Growing Tasty Vegetables

If you’re planning to grow peppers from seed you really ought to get the seeds sown within the next couple of weeks if you haven’t done so already. But don’t plant them outside as you’ll be doomed to fail!

Peppers need heat to grow. For most of us in the northern hemisphere that means giving some sort of protection for at least the first few months. And unless they have heat when sown, the seeds simply won’t germinate.

So you need to provide a helping hand.

I sow my peppers in a heated propagator but you could also put them close to a radiator or else in a warm cupboard like the airing cupboard. However if you do that you must keep a very close eye on them and bring them out as soon as they’ve germinated. Leaving them in the dark will make them very quickly grow tall, spindly and very weak. So you must put them somewhere light – but it must also be warm.

What I do with mine is leave them in the propagator until the first true leaves have opened, then I lift them onto a warm windowsill, and there they stay until the risk of frost is passed, at which point they go out into the greenhouse where they get planted into the border soil once they’re about five or six inches tall.

Grow Peppers From Seed

The best time to sow pepper and eggplant seeds indoors is the end of February. Try to keep them as warm as you can during germination by keeping the seed tray by a sunny window or on an old, inefficient appliance that loses heat.

When true leaves appear on your peppers (usually the third leaves), transplant them carefully into a 2.5- or three-inch container. Once the roots reach the bottom you can transplant again into a slightly larger pot before transplanting them into your containers outside.

From seedling to harvest

These are heat lovers, so don’t put them outside until well after the last frost (about two weeks). They will need as much heat and light as possible in order to yield, so put them in the hottest spot possible and make sure to keep them watered.

Don’t plant them into ground soil, which stays cool well into June, but in a black pot in the full sun to keep the roots toasty warm. Don’t be shy about putting them in direct or reflected hot sun.

The ideal days are around 25 C with high humidity, especially for eggplant. Temperatures that are consistently below 15 C to 20 C may shock the plants, so if you don’t have a hot spot outside, consider choosing another plant to grow.

Temperatures below approximately 10 C at night might damage developing blossoms, so a spot near the home (or in a rooftop garden) is ideal for helping to keep in the day’s heat.

Both peppers and eggplants need consistently moist soil, which can be tricky given that they thrive on heat. Consider planting them in self-watering pots and put a generous layer of organic mulch on the surface. On top of helping stifle weeds, the mulch will slow down evaporation and help keep the surface roots moist.

Bear in mind that peppers take a long time to fruit – from germination till the first fruits are ready will probably take about five months. So you have to get them started early in the year or else you’ll have a very short cropping season before the falling temperatures at the end of summer will bring a premature end to your harvest.

If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to plant them before the end of February, I suggest you buy young plants from the garden center instead. It simply isn’t worth trying to grow peppers from seed if you don’t make a start till April or May as there just won’t be enough time left to get a crop before winter.

Growing Asparagus Crowns

Growing asparagus crowns will set you up with your own fresh asparagus spears for probably the next 20 years – it’s a perennial crop, meaning once established the plants survive for years.

You have to plan ahead as it’ll be a couple of years before you’re able to harvest even a very light crop, and it’s not until year 4 that the bed will get into full production. But once you reach that point it’ll just keep coming back year after year with very little further input from you.

Professor David W. Sams from The University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension Service offers this advice on planting:

Location for Asparagus Farming

It is best to locate asparagus plantings to the side of thevegetable garden with other perennials such as rhubarb,strawberries and brambles. This will keep the plants awayfrom cultivation and other gardening activities. Asparagusshould be planted where it will receive a minimum of seven or eight hours of sunlight on sunny days.North or east slopes are preferable to south or westslopes, as they are slower to warm in the spring. Early-developing asparagus spears are frequently killed bylate freezes.

Soil for Asparagus Farming

Asparagus will survive in any well-drained soil. Thebest soils for asparagus are deep and loose, such as sandyloams. Heavy-textured clays and shallow soils should beavoided, since they restrict root development and promoteroot rots. Extremely sandy soils may not retain enoughmoisture for vigorous asparagus growth. Soils that warmup quickly in the spring promote early growth and harvest.This may be a disadvantage, as developing asparagusspears grow slowly in very cold weather and will be killedto the ground by freezes. Asparagus grows best on soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

You can also grow asparagus from seed or by purchasing young seed-grown plants, but doing so will mean addng at least one extra year onto the initial establishment of the bed. Growing asparagus crowns is quicker, easier, and more reliable so is definitely the preferred method.

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