BY DOUG GERAETS
In March and April there is snow on the ground … then there isn’t … there is snow on the ground … then there isn’t and so on and so forth. March and April offer widely varying weather, windy days, and a sun that is steadily warming. March is the month to plant seeds indoors for transplants for the garden. If you haven’t already done so you’re almost too late!
My shallots and garlic planted in the fall are up and growing fast and I’ve moved the mulch away from the plants. This will allow the soil to warm faster and the plants to “take off” on their growth trajectory.
Continuing from the March issue of Musings on the Garden I wanted to cover peppers we grow in our garden. I have fewer years of experience with peppers relative to tomatoes as I don’t remember them being a big part of our garden and diet growing up in SE South Dakota. I’ve really started appreciating them in the last 20 to 30 years and over that time we’ve settled upon the ones I’ve included in the table below. Peppers need a fairly long growing season so in Iowa it is necessary to start them indoors for transplanting outside in May. Peppers DO NOT like cold, damp weather so it is an advantage to wait before planting outside until well into May when the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees F.
As you can see in the accompanying table, our pepper growing is divided into bell peppers, poblano-types, cayenne-type, and both serranos and jalapeños. These may vary a bit from year-to-year as we may experiment and try something new. The last couple years we’ve grown an Italian pepperoncini pepper but I don’t think we will this year and it’s not included in the table.
Peppers do best in well-draining loamy soil and definitely need full-sun. They aren’t bothered by many pests although an occasional wondering animal (deer or raccoon) may nibble on them/break stems. I mulch around the plants to keep down weeds, retain moisture and allow picking of the peppers even with muddy conditions.