ARE YOUR PEPPER PLANTS BEHAVING BADLY? I mean, are they pushing out lots of lush foliage, but few (if any) flowers? Mine, too, thought they were ferns one June. Then I convinced them to give up this life of indolence, and to bud, bloom, and set a lavish amount of fruit. How? By giving them chocolate cake for breakfast:
Okay, I did not give them cake. But I did give them an unbalanced diet. You see, if bell peppers (and other pepper plants for that matter) are to flower, they need more phosphorous and potassium, and less nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages only abundant leaf-growth.
Consequently, if you’ve been plying your peppers with a balanced food, such as 5-5-5 (these numbers always refer to the percentage of nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium or N-P-K in the mixture), you need to stop this program immediately. You also need to avoid Miracle Gro’s popular “All Purpose” plant food, which, at 24-8-16, is extra high in nitrogen. Feed them instead with a high-phosphorous blend, or “blossom booster.”
There are several blossom-boosting mixtures on the market. Currently I’m using Jack’s Classic 10-30-20 at the rate of one tablespoon dissolved in a gallon of water. My peppers have already started to flower. Apply the blossom booster weekly for two or three weeks, but not more. Phosphorous tends to linger in the soil.
Of course other cultural conditions must be met, too. Peppers want long hours of full sun, one inch of water per week, and a humussy soil which drains well. My plants, located in a raised bed in the Herb Garden, receive 6 hours of full sun. To keep roots moist and cool, the plants are mulched with a two-inch layer of shredded maple leaves.
Don’t let your pepper plants make a fool out of you this summer. Give them the right food, plus all of the other cultural conditions I’ve just mentioned, and I promise — they will reward you with a handsome harvest by summer’s end.
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