension Office to get frost information for your area.

How To Start:
You can start with seed starting pot-packs, pots, or a good seed starting mix to sow your tomato seeds. And you have several options, depending on how many tomatoes you want to grow.


Place your pots or flats in a 70-75°F room, or you can use a seedling heat mat to raise the temperature. You should see the first sprouts in 3 to 8 days. As soon as your sprouts are up, place the seedlings under strong light.

If you're using a potting mix, sow at a depth of 4 times the size of the seed. You can also use Jiffy Pots and Strips - Jiffy Pots are constructed entirely of lightweight, sturdy peat moss, so as the roots develop, they eventually grow right through the Jiffy Pot wall and into the garden soil!

Provide good lighting - for around 14 to 16 hours a day. You can use florescent lighting which is ideal for fastest growth. Keep your seedlings just a few inches below the light so they don't "stretch" and get "leggy." If you don't have strong artificial light, a sunny window will work, too.

Tomato, Burpee's Burger Hybrid
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Planting Out:
About 2 weeks before your transplant date, work the garden soil thoroughly, adding generous amounts of compost and about 4 pounds of fertilizer (5-10-10 is ideal) for every 100 square feet. Then cover the soil with a tarp or plastic mulch to keep the weeds from sprouting until you're ready to plant.

About ten days before transplanting, you'll need to start "hardening off" your young plants by setting them outdoors in a lightly shaded area for an hour or two. The next day, give them a longer visit outside until they remain outdoors overnight, still in their pots. Naturally, if a cold spell hits, bring them indoors again to wait for the temperature to rise.

When planting, bury the stem almost up to the lowest set of leaves, even if this means covering up several extra inches. If your plants have a long, tall, spindly stem with leaves widely spaced, you can plant them horizontally in the ground right up to the first set of leaves - the plant will root all along its stem. Just dig a long trench a few inches below the soil, lay the plant carefully into it as if you're burying it, and then gently angle the stem upwards, so that the only part showing is the very top, with at least 4 to 6 leaves aboveground. Strip the underground leaves off the plant and cover up the entire length of "leggy" stem. Be careful not to bend the stem so sharply that it breaks - bank it with soil and pat the earth down firmly around it.

As soon as your Tomatoes are in the ground, mulch heavily around the plants to keep weeds down and moisture in the soil. If you're growing the plants in straight rows, plastic mulch is far easier and effective than loose mulch (such as straw or pine bark).

The amount of space you need to keep between Tomato plants depends on the type you're growing:
Determinate and compact indeterminate - 2 feet apart
Indeterminate grown on stakes - 18 inches apart
Indeterminate grown in cages - 3 feet apart
Container varieties - 2-gallon pot or larger

Tomato, Orange Wellington
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Special Considerations:
If you can keep from doing so, don't plant your tomatoes where peppers, eggplants, or Tomatoes were planted the previous year. These veggies all belong to the same plant family and therefore have similar nutritional needs and are susceptible to similar diseases. Their presence one year can deplete soil of important nutrients and possibly leave remnants of diseases in leaf litter.

Do not over-fertilize your tomatoes, as this can make the plants less likely to flower. Your best bet is to use a formulation created specifically for tomatoes.

Growing Tips:
    * 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 tomatoes, or if you live in a short-season climate where late frosts are just part of spring, there are ways to keep your tomatoes going. One way is to place a tarp over the plants, weighing 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 tomatoes. 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. However, be careful not to cook your plants if you leave it on too long during sunny days - some air flow is important to prevent this.

     * Once the fruit sets, be sure to keep the plants evenly watered until they're nearly ripe. The rule of thumb is an inch and a half a week, but if you begin the season watering more heavily, keep up the same rate. Just before the fruit ripens, taper off a bit. This will make the flavor meatier and less watery.
    
    * Pick your tomatoes when they are full, red, and firm. Eat them fresh off the vine or store them at about 60°F. If you find yourself frantically picking the last several dozen while they're still green (to avoid an early autumn frost, for example), wrap them loosely in newspaper or a brown paper bag and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Or count your blessings and fry them up at once!

Tomato, Early Girl Hybrid
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Pests And Problems To Watch For:
Nematodes live in the soil and destroy tomato plants from the roots. You can use chemicals to control these pests, but the easiest and most beautiful way to kill them is to plant marigolds along with your tomatoes. This lovely annual naturally eliminates these destructive parasites.

Cutworms are caterpillars that chew through the stems of tomato plants. They can be conquered by putting a Cutworm Shield around each plant at transplant time, or you can make your own from coffee cans, plastic drink bottles with both ends cut out, or cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Sink the shield at least an inch beneath the soil as well as several inches above it.

Pests or diseases can cause holes or spots on your leaves. The most likely pest culprit is the hornworm, which you can hand pick off your plants and dispose of as you see fit.

Blossom drop occurs when you have lots of flowers but no fruit. Anything from high humidity to unseasonable cold could cause this to happen. The plants must be pollinated to set fruit - you can help get the pollen up and moving by shaking the plant to loosen it up a bit.

If your tomatoes have a mark or dark scar at one end, that's Blossom-end Rot, and it's probably caused by a calcium deficiency or a sudden change in temperature during fruit set. All you need to do is cut off the affected part and enjoy the rest of the tomato. If it's marked all over, that's called Cat-facing, and it's probably a result of transplanting too early, insufficient water, or unusually high temperatures. Again, just cut away the scarred area.

Garden Geek
Fruit or Vegetable?
The definitions of "fruit" and "vegetable" are as numerous as the people writing them, but generally speaking, a fruit is the fleshy seed-bearing part of a flowering plant. By this definition, Tomato is a fruit, as are Squashes, Eggplants, and  Cucumbers.
The trouble comes in when we stop thinking botanically and start thinking practically. In cooking, Tomatoes, Squash, and Cucumbers are considered  vegetables, because they aren't as sweet as we expect "fruit" to be. Legally, according to an 1893 U.S. Supreme Court declaration, Tomato is classified as a vegetable because that is how it is used in cooking. (The legal case arose based on differing tariffs applied to fruits and vegetables.)
Perhaps Arkansas solved the problem best by declaring the Tomato to be both its state fruit and its state vegetable!

February 15, 2011

Building A Better Tomato

    Building a better tomato - Image
USDA Economic Research Service estimates that 20% of tomatoes are lost to spoilage. USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Purdue Univ. scientists are looking to create a better tasting and more nutritious tomato that lasts longer.

Researchers are working to manipulate the amount of nitrogen-based organic compounds called polyamines that play a role in the tomato plant’s growth, flowering, fruit development, ripening and other functions. Polyamines have also been associated with the production of lycopene and other nutrients that are beneficial against certain cancers and other diseases.

By introducing a yeast gene into tomato plants, the scientists were able to increase the production of the polyamine spermadine, which resulted in more vegetative growth and extended the fruit shelf life. Fruit shriveling was also delayed by up to 3 weeks and there was a slower rate of decay caused by disease. The fruit were found to have higher levels of lycopene. Results of the research are in The Plant Journal.

Pictured: USDA-Agricultural Research Service plant physiologist Autar Mattoo (center) discusses the improved features of a genetically-modified tomato line to postdoctoral fellow Vijaya Shukla (left) and biological technician Joseph Sherren.
Photo by Steve Ausmus

The Garden Consumer, Version 2011














     








February 13, 2011

Pick A Peck of Peppers!


From sweet to spicy to downright sizzling, there's a perfect Pepper for everyone! Whether you're wanting a fresh and colorful garnish for your salads or you need to spice up those Mexican and Oriental dishes or you're simply looking for a tasty and nutritious snack food, Peppers are happy to provide. Keep reading and learn just what you need to know to grow the biggest and most delicious harvest of Peppers you've ever had! And if you've never attempted to grow these versatile veggies before, now is the time!



Choosing a variety:
When deciding what type of Peppers you want to grow, you will need to consider size, flavor, and color. In the category of sweet or salad Peppers, your choices include bell and pimento as well as some banana and cherry varieties. If heat is what you want, you can grow Habañero, Jalapeño, Anaheim, or Hungarian Peppers. Sweet and hot Peppers come in a rainbow of beautiful colors — green, yellow, red, orange, and even purple. So not only are they delicious, they make great eye-candy!

When to start:
It's best to start your Peppers inside about 8 weeks before the last frost and at a temperature of 75-80 degrees F. They can be sown outdoors in early summer when the soil remains above 65 degrees F, but indoor germination is recommended.

How to start:

Garden Geek
What makes peppers hot?
The heat comes from a chemical compound called capsaicin. It is the pepper plant's best defense against mammals who would eat its foliage.



Capsaicin is created in the white pith of the chili pepper (not in the seeds, as many people think), and it works by stimulating nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. Birds are not affected by the heat, which makes them perfect for dispersing the seed in the wild. They swallow pepper seeds without destroying them, and disperse the seeds later, wherever they happen to be — which means that pepper seeds can often "travel" great distances from their parent plants!
Beginning with seed starting pot-packs this is a great way to sow your Pepper seeds. And you have several options, depending on how many Peppers you want to grow.  From 18-cell trays - which grows big, stocky seedlings ready to transplant right into your garden - to 72-cell trays for those who have longer growing seasons and just want to get a jump start with their peppers.


If you're using a potting mix, plant at a depth of 4 times the size of the seed (below a ¼ inch of soil). You can also use Jiffy Pots and Strips — Jiffy Pots are constructed of lightweight, biodegradable peat moss, so as the roots develop, they will grow right through the Jiffy Pot walls and into the garden soil.


If the room where you have your seeds isn't at least 70 degrees F, you can use a seedling heat mat to raise the temperature. As the first leaves appear, however, lower the temperature a bit, to 70-75 degrees F.


Fluorescent light for around 14 to 16 hours a day is also ideal for the fastest growth. You will want to keep the seedlings just a few inches below the light so they don't "stretch" and get "leggy". If you don't have strong artificial light, a sunny window will work, too.

Germination should occur in 10-15 days and fruit should appear in 50-80 days from sowing, depending on the variety.


Planting out:
About 2 weeks before your transplant date work the garden soil thoroughly, adding compost and fertilizer (use a 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer, before planting and again after 6 weeks). Then cover the soil with a tarp or plastic mulch to keep the weeds from sprouting until you're ready to plant. The use of mulch or a pop-up cold frame will also warm the soil, an important step before planting your young Peppers.

About ten days before transplanting, you'll need to start "hardening off" your young plants by setting them outdoors in a lightly shaded area for an hour or two. The next day, give them a longer visit outside until they remain outdoors overnight, still in their pots. Naturally, if a cold spell hits, bring them indoors again to wait for the temperature to rise.

Your plants are ready to be transplanted when they've developed their third set of true leaves. Plant them out 2-3 weeks after the last frost, placing them 1 foot apart in rows that are 30-36 inches apart — Pepper plants do well close together. Site them in full sun in a rich, well-drained soil. Water well and mulch to conserve moisture. If you're growing the plants in straight rows, plastic mulch is far easier and effective than loose mulch (such as straw or pine bark).


Many varieties of pepper can be grown in containers! Be sure not to set them out until several weeks after last scheduled frost, and protect them by moving the container to a frost-free location if cold weather is anticipated. Mulch them in well, and provide support if needed. Many peppers are quite ornamental, and make splendid additions to the patio, porch, or balcony.


Special considerations:
Seeds germinate faster at temperatures above 80 degrees F, although fruit set benefits from the cooler nights of late summer.

Peppers are very sensitive to extreme cold, so after you've planted your seedlings, if there's a chance of a really cold or frosty night, securely cover them with a plastic bucket or plastic bag.

Unless you have no other choice, don't plant your Peppers in the same place you planted Tomatoes, Eggplant, or Peppers the year before. These veggies all belong to the same plant family and therefore have similar nutritional needs and are susceptible to similar diseases. Their presence can deplete the soil of important nutrients and possibly leave remnants of diseases in leaf litter the following year. Of course, if you aren't sure what kind of soil you've got, you can always analyze it with a soil test kit.



Growing tips:
  • 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. However, be aware that as the days get longer and warmer, if you're not careful in removing the tarp or plastic soon enough on sunny days, you risk sunburning or cooking your plants if they don't receive sufficient airflow.
     
  • 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. Especially 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.

Pests and problems to watch for:
The most common pests you'll find on your Peppers are spider mites and aphids, with an occasional borer. You can get rid of them with the use of an organic insecticide or dust. Onions will also help repel aphids.

As far as diseases go, Peppers tend to be susceptible to the same problems as Tomatoes. They can also get fungal infections, which can be treated with a fungicide. Treat your plants as soon as you see a problem.

High temperatures and low humidity can cause Pepper plants to lose their blossoms. In turn, cool weather can keep them from flowering. Deep cultivation can also cause blossoms to drop, as it can induce water stress if feeder roots are cut.