Grow Organic Peppers:
Add Some Heat (and Sweet) to Your Organic Vegetable Garden!

Organic Hot Peppers Organic Hot Peppers
Good Varieties to Try in Your Garden

1. Purple Beauty--A Prolific bearer of small bell peppers that start out green and turn purple as they ripen.

2. Big Bertha-- The name says it all. If you want a really huge pepper, try this one!

3. Jimmy Nardello-- If you want real Italian style frying peppers, Jimmy's got you covered!

4. Fish--These gorgeous and unusual hot peppers are unique, delicious and pretty enough         to be used as ornamental plants.

5. Fooled you-A jalapeno that isn't hot. It's just right for folks who want salsa with all the flavor and none of the bite!

During the dog days of summer, you may grumble about the heat and stay holed up inside with the air conditioning. Out in the garden, your peppers will be hard at work, enjoying every bit of sweltering summer weather. Peppers are among the most heat-loving of warm season garden plants. They grow like gangbusters in organic gardens all across the Southern US and, with a little planning and coaxing, can do the same up North.

There are several different types of peppers to choose from when you're planning your organic vegetable garden: Bell peppers, sweet frying peppers and hot peppers. In each of these broad categories of pepper plants, there is a variety of pepper types to choose from. For example, if you want a hot pepper, do you want a fairly mild one, or a burning hot one? Are you going to roast, dry or pickle it? Once you know how you want to use your peppers, select a variety that is suited for that use.

Since you'll be growing your peppers organically, it will also be helpful to select a variety that is disease resistant. If you live in the North, you'll want to pay special attention to the length of time it will take for your peppers to mature. Some varieties take up to 100 days (from the time they are transplanted into the garden, not the time the seed was sown to create the transplant) to become red ripe. That's longer than the frost-free season for some Northern areas. Fortunately, there are some shorter season pepper varieties such as Yankee Bell, Carmen, Paprika Supreme and Red Knight which do very well up North.

In late spring or early summer, after the risk of frost has passed, transplant your pepper plants into well-drained soil in a sunny garden location. Plant them about 18'' apart in rows about 24'' apart. In order to fend off weeds, mulch your plants with hay, leaves, newspaper or any other organic mulch that works for you. My favorite mulching material is hay (not straw) because it is long lasting yet doesn't "tie up" your plant's nitrogen supply as it decomposes. It also does a good job of enriching your vegetable garden's soil.

While your peppers are growing, protect them from bacterial rot and blossom end rot by using drip irrigation regularly in moderate amounts. Sunburn (yes vegetables sunburn too) may become a problem if your plants have sparse foliage. Growing your plants in a fertile soil and/or with plenty of compost should help them leaf up. Barring that, there is an organic spray called Surround that you can spray on the fruits to help protect them. Surround is made from clay and will wash right off the peppers when they are ready to eat. You can also shade your pepper plants with patio umbrellas or anything else you have available in order to protect them from the sun.

Peppers are delicious raw, roasted, grilled or pickled and are a lively and nutritious addition to any meal. Plus, by growing peppers in your organic garden, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that, no matter how hot it gets, your plants are hard at work, even as you're enjoying that ice cold air conditioning!

For More Information:

This guy loves peppers! Check out his site for pepper facts, recipes and links.

Good advice about growing, harvesting, cooking and preserving peppers

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Tammy Biondi has been growing organic produce for over 10 years. Besides running Blue Horizon Farm, Tammy teaches about sustainable farming at the Central Carolina Community College. She also is a successful freelance writer, focusing on agricultural topics. Contact her at tammy@bluehorizonfarm.com.