All types of peppers, both sweet varieties like bell peppers and hot varieties -- think jalapeño and cayenne -- prefer a slightly acidic soil. They are not overly sensitive to too much acidity but thrive in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8, with some varieties tolerating a pH as low as 5.5.
How to Grow Peppers
Besides an appropriate pH, peppers, like tomatoes, do best when planted in warmer temperatures after the threat of frost in your area has passed. The ideal is a daytime high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a nighttime low that doesn't drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid soils that do not drain well, as peppers will not perform well in soggy soils.
Fertilizing your peppers will promote good production. An acidic fertilizer will help deliver the nutrients that your plants need and help maintain the required pH levels that the peppers like. Take preventive measures against weeds as well, as they will compete for the same resources as your plants. A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch, straw or newspaper will help suppress the competing weeds and also help you regulate temperature and moisture levels near the root zone of your peppers. Peppers are susceptible to certain pests such as aphids, but they can be controlled naturally with the introduction of ladybugs and praying mantises.
The Importance of Soil pH
Knowing your soil pH is an important part of successful pepper production. The pH level of your soil indicates how available the existing nutrients in the soil are to your pepper plants. Your soil may well have all the needed nutrients and micro-nutrients that your peppers need, but they may be unable to use and absorb them if the pH is not in the range that makes them most useful for your peppers. A simple soil test available at all garden centers and home stores is all that is required to learn this important information that is part of pepper cultivation.
How to Adjust pH
If you should find that the pH of your soil is either too high or too low for ideal pepper production, you can remedy the imbalance. A pH that is too low (below 5.5) can be amended with horticultural or garden lime. A high pH can be adjusted with the addition of garden sulfur or more organic sources such as composted manure, peat moss or compost. As pH levels fluctuate, plan to test your pH levels at least once per year as you may have to amend your soils annually to get the maximum performance and yield from your pepper plants.
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