PEPPER SEEDS need warm soil to germinate. Experiments by Georgia horticulturists have shown that the highest rate of germination (80 percent) occurs when the soil temperature is 70° to 80° F. Water seedlings from the top with warm water.
- Start pepper seeds three to a pot, and thin out the weakest seedling. Let the remaining two pepper plants spend their entire lives together as one plant. The leaves of two plants help protect the peppers against sunscald, and the yield is often half again as good as two segregated plants.
- If you buy pepper plants at a nursery, use the seed leaves (the first leaves to emerge) as a “stress barometer.” As long as they are strong, green, and healthy looking, you have a good, healthy plant.
- When pepper plants bloom, make a solution of Epsom salts in water, and spray the plants. The NGA asked test gardeners to mix one tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and spray it on the leaves of ‘Gypsy’ peppers, once when they bloomed and again ten days later. The results, attributed to magnesium in the salts, were larger plants and fruit.
- Take a book of matches with you when you set pepper plants out in the garden, and put two or three matches in the hole with each plant. They give the plants a bit of sulfur, which they like.
- Commercially available cone-shaped wire tomato cages may not be ideal for tomatoes (see tomato hints), but they are just the thing for peppers.