9) Growing sweet peppers

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In this tip:

  • Sowing date and storage
  • A)# Sowing and germinating
  • B)# Transplanting
  • C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer
  • D)# Plants outdoors, in the garden, planting out
  • E)# In a mortar bucket
  • E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers
  • F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers
  • G)# Removal (breaking off) of first flowers or flowerbuds
  • H)# Aphids
  • I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse
  • J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.
  • K)# Small and big bell peppers
  • L)# Small snails on sweet peppers
  • M)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)

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Sowing date and storage

Sweet peppers are sown in early March (late winter, early spring).

But you better sow some earlier (my experience of 2013 with a cold cloudy spring). When you sow in January or February (mid to late winter), you can have sweet pepper plants of 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) high, in April (mid spring). Further in this tip you can read how you can take the plants with big root balls out of flower pots and put them in a box in a layer of compost.

And you can store and ripen the peppers in a tray on 3 or 4 lays of kitchen paper. On the tray is plastic foil with a small air opening. More info in chapter J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.

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A)# Sowing and germinating.

You can sow sweet peppers in a small (250 grams) plastic margarine box with sieved potting soil. You can sieve potting soil through the bottom holes of a plastic flower pot.

  • Fill a plastic box with sieved potting soil.
  • Flatten the top side of the potting soil.

  • Use an other margarine box to press on the potting soil.

  • Spray cold tap water on the potting soil.

  • Lay dry pepper seeds (uniformly distributed) on the potting soil.

  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sieved potting soil.

  • Put the original lid (or another well fitting lid) loose on the margarine box with potting soil. Or click the lid on the box at 1 short side.
  • In this way you make narrow air openings between box and lid.
  • The seeds get fresh air but the soil does not dry out so fast.

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  • Put the margarine box with lid indoors on a warm place. For example on a central heating unit or above a radiator. Sweet peppers germinate well at a temperature between 20 and 25 C (68 to 77 F). After 7 to 14 days, first pepper plants are above the soil.
  • Regularly remove the lid to check the germination;
    • Are there 1 or more pepper plants visible (above the soil)? Then put the box without lid on a light spot. See also chapter A6).
    • When you see small water drops hanging at the lower side of the lid, the sowing soil is moist enough. See also A5) Lids.
    • When needed (no drops) spray some cold tap water on the soil.
  • Then put the lid on the box again.
  • Put the box with lid on a warm spot again.

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A1) Sowing tip 1: use a mat

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  • Lay a piece of sink mat on the potting soil. Then you can put the seeds on equal distances. More info about this mat in    tip 29    .
  • Drop each seed in a mat hole.
  • After sowing, remove the mat.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting soil.
  • Put a well fitting lid on the box.
  • Etcetera.

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A2) Sowing tip 2: big margarine box

In a big (500 grams) margarine box you can grow more plants: 24 instead of 15.

 

  • Fill an original 500 grams plastic margarine box with sieved potting soil.
  • Spray cold tap water on.
  • Lay a piece of sink mat on the potting soil.
  • Drop each seed in a mat hole.
  • After sowing, remove the mat.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting soil.
  • Put a well fitting lid on the box.
  • Etcetera.

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A3) Sowing tip 3: sow dry seeds

When you sow dry pepper seeds as described above, often one or more seeds do not germinate.

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On the photo above you see small sweet pepper plants in 7 margarine boxes. In each box, 15 sweet pepper seeds have been sown. In some boxes there are 14 pepper plants, in other boxes only 8 or 9 plants.

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In some boxes there are pepper plants with “the first leaves still in the seed”. It is hard to set free these leaves. Most of these plants will die.

When you sow dry seeds in a few boxes with sowing soil, you get dozens of pepper plants. Mostly enough plants for you. When sowing dry seeds in big margarine boxes you get more than enough plants. This procedure works well.

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A4) Germination test

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To find out if pepper seeds will germinate well, you can do a test. Lay sweet pepper seeds in a margarine box on moist toilet paper. Put the original lid (or another well fitting lid) loose on the margarine box. Or click the lid on the box at 1 short side.

  • Put the box with lid indoors on a warm place.
  • Regularly check if the paper is moist. Keep the box (without lid) oblique askew. Check if a little water appears at the lowest corner after a few seconds. When water visible, paper is moist enough. If not, spray some cold tap water on the paper.
  • Check if the seeds germinate; at a germinating seed, a tiny root grows. The photo above shows some germinating pepper seeds.

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A5) Lids

Putting lids under the box when too warm

Sweet pepper seeds germinate well at a temperature between 20 and 25 C (68 to 77 F). When the temperature in the box gets too high, you can put 1 or 2 lids under the margarine box. This lowers the temperature in the box.

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Big lid, small lid on

  • When you don’t have a well fitting lid;
  • You can put on a lid that is “too big” or “too small”. That goes well too. There are narrow air openings and the soil will not dry out so fast. See photo above.
  • When using a small lid on a big box, you better cut the tab of the lid to make it fit better. (you see the cut off tab on front of the right box).

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 Not too dry?

  • The air in the box above the seeds is moist enough when there are small water drops on the lower side of the lid. (The pepper seed on the lid was needed to focus the camera).

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A6) Remove lid

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Remove the top box or the lid as soon as the first plants are visible. You better remove the top box too early than too late. When removing (too) late, you get thin, long, slender plants.

Put the margarine box with small plants before a window in a warm room (temp 20 to 25 C, 68 to 77 F). The plants must grow in full daylight. Then you’ll get firm plants.

On a dark spot, they will grow into thin, long, slender plants.

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On a cool spot before a window you can put the plants in this mini greenhouse. This transparent top is a box of mushrooms. But you can also use a similar transparent plastic box that fits over the margarine box. Take care of a small air opening between the transparent box and the window sill.

At a big margarine box you can put the transparent box on top of the short sides of the margarine box.

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A7) Germinating not covered with soil (very illustrative)

Pepper seeds germinate well when they are not covered with soil. That is not so weird. In free nature, seeds fall on the soil and stay there (and are not covered with a layer of soil or so). Seeds fallen on moist soil, between plants or in the shadow, do not dry out so fast. At a good temperature and with some rain, most seeds germinate. After a short time, many mini plants grow in the soil.

Below there is a description of how to germinate sweet pepper seeds when not covered with soil. Very illustrative and educational. You can lay the seeds on top of the soil or in shallow sowing holes. Seeds in sowing holes do not dry out so fast, I think.

  • You can decide to make shallow sowing holes in the soil.
  • Use a sowing stick to make these holes.
  • The sowing holes are 0.5 to 1 centimeters (1/5 to 2/5 inch) deep.

  • Drop one pepper seed in each mat hole (2 seeds in the 3 middle mat holes). Use tweezers or a slide drop tray.
  • Then remove the mat.

  • Pepper seeds in sowing holes in sieved sowing soil.

  • Put a well fitting lid on the box.
  • Put the whole indoors at a warm spot.

  • After a few days, remove the lid and check if the seeds are germinating.
  • After about 10 days, most seeds have a tiny root.

  • You can cover the germinating seeds with a layer of sieved potting soil. Put a lid on and put it indoors at a warm place.

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  • Or you can put a transparent box over the tray and let the plants grow bigger, not covered with soil.

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B)# Transplanting

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When the sweet pepper plants have 4 or more leaves, you can transplant them.

  • Make a soil mixture for this transplanting; use sieved compost, sieved potting soil or a mixture of sieved compost and sieved potting soil. Mix agricultural lime through the soil mixture, ratio 1 part of lime on 20 parts of mixture. When using agricultural lime, the soil mixture is less acidic. Plants grow better in the mixture then.
  • Use a tea spoon to scoop each small pepper plant with a root ball out of the margarine  box.
  • Put each plant with potting soil in a small flower pot with soil mixture. Plant depth: the 2 lower leaves just above the edge of the flower pot. Plants will take root well and do not topple so easy.
  • Put each flower pot with pepper plant indoors before a window at a warm spot. water plants when needed. Turn the plants when they grow against the window.

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Remark 1 (many leaves, big little plants):

You better transplant the little pepper plants when they have  4 or more leaves. You can easily transplant the pepper plants with a root ball then.

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On the left side photo you see a “big” and a “small” sweet pepper plant after scooping out of the potting soil. The big plant has a root ball hanging on. The small plant has lost its soil.

On the right side photo, the potting soil has been removed from teh roots. The big plant has many small branched roots. The small plant has only a tiny root.

After transplanting, the big plant will grow on better than the small plant. Reasons:

  • A big plant has much original soil hanging at the roots. After transplanting, the plant will grow on easily.
  • At a small plant, the bare root is in fresh, new soil after transplantation. The plant has to get used to the new soil. That takes some extra time.

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Remark 2 (toppling):

It can happen that a pepper plant topples, a few weeks (or so) after transplanting. The plant can “wiggle” right above the top of the planting soil.

Carefully take the pepper plant out of the flower pot (to prevent breaking the stem). Rinse the root ball with water to remove the planting soil from the roots.

The pepper plant can look like this; there is a necking (girdling) in the stem above the roots. This girdling can be caused by “too moist planting soil”. This plant disease is also called   “Damping Off”.  More info about this disease on the internet;    here    and    here   .

Put the plant “some deeper” in dry planting soil in a a flower pot. Add little water during the next weeks. Perhaps the plant goes on growing; the plant of the photo has grown bigger in the summer. The plant was the smallest one of all.

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C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer

When pepper plants are about 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 inch) high, the pots will be too small.

Fill a low tray, or a window box liner (both with holes in the bottom) or a shopping crate with compost or potting soil. Layer thickness about 10 cm (4 inch).

Take each pepper plant out of the flowerpot. Taking out can be done easily according the next procedure;

  • Put the flower pot with pepper plant at an accessable place (where you can easily pick it up and take it in your hand).
  • Spread the fingers of one hand and lay that hand on the top edge of the flower pot (with the plant between 2 fingers).
  • Use your other hand to grab the flower pot.

  • Lift the whole (flower pot with plant) a few inches.
  • Turn the whole, until the plant points down and the bottom of the flower pot is up. The root ball is visible at the bottom holes of the flower pot.
  • During next steps keep the flower pot and the plant in this position.

  • Use a spoon (or a garden shovel or a wooden lath or something like that) to tap the bottom of the flower pot.

  • Tapping makes the root ball loose from the pot, so the root ball drops a few millimeters (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch) downward. After this dropping, the root ball is not visible anymore at the bottom holes in the flower pot.
  • Because the plant is held between 2 fingers of a hand, the plant (and root ball) can not drop.
  • Is the root ball stuck in the flower pot, repeat this tapping until it is loose.

  • Use your “free” hand to lift the flower pot from the root ball.
  • Now you are holding the plant with root ball upside down.
  • Turn the plant with root ball straight; the plant is up, the root ball is pointing down.

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Here a description of planting in a layer of compost (or potting soil);

  • Make a planting hole in the layer of compost or potting soil.
  • You can strew some agricultural lime in the planting hole.
  • Put the root ball of the pepper plant in the planting hole.
  • Shove some compost or potting soil against the root ball and against the stem of the plant.
  • Spray water on the layer of compost or potting soil (around the plants).

Replants the plants far apart, so not to close. The pepper plants can grow big and form large root balls.

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C1) In a shopping crate or a low tray with holes in the bottom

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On the photos above, sweet pepper plants are taken out of flower pots and put in a layer of compost in a shopping crate. Around the stem of some plants, there is a plastic “ring”. Round or triangular (or square) to indicate the colour of the pepper..

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Close-up of a plastic “ring”. It has been cut out of the lid of a margarine box. The ring has a cut to fix or to release it from the stem of the plant.

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Eleven (11) plants in a shopping crate with compost layer in.

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Or 8 plants in compost in a tray with holes in the bottom.

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Or 6 plants in a small basket with compost, also with holes in the bottom.

Put the tray or crate with plants at a warm, light place by day.

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Or put the tray or crate with plants in a greenhouse, when you have one. On this photo you see trays with plants in my “deep greenhouse”.

Water the plants and the compost sufficient. Excess water flows out of the tray or crate via the holes in the bottom.

Do not put the plants in the full sunshine for a long time. Put the tray (temporary) in the shadow. Or put a white sheet over the greenhouse.

Put the crate or tray with plants indoors during the nights or at cold days. By putting the plants outdoors and indoors, the plants can get used to the low outdoor temperatures.

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C2) In a window box liner with compost, under a tunnel of transparent corrugated plate

When you have a tunnel greenhouse made of transparent corrugated plate, you can put sweet pepper plants under it. More info about this tunnel greenhouse in tip 13.

Take the pepper plants out of the flower pots. Put the plants (with a big root ball) in a window box liner filled with compost. In a box liner of 80 cm (2 ft 8 inch) you can put 8 plants.

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Dig a furrow in the garden soil and put the window box liner with plants in the furrow. The top of the liner is at the same level as the garden soil. The plants in the liner can grow until a heighth of 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) before touching the top of the tunnel.

You can put a window box liner with tomato plants next to it in the furrow. And/or small bean plants in flower pots in the garden soil. See photo above.

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Put the tunnel of transparent corrugated plate over the plants. Close each side of the tunnel with a plate (for example made of plexiglass). To prevent draughts in the tunnel. So no risk of aphids.

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At warm, sunny days put a white sheet at the sunny side of the tunnel. Otherwise temperature in the tunnel gets too high. You can fix the sheet using (bamboo) sticks and clothespins.

At cold weather and during nights, put the box liners with plants indoors.

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A few weeks later, the plant have grown a little. Not much, for sweet peppers grow well at warm sunny days in May (mid spring).

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(At mid may (mid spring), there are no tomato plants under the tunnel anymore. But sweet pepper plants still need a tunnel greenhouse for some weeks. You can use a shorter tunnel over the sweet pepper plants, because there are less plants under it).

After mid May (mid spring), the liner with pepper plants may be put deeper in the garden soil. This must be done when the plants reach (almost) the top of the tunnel.

But you can also put the liner with plants some deeper in the garden soil at the beginning.

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End of May (mid-late spring): window box liner with pepper plants under a short tunnel. This tunnel is still much longer than the box liner. Only at one side of the tunnel there is a plastic plate to overcome draughts. That’s okay.

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The same day, after removal of the tunnel. It is clearly visible that the liner is deeper in the garden soil.

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At the end of May there are big pepper plants in the liner.

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End of May: sweet pepper plants in a compost layer in a shopping crate or in a window box liner. And a tunnel of corrugated plate.

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The sweet pepper plants in the shopping crate grew in my deep greenhouse. The plants in the window box liner grew under the tunnel of corrugated plate.

All pepper plants have approximately the same size.

So both methods are good to grow big pepper plants.

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C3) Big enough for planting in the garden soil

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End of May: many sweet pepper plants in trays. Each plant has its root ball in a thick compost layer.

Plants are big enough to put in the garden soil.

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C4) Green or yellow leaves

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Pepper plants on June 1.

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Plants in green/blue shopping crate have yellow leaves. Other plants have green leaves.

  • The plants with yellow leaves are the “oldest” plants. They have been in my green house since early april. The plants have been there during cold nights.
  • The plants with green leaves are “younger” plants. They were in the greenhouse since late april. The plants have not been in the greenhouse during cold nights.
  • The younger plants are somewhat bigger than the older plants.
  • My experience: The plants with yellow leaves will have a normal green leaves within a few weeks after planting in the garden soil.
  • You better put pepper plants indoors during cold nights or cold days in spring.

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D)# Plants outdoors, in the garden, planting out

Wait until the end of May (end of spring) before putting sweet pepper plants in the garden soil. Peppers need warm weather to grow. Below 20 C (68 F), pepper plants do not grow (fast).

You can put the pepper plants in a greenhouse, under a roof or just outside in your garden.

Outside in an (allotment) garden, many fruits grow on sweet pepper plants. So planting outside in the garden soil is okay when you have a “good” climate.

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Planting in the soil:

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  • Loosen the garden soil.

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  • Dig a hole in the soil. Width and depth about 15 cm (6 inch).
  • Mak a “dam” of garden soil around the hole. For better watering of the plant. Water will not “flow away” from the plant then.

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  • Fill the hole with (self made) compost. Sprinkle some agricultural lime on the compost.

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  • Mix the compost and the agricultural lime with some garden soil. This is a good mixture for pepper plants.

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  • Put the pepper plant (with big root ball) in the mixture in the hole. Press a little on the mixture after planting.

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  • Put a (bamboo) stick next to the plant in the soil.
  • Water the soil with cold water.

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  • Fix the plant to the stick using a strip.

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This photo shows 12 sweet pepper plants in the garden soil.

  • In time the soil around the plants will get more flat. Thanks to the compost, water will fall in the garden soil (and not flow away).
  • The compost in the garden soil holds the water better than garden sand.
  • After some weeks you can put a thin layer of hay or straw around the plants. To keep the soil moist and to have water better dropping in the soil.

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E)# In a mortar bucket

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When little space in your garden, or just for fun, you can use a plastic mortar bucket (65 liters) to put pepper plants in. Drill a few holes in the bottom of the bucket, hole size is about 10 mm (0.4 inch). Put some compost in the bucket, layer thickness 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inch). Put 3 sweet pepper plants in the compost layer.

You can put reflecting foil at the inner side of the bucket as shown on the photo above. But without this foil, the plants will grow well in the bucket. Put the bucket with plants on a sunny spot in your garden.

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E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers

When pepper plants are big and/or heavy fruits are hanging to the branches, it can happen that the plant falls over. Or a branch breaks off. That’s not good.

  • Put bamboo sticks in the compost layer. Use laths and plastic (conduit pipe) clamps to keep the bamboo sticks upright. See tip 2) nr 55.
  • Fix each pepper plant to the bamboo stick using plastic strips. See also tip 2)  nr 10.
  • Use elastic band and clothes pins to support branches with heavy fruits.  See tip 2)  nr 17.

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This photo shows how laths and clamps support bamboo sticks in a mortar bucket.

At the top left side of this photo you see how branches with big fruits are supported by elastic band and clothes pins. This way of supporting works well at plants growing in the garden soil too. But there must be a bamboo stick next to the plant.

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F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers

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In summer you can take seeds out of ripe sweet peppers. Spread the seeds on a piece of kitchen paper in a margarine box. Write info on the paper before laying seeds on. Dry the seeds for 2 weeks. Then you can put a lid or another margarine box on.

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G)# Removal (breaking off) of first flowers or flower buds

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At the end of May (mid spring), sweet pepper plants can have flower buds or flowers already. Click on the photo above for wide screen.

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At each plant you better remove the first 5 to 10 “things” (flower buds or flowers or tiny peppers). After removal of these, the plant can use all sun energy to make new stems and new big leaves. Later on, when the plant is much bigger, you can keep a few buds and flowers at the plant. And you can have 3 to 6 fruits growing on each plant.

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H)# Aphids

Pepper plants can be attacked by aphids.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Pepper plants in trays in my deep greenhouse. (greenhouse opened for this photo)

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Some plants are attacked by aphids (yellow arrow). This is due to draughts (air currents) in the greenhouse. To keep the temperature in the greenhouse low during warm sunny days,, there were 2 (opposite) air openings below the corrugated plates. This caused the draughts (air currents).

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Plants in a mortar bucket or in the garden soil with aphids attack.

Further at chapter H2) No aphids allowed you can read how to prevent the plants from aphids.

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H1) Help against aphids

When plants have aphids you can spray a mixture of dish soap and methylated spirits on the leaves. Or use a small sponge with this mixture to wipe the aphids from the leaves.

But when you “do nothing to this attack”, the pepper plants will grow well in the garden soil within a few weeks after planting. And the aphids will disappear.

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The plants in this mortar bucket look healthy; only a few crinkled leaves visible.

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H2) No aphids allowed

To prevent the small pepper plants from aphids, do not put the plants in a draught.

My experience:

  • I put my little pepper plants in the deep greenhouse with a narrow air opening at one side of the greenhouse. To prevent a draught.
  • At the tunnel of corrugated plate with plants under it, there is a plate at each end of the tunnel.
  • At warm, sunny days I put a white sheet on the transparent plates of the deep greenhouse. And a white sheet at the sunny side of the tunnel greenhouse. To keep a good temperature in the greenhouse.

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I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse

Sweet peppers like warm weather. You can put them in a warm greenhouse.

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You can make this roof (greenhouse). See tip    25) Plastic foil at  ..

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You can put the pepper plants in the open air in your garden (when you live in a good climate).

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Pepper plants in my allotment garden. Click on the photo for wide screen.

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J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers

Green bell peppers are not ripe yet. You can keep the peppers at the plant until they have a “ripe” colour (red, yellow, orange…). But ripening cost much time and much energy of the plant.

You better pick the fruits when they start changing colour from green to red, to orange, to yellow, etcetera. Or when a pepper gets dark green, almost black. Within a few days this pepper starts colouring to the “ripe” colour.

After picking the unripe fruit, the pepper plant can use all sun energy for growing the other fruits at the plant. And for making new fruits.

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Pick “riping” fruits. Lay them in a tray on 3 or 4 lays of moist kitchen paper. On the tray there is plastic foil against drying out of the paper. You can use clothes pegs to fix the plastic foil to the tray. Take care of a narrow air opening, as shown on the right side on the photo above. Put the tray in your house, on a light or a dark place, that does not matter. Temperature somewhere between 15 and 22 C (between 59 and 72 F).

My experience:

  • You can pour much tap water on the kitchen paper. The 3 or 4 layers of kitchen paper can absorb much water. The peppers lay on “very moist” paper. When you press with your finger on the paper, a little puddle of water is visible. That’s okay.
  • The paper does not dry out so fast; it keeps moist for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Store the peppers indoors at 15 to 20 C (59 t 68 F).
  • Thanks to the very moist kitchen paper, the peppers stay robust. The peppers do not rot because the kitchen paper “holds” the water.

In this way, peppers can ripen while they stay robust. After 1 to 2 weeks you have firm red (or yellow or orange or….) bell peppers.

In tip   15) Storage tips..   there is more info about storing and riping bell peppers.

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K)# Small and big bell peppers

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You can grow small or big sweet peppers.

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Peppers are ripening in a washing-up bowl with foil over it. (The big green and small yellow pepper are in this bowl)

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The same big pepper after 24 days of ripening. The stem is rotting a little.

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The stem has been cut off.

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Even bigger

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This is a “giant” bell pepper of almost 400 grams. It grew in my allotment garden under the roof with plastic foil at both sides.

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The same pepper after 11 days of ripening on moist kitchen paper. I removed a small (rotting) piece of the stem.

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Preparing

Below some photos about preparing this big pepper.

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Cut in half.

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Break off the stem with seeds.

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Remove the white “ribs with seeds”. Cut away a little pepper material near the top (yellow arrows).

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Useful sweet pepper material; 328 grams.

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And 50 grams of stem and ribs.

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And (calculated) 8 grams of moist pepper seeds.

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L)# Small snails on sweet peppers

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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Peppers can be attacked by snails. It happened in my garden at plants that grew in the deep greenhouse or under the roof with plastic foli at 2 sides.

A bell pepper with these small holes can start rotting soon. You better prepare the peppers for a meal or to freeze.

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M)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)

You can grow egg plant on a similar way as peppers.

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Sow in potting soil in a greenhouse of margarine boxes. Let the plants grow big until they have 4 or more leaves.

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Put each small plant deep in a flower pot with a mixture of compost, potting soil and agricultural lime.

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Put each big plant in the garden soil at the beginning of June (late spring). Planting info at chapter D)# of this tip.

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Big plants in the open air in the garden soil. Let 1 or 2 fruits grow at each plant. This photo show plants with fruits at mid September (end of summer).

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