Last year was our first garden at this house, so there were successes and failures in the garden. I started the garden using sheet mulching and the underlying soil was heavy clay. The chilies and bell peppers did not like it. Their roots never really went deep and because the soil was so heavy, I suspect that they were slightly waterlogged and deficient in nutrients. It was a particularly cold and damp spring and we never got any nice big bell peppers. The chili plants did pretty well despite all of this, producing enough chilies on about six plants for many batches of salsa fresca.
Oregon’s mild summers aren’t exactly ideal for growing chilies and peppers, but I still have to try. Last summer I grew Gourmet sweet peppers and two varieties of chilies and liked them both, Jalapenos and Peruvian Purple. Of the two, the Peruvian Purple seemed to tolerate the heavy clay soils somewhat better and produced many small purple chilies.
These plants are beautiful and if I grow them again, I might try keeping them in containers. The container could be placed against a south or west facing wall to capture the reflected light and heat. Some people even bring them inside for the winter.
This year I’m definitely going to try some new things to increase my success growing peppers in the cool Pacific NorthWest.
1. Dig the soil and loosen the soil.
2. Add a lot of organic matter to the bed.
3. Mulch with black plastic.
4. Add row covers to help keep them warm.
Last year I started all my pepper plants from seed. Peppers are easy to start from seed if you can keep them warm and give them enough light. I would recommend a seedling heat mat if you can afford it. This is like a little waterproof electric heating pad, that is just the right temperature to keep your pepper seedlings nice and warm. Ideally peppers like to sprout in soil that is around 75 degrees. My house isn’t usually that warm during a cool Oregon spring, so my peppers were a bit slow to sprout. Just about the time I start to give up on them, that is when I see the little seedlings start to poke up through the soil. This can take up to two weeks, so don’t give up on them! Make sure to keep the soil moistened so the seedlings don’t have to break through a dry crust.
I have seeds of four varieties to try. I got most of them from the seed swap, so we will see how they do. Unfortunately, one envelope is simply labelled “sweet peppers”, so I will just have to see how they do. I also have California Wonder, Paprika, and Marconi Red.
The Marconi Red sounds great. It is an heirloom Italian sweet pepper. Reputed to be sweet and thick walled. Sounds delicious. California Wonder is a classic big bell pepper. Maybe I can make smoked paprika out of the paprika chilies? Smoked paprika is the most delicious thing. Love it on deviled eggs.