Below is a guest post written by Tim Sparke. Enjoy!
If you’re truly passionate about peppers, nothing is more rewarding than growing your own. With a simple garden set-up, you can establish a sustainable, natural way to produce healthy, hot peppers every year.
Furthermore, this will help you depend on supermarkets less and give you more control over the quality of your peppers. By avoiding pesticides and other chemical agents, you can keep your peppers strong and healthy.
Of course, by growing them in your own garden, you can also save money by using the organic materials all around you, while creating room for a family bonding activity.
Use Raised Beds
A raised bed is much easier to access and is relatively easy to create. You can use old wood to form a tray, or find existing containers that suit your needs (and sense of style, if you’re concerned about aesthetics). This pepper patch will allow you to access your plants easier, but it also helps isolate the soil, which is more important than you might think.
If you want to get the very best out of different strains of pepper, you need to meet their various needs. Some prefer more water than others, while some require different PH requirements - discussed later in this article - and sharing the same soil makes this impossible. Different beds allow you to group strains of pepper together if they share similar needs.
Of course, pepper plants still need supports, so you can use wooden stakes or frames to give them something to grow onto. Other than this, you only need to provide some depth to your beds, to give the plants room to grow down and develop roots.
Check Your PH Levels
As mentioned earlier, different plants require different PH requirements to thrive. When it comes to pepper plants, they virtually all enjoy a mildly acidic PH level. Since anything over a level of 7 is alkaline, this means most plants want something in the range of 5-7. Even when there is some subtle variance depending on the strains you are interested in.
For instance, a Carolina reaper plant appreciates a soil close to 6.5, while jalapeno peppers and ghost peppers thrive between 6 and 6.8. In this instance, you could grow both these plants together if the bed was around 6.5 on the PH scale.
On the other hand, a traditional capsicum or bell pepper can grow in more acidic soils of 5.5, while a chilli pepper grows anywhere between 5 and 6. These clearly couldn’t grow next to jalapenos or Carolina reaper plants, but could work well together in their own bed.
When focusing on just peppers, the differences are more subtle, but vital if you want to get the most out of your crops. There are many ways to improve the PH levels, such as with compost, yet you can also use additional methods if your soil tests as alkaline. Lemons and other bitter, citrus fruits are very acidic, so mixing these juices up with the soil (and using the remains with compost) will help bring the level down.
Use Your Leftovers
When it comes to growing any plant, using your organic leftovers is a great way to both save on waste and provide your crops with vital nutrients. You can use your leftovers in numerous ways. By collecting cuttings and tree back, for example, you can create a mulch for the topsoil (highly useful in the winter). For general organic matter, you can put it in a dark, moist container to produce compost. This offers a sustainable way to provide your own fertilizer.
Peppers, as previously mentioned, appreciate an acidic soil. Compost is a great way to change your soil’s levels. Save your lemon leftovers and skins, as well as other acidic sources (such as the peppers themselves) and use these in your compost. This will cause the compost to become acidic, in turn changing the soil over time.
By only using organic supplies, you can ensure your peppers are free of pesticides and other harmful agents. This ensures your peppers are hot, ripe, tasty and safe to eat. Aside from compost and mulch, you can still source organic supplies for your other needs. Despite what their small size might imply, peppers require a good amount of calcium throughout their lifecycle, so a rich calcium powder is vital.
Supermarket varieties are often riddled with additives, so why not ask your local butcher if you can take their old bones and leftovers off of their hands? These are rich in calcium and can be ground down into a nutrient-heavy bone meal your pepper plants will love. You can also achieve something similar with fish remains, as fish emulsion is a good source of nitrogen.
Maintain A Seed Bank
From the moment you first harvest your peppers, you will have an abundance of seeds. While it might be tempting to plant all of these, it is always recommended to have a seed bank with reserves. This should contain seeds from every strain or species that you grow.
This is to provide valuable insurance for yourself. A particularly cold or hot period could destroy your plants, as could a local infection. If anything goes wrong, having the seeds saved away means you can just re-plant them and start again. Similarly, as someone with a passion for peppers, you’re likely in touch with the wider community. Saving and sharing seeds is a great way to help others out.
If you’ve considered growing your own peppers before, these points should show you how easy it is to achieve. With a little pre-planning and effort, you can readily start enjoying the satisfying taste of home grown chillies, free of any harmful additives. Even better than this, they’re from your backyard and completely free!