The Q&A Archives: Growing Peppers in PA

Question: I live in northeastern PA My pepper plants never seem to develop into health looking plants. I have planted many varieties and always get small underdeveloped plants. These plants give 2 to 3 small deformed fruits. I apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer only once in the spring. My soil analysis indicates everything is ok. I water correctly. I have tried spacing plants closely and far apart. Still the same results. My tomato plants give very productive in the same garden location. Any suggestions? Bob Petruska Beaver Meadows, PA

Answer: Peppers can be very temperamental. They are especially sensitive to extreme temperatures -- a cool spell or heat wave during flowering can cause the flowers or small fruits to drop. Some people have better success with hot peppers than with bell peppers -- you might try some of the milder hot pepper varieties to see if you have better results. Peppers need full sun and warm soil. You can try covering the soil in early spring with black plastic, then once the soil is warm cut small holes in the plastic and plant the peppers. The black plastic will continue the warm the soil and radiate heat. Once the hot, dry days of summer come, keep an eye on the plants -- you might want to cover the black plastic with a straw mulch if it looks like the plants are getting "cooked". Here in northern Vermont we can leave the plastic on all summer.

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