I like growing veggies that give me a whole lot without taking up lots of room. That’s why I grow peppers. Pepper plants are easy, love the heat, and need 18 inches square or so of space per plant. If you haven’t planted peppers yet, there’s still time.
Even though I love spicy food, I prefer growing sweet peppers to use in the kitchen in all kinds of ways. They go into Indian dishes, Cuban black beans, stews, chili, and salads. I often saute them with onions and garlic. Love me some stuffed peppers too. Red peppers are my pride and joy, not only because they’re super purty, but also because they contain much more Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene than green ones and taste much sweeter.
What I’m Growing
After the smashing success I had growing in long, cylindrical, ‘Giant Marconi’ Italian peppers last year, I concluded I would be quite mad not to plant them again this year. They’re super productive and absolutely delicious. My friends at Bonnie Plants then convinced to give two other peppers a try — ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Merlot’ (Full disclosure: They gave me the plants. Growing them was up to me.) I set out 6 plants of each in my small front garden this spring, accompanied by zinnias, blue fanflower, calibrachoas, New Guinea impatiens, and other flowers. Every veggie garden needs some flowers. Moses said that to the Israelites. Old Testament stuff.
‘Gypsy’ really surprised me. This smooth, oblong, three-lobed jewel grows about 5 inches long. It starts out yellow, deepens to bright orange, and then turns red if you leave it on the plant long enough. Inside, there are very few seeds. ‘Gypsy’ started fruiting really early, beating my beloved ‘Giant Marconi’ by two weeks! If you want colorful peppers for a beautiful salad, I’d plant this.
‘Merlot’ is a blocky, bell-shaped pepper. The fruit starts off green, turns white, and then deep purple. Again, if you leave it on the plant long enough, it turns red. Like ‘Gypsy,’ it has few seeds. It tastes like a sweet bell pepper should.
You Can Still Plant A Peck of Peppers
Pepper plants will keep bearing right up until frost. So if you haven’t planted yet, now is a good time to plan for a fall crop. Start with transplants from your garden center. If you’re lucky, they’ll be part of the traditional summer sale. Plant them in full sun in well-drained soil. Fertilize with the same stuff you use for tomatoes (tomatoes and peppers belong to the same family, the Solanaceae — they’re good folks). I recommend organic Espoma Tomato-tone 3-4-6. Follow the directions on the bag. Then gird
yourself to pick a peck.