Hungarian Peppers (cont)
By: Peter Kopcinski
Start your seeds about six weeks before the average daytime temperature is above 65° F. Sow them in a high-quality soilless mix in a shallow starting tray about three seeds to the inch. Cover the seeds with an additional 1/4 inch of soilless mix. Pepper seeds like a warm environment (65° to 80° F) to germinate and they do not germinate evenly. Emergence will take 7 to 15 days. The young plants need to be kept continuously moist.
After 15 days, thin enough to give each plant about a 2- by 2-inch area. If your plants start getting too large too fast, transplant them into 5-inch pots so as not to hold back their growth.
Weather conditions will affect your crop as well. Temperatures below 55° F and above 90° F can cause the blossoms to drop, resulting in late and light crops. Avoid planting until nighttime temperatures seem stable and are above 55° F.
Peppers will tolerate a wide range of garden soils. If you are in a short-season area, plant them in a well-drained, light, fast-warming soil. They like a fairly rich soil, so before transplanting work about 6 cubic feet of compost into the top 6 inches of soil per 100-square-foot area. Space transplants about 18 inches apart with 36 inches between rows. Feed every 10 days with a liquid fertilizer, such as 20-30-20. Hungarian spice peppers are quite tolerant of drought stress. They are a good choice if you have light, dry soils and you cannot water them frequently.
Problems and Pests
Peppers are susceptible to a wide range of viral and bacterial diseases and insect problems. To reduce virus problems, control aphid populations. Trials have shown that aluminum foil under the plants is very effective (but expensive) in keeping aphids away. Rotenone also controls aphids as well as other insects.
Bacterial problems are more difficult to solve. Rotation is the best protection for the home gardener. Avoid planting peppers and tomatoes on the same land for three years. Also, limit your watering to one good heavy soaking a week rather than encouraging a damp microclimate with daily watering.
The European corn borer is another common problem for pepper growers. These worms bore into the pepper where the stem attaches to the fruit. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a good control. It will also help with other worms, such as tomato hornworm. To control cutworms, place cardboard collars around the stems.
Peter Kopcinski is a seedsman and plant breeder currently based in New Jersey.
Photography by National Gardening Association