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Pretty patio peppers Try your hand at container gardening A

s the container gardening trend heats up, peppers are stak- ing out their place as one of

the top plant picks. They are the ideal patio plant − pretty, easy to maintain and edible. New cultivars specifically designed for container gardening can be found at greenhouses everywhere − from tasty bells to multi-coloured vari- eties that provide some kick. If you are new to container garden-

ing, peppers may be the perfect starter plant

for you. Your local greenhouse

will be able to assist you with selecting a variety suitable for container life or check out our top picks. By following a few simple guidelines you'll be enjoying beautiful peppers all season long. When choosing a container it should

be large enough to support a fully grown plant providing enough room for the roots to flourish. Two gallon pots are a good choice, and depending on the variety of pepper you choose, they may be able to accommodate two plants. If you are planning to reuse a pot be sure to cleanse it with a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water. Containers will need to have drainage holes to prevent root rot from develop- ing. Placing a quarter to half inch of gravel or stone on the bottom of the container will also help. Choose an organic-rich, light-weight

potting mix with composted materials − such as pine bark, peanut shells, coir or other bulking substances − which will support healthy root development and assist in water retention. We don't recommend using soil gathered from the outdoors as it will become compacted over the season and could carry disease or insects. Placing mulch on top of the soil will help prevent moisture loss and keep plant roots cool on hot days. Young plants and seedlings are very

susceptible to the cold and should not be placed outdoors until two weeks after the last chance of frost has passed. Bring plants indoors when days or evenings are cool. Peppers love long, warm days, but if the weather gets too hot you may notice a slowdown in fruit production. Not to worry, this will resume again as the weather gets cooler. The most important thing your plant

will rely on you for is water. You will need to water it daily, and twice daily

20 • Spring 2015 Spicy 'La Bomba' peppers. Pepper plants are pretty, tasty and ideal for growing in containers.

Great peppers for container gardening

Sweet Bell Peppers

Camelot, Jupiter, Redskin, Mohawk Spicy peppers

Super Chili, Cajun Belle,

Yellow Mushroom, Red Mushroom, LaBomba, Burning Bush

on exceptionally warm days. Check the soil to ensure it is always moist; wilted foliage will be one of the first signs that your plant needs water. Peppers thrive in moist, well-drained soil. Water until the excess runs out of the drainage holes. Plants should be placed in a window,

balcony or spot that will allow them to have five or more hours of sunshine. Turn them daily to ensure even rounded growth. After about two weeks your plants

will have used up the fertilizer in the soil and will benefit from a compost tea, monthly slow release fertilizer or a weekly feeding of

a water-soluble

fertilizer. Balanced fertilizers such as a 20-20-20 will be fine to start but change over to a high potassium fertilizer once flowering begins. A 10-52-17 fertilizer combined with a liquid seaweed supple- ment will assist with both healthy root development and fruit production. Peppers are self-pollinating but if you

want to assist them you can use a small paint brush and lightly swirl it each inside blossom. Be sure to pick peppers as they ripen

so the plant can continue to allocate its resources to new fruit production. Remove rotted, overripe, dead or diseased fruit to keep you plant healthy. And that's all it takes to enjoy these healthy vegetables on a patio. q

Courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company.

Photo by Becky Cortino.

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