In my scaled down garden plan for Spring/Summer I did not include peppers and we miss them. Our grocery budget misses them too, store bought peppers are pricey, around $2.50/ea for organic peppers. Since peppers are on the Dirty Dozen List, a list of food crops with the highest levels of pesticide residue, we buy organic or not at all. Instead, we omit or replace them in recipes. My children enjoy raw veggies at snack time, including peppers and it’s great when they come in from the garden.
I’ve recently harvested a good amount of onions, potatoes and squash which has opened up considerable space in the garden. I glanced at my favorite garden planning tool, the Vegetable Garden Planting Guide published by AgriLife Extension and made a list of what is recommended to plant right now: cantaloupe, warm season greens, okra, southern peas, sweet potato slips and winter squash. I have cantaloupe and winter squash seeds that I can poke in the ground and I’ve been planting sweet potato slips as they reach maturity on my kitchen window sill.
I noticed that the next window for planting bell pepper transplants is from mid-July through mid-August, about 8 weeks away. Seed packets typically suggest starting seeds indoors 8 weeks before transplanting them outside, so if I start now I can plant peppers for the Fall! Starting from seed is more economical than purchasing starts. A $2 packet of seeds will provide at least a dozen plants, those dozen plants purchased from a nursery can cost $24.
After cleaning the kitchen last night I brought in my seed starting tray from the garden shed. I washed it with soap and water, then let it sit in diluted bleach for an hour. You have to sterilize the growing space in order to kill any bacteria that might compromise the health of baby plants. This morning, I filled the tray with seed starting mix, poked seeds in the soil and labelled markers to keep track of things. Lastly, I placed plastic wrap over the top to create a cozy greenhouse environment for the next few days, until we notice the seeds swell and send out the first root fibers. Once the first set of leaves emerge I’ll place the trays under grow lights, which really do make such a huge difference in starting seeds successfully.
I planted two varieties of Sweet Bell Pepper, Chinese Giant and Cornio de Toro as well as two varieties of Bell Pepper, Early Calwonder and Big Bertha. I started a row of Jalapeno Peppers as well because the cream-cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped-jalapeno appetizer I brought to a Thanksgiving potluck last year was delicious.
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