Hot tips for growing hot peppers

Backyard Q&A

October 04, 1998

Q.I tried hot peppers in containers this summer and they did great. Can I save some of the seed to plant next year? Will the plants continue to grow over the winter if I bring them indoors?

A.By all means, save some seed as long as the varieties you grew were open-pollinated. Wear plastic gloves when opening the pods and removing the seeds. (Remember, they're hot.)

You can bring your pepper plants indoors, but you will have to give them a full-sun window or grow lights for continued blooms and pods. Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the foliage before bringing the plants indoors.

Q. I bought a mixture of topsoil and compost to fill up some new raised beds for flowers and vegetables this past summer. It looked like good soil, but the plant growth was less than spectacular. A recent soil test revealed a soil pH of 7.8. Would this explain my lack of success this summer? What can I do?

A.Flowers and vegetables grow best at a soil pH of 6.3 to 6.8. The poor growth you observed could have been caused, in part, by the 7.8 reading. Some plant nutrients become less available at high pH readings, while others become available in toxic amounts.

After you clean up your beds this fall, apply and incorporate iron sulfate at the rate of 25 pounds to 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet. This should drop the soil pH to 6.5. Re-test the soil next spring.

Q. My wife and I inherited a large compost tumbler from a recently deceased uncle. We love the idea of making compost but are unsure of what constitutes a proper ingredient. Can cooked foods be added? How about pet waste?

A.No and no! Cooked foods will not break down easily and may produce awful odors. And pet waste may contain pathogens that are harmful to humans. Almost anything else organic is OK. Because they are enclosed and smaller than bins, tumblers require more fine-tuning when you're adding and mixing ingredients. Check out some books on composting from the library or surf the Web for more detailed information.

This Week's Checklist

* Plant potato onions, also known as multiplier onions, in fertile garden soil. Each bulb will yield five to six additional bulbs next spring.

* Plant tulips at a depth of three to four times the height of the bulbs. Be sure to incorporate a balanced fertilizer in the soil before planting.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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