I can’t say that I don’t enjoy having a good part of the world’s knowledge at my finger tips via the internet. It’s great to be able to research something from the comfort of your home at almost anytime day or night.
But I think we’ll all agree it can at times be information-overload.
If you’re new to a subject, you’ll interpret the information you find totally different than a person having lots of hands-on experience. Like most things in life — the more you already know — the better you can sift through the information to choose what’s valuable and what’s not; what’s true and what’s not.
I can’t help but feel fortunate about NOT having had the internet when I first started gardening 34 years ago. I’m convinced that if it had been available it would have taken me much longer to be successful in gardening.
As it was —- I was hungry and wanted to eat. So I gardened and ate. Pretty simple.
To further make my point, I’ll use peppers as an example. If you’ve read my other two posts on peppers (post one, two) you know my history with peppers.
I’ve always had peppers and plan to have a lot more this year. But had I read — as a new gardener — all the information available online about peppers — I think I would have been convinced that they’d be too difficult to grow.
According to everything I’ve read, peppers need just about everything I could never give them. Boy! I’m sure glad my peppers didn’t know.
Below I’ll address some of the concerns folks have and then give my approach to handling it:
- Peppers are said to require moist soil continually. I’m not set up to water and never have been. I mulch heavily to try to conserve as much moisture in the soil as possible.
- Peppers are said to need certain kinds of fertilizer. I try to add as much organic matter to my garden beds as I can in the form of leaves and straw. And cover crops whenever possible. (For years I didn’t grow cover crops.)
- Peppers are known to thrive in a temperature band of 60 to 85 degrees. In the summer they spend a lot of time in my garden in a band of 85 to 100 degrees.
- They’re very cold sensitive. But in the fall when temperatures fall below 60 regularly, they are usually still giving me peppers up to and sometimes past the first frost.
- Another “fact” that many gardeners hold dear is that when two seedlings come up together, you should cut one off and allow the other to grow strong.
Last year my friend who is so good with peppers, brought me several of his 3 inch sheepnose seedlings that he had no room for. In one pot two seeds had germinated right next to each other and were entwined. It was either cut one off at the base (as would be the popular choice) or plant them together and see what happens.
I planted them together and they grew to almost 6 feet tall and about 3 feet wide — taller than any of my other peppers. They gave me dozens and dozens of peppers and were by far one of the most beautiful sites in my garden. When seeing it, some visitors to my garden wanted to know what kind of tree it was. 🙂
Obviously, the outcome was dependent on other circumstances — not just the two peppers growing together.
- Another very popular “fact” about peppers is that the seedlings will become stunted and never recover if the soil or the air temperature is much below 55 degrees. I’m sure for the most part that must be true, but I have to tell you I can’t help but laugh when I think of what I experienced with peppers seedlings last year.
I started my pepper seeds at the end of February. Way too early! It stayed cold through May and hot weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant didn’t care for that. Temperatures were below 55 degrees much of the spring.
I kept the flat inside until the peppers germinated. Since I don’t have room or enough light for them— I put them outside under a cold frame the day after they broke the soil. They were about an inch (certainly no more than 1 1/2 inches) and they stayed that height through May even though I transplanted some to their own little pots.
My friend and his wife came over about mid May to bring the pepper seedlings I mentioned previously. I showed them my little tiny seedlings. Well, his wife just burst out laughing. He — not believing that I planted these pitiful little seedlings in February — said, “But you just planted those, right?” I said. “Nope — they’ve been just like that since February!”
He didn’t say but I knew he was thinking it was good he brought me a few peppers because I’m sure he was convinced that I’d never get peppers from those tiny seedlings that had been stunted for 3 months.
Surprisingly, all grew to at least 3 feet and several reached 4 and 5 feet. The plants were loaded with peppers all during the growing season until after the second frost.
You can be successful with peppers or just about any vegetable that is known to grow in your area, if you follow basic garden principles. Prepare the soil deeply, add lots of organic matter and mulch. This will make healthy soil and if you have that — nature will balance the natural occurrences in your garden and your garden will thrive.
There are so many variables from season to season and garden to garden. Nothing is ever the same. And obviously there will be times that somehow the stars align perfectly for conditions that peppers (or any other vegetable) love. Then they will thrive even more. Reality is that you’ll have excellent years, and sometimes you’ll have less than excellent years. That’s just the way of things.
Peppers seem to already know this and most of the time are perfectly willing to sit and wait for the right conditions. So when you read all the stuff that’s out there about peppers or any other vegetable —- just remember — it ain’t necessarily so.
Peppers – Almost An Extra Month of Red Ones
Peppers – Can’t Get Sweet Red Ones? Here’s How.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and it’s a lot healthier.
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Theresa, I just read this post and your two previous ones on peppers. Thank you for the encouragement!
I started seven different kinds of bell pepper seeds four weeks ago in flats according to wintersown guidelines, which have served me well in the past with starting many different kinds of seeds (I’m in zone 7). I planted about 10 different varieties of tomato seeds at the same time under the same conditions. The tomato seeds all came up and are now sprouting true leaves. Finally today ONE pepper seed looks like it’s going to emerge!
I plan to replant more pepper seeds, keep them indoors under fluorescents, put them on my heat mat, cross my fingers, and be ready to buy bell plants at my local nursery in a few weeks if necessary!
I guess the moral for gardeners is “Live and learn!”
Thanks for all your information!
Sue, peppers for me have always taken much longer to germinate than tomatoes. You’ve got plenty of time to plant more pepper seeds! Yes, they take a while to germinate and they take longer to bush out than tomato seedlings — but you still have time.
I agree that the wintersown method is an excellent way to start seed —- especially when you’re like me without a lot of room inside for seed starting.
I started many peppers this year. It seemed that one would always emerge first. Then I’d wait several days — sometimes a week for the others to germinate.
If you end up buying those bell pepper starts at the nursery (that always seem to “look” so good) — take close note through the season. I’ll bet your own seedlings will outperform those you buy even though you think the nursery ones look better to begin with. I’d like to hear the “rest of the story” in due time.
So glad you found the pepper posts encouraging. Marketing has us all brainwashed to one degree or another. Makes us think those plants should hop out of the soil on our schedule and bush out immediately. It’s always good to hear experiences of others that remind us that’s not how things always are. 🙂
Good hearing from you Sue. Thanks for commenting.
Thank you Theresa – even if we are not doing everything exactly as we are told we should – we can still grow and eat!
Regarding information online, that’s why I’m a reader here – no “overwhelm” just practical advice – that works.
You said it well Sandra! And there is always someone who will say it can’t be done — but as you know — it can be! As you said — “we can still grow and eat” no matter the hype.
Glad you are benefiting from TMG. Makes me happy!
Hi Theresa. I’m not sure of the best place to post this, but I’m wondering if you do anything when it gets super hot to prevent blossom drop on your peppers. Last summer I hardly got any peppers due to this. Thanks!
When the weather is extremely hot — like last year or the year before — there is not much we can do to prevent blossom drop. Also – as I’ve mentioned in various posts blossoms don’t pollinate when it’s way up in the 90s. We just have to wait until things cool a bit and then the plants will pollinate and make fruit.
The plant seems to know when to do what and how much it can handle. The blossom drop can be protective —- in otherwords — the plant doesn’t take on so much that it will be further stressed. (Boy — we gardeners could take a lesson from those plants. 🙂 )
Peppers are survivors. They’ll wait until conditions are right and then do their stuff.
Of course, I am assuming that all other conditions are right. Good air circulation, high organic matter in the soil, heavily mulched soil (or the ability to water when it’s dry) — all those thing are important.
One suggestion — when you plan for your peppers — try to place some in areas of your garden that get shade in late afternoon. I place mine in various spots because you never know where they’ll do their best. Just a few feet —- or shade in the late afternoon could make a difference.
Hope you’ll get lots of peppers this year! Let me know.
Why do peppers thrive so well in New Mexico?
I guess they didn’t read the internet? The only thing I do is weed. I am in the city with very limited ability to obtain straw for a mulch
Thank you so much for this article and experience, I needed to read it this year.
Glad I could help Carlos! Thanks for letting me know.