Pepper plant maintenance - mulch, beneficial nematodes, or ???

C_GumpJuly 7, 2014

Hi all!
Trying out growing peppers in some containers for the first time this year, and have a couple of questions for controlling / preventing / helping some (probably self-inflicted) issues...

They have been growing slowly, flowering, and for the most part there are lots of little baby peppers bulbs starting, with 1 bell pepper and 2 hots showing some promise, so things aren't in crisis... yet.

Pot 1 - Bell Pepper & Hot Pepper purchased from local greenhouse.Planted outside just before a drop in temperature that most likely stunted them, although the Bell pepper is growing well.

Pot 2 - Mini Bell pepper, Mexibell (also purchased from local greenhouse), Hot variety (don't remember)- sadly purchased from a large DIY box store.

Potting mix: organic "potting" soil mix, mixed with peat moss, and a "sprinkle" of organic fertilizer (probably closer to a handful thanks to my "more is better" boyfriend).

I have been fighting an aphid invasion, which makes me think we over-fertilized when we potted them. I washed each leaf down with soapy water, and then rinsed, and killed off the masses, and am now hand-squishing a couple of aphids each morning, usually around new growth. So it seems to be under control, albeit not exactly ideal.

The other morning though, while hunting for aphids, I started to notice small black flies around the soil surface, that I fear are fungus gnats.

Then some of the lower leaves on the plants started turning yellow and falling off.

I can only attach one photo so I'm including the one of the yellowing leaves.

Most of the "baby" peppers are not really "growing"- they are just there, the size of pencil eraser, however 1 bell pepper is the size of golf ball, and 2 of the unknown hots are about 2 inches long now.

If it is any help as well, in the same conditions, I have a tomato plant that is doing well, but that has had 2 deformed tomatoes, and 1 with bottom rot (and about 11 small, healthy looking tomatoes, so I'm not too worried yet) - guessing water stress from the cold weather followed by stifling heat where I forgot to increase the watering to it.

So finally my questions...
Should I mulch the open soil areas with rocks or mulch to try to help keep water content more consistent and possibly help kill off the fungus gnats? Or should I try beneficial nematodes and lady bugs to try to control the pests? Do I need to try to fix the over-fertilization, or wait it out? Or all of the above? Can the beneficial nematodes survive through a rock type mulch?

I would prefer to avoid harsh chemicals as much as possible since I do hope to eat whatever we do manage to grow.

We are in a high wind area, so the top of the soil dries out very quickly, but the containers are definitely still holding some water mid-way through (they do have lots of drainage holes though), so I'd like to help protect the surface and water a little less frequently, since I don't want to over-water.

The plants get some morning sun (7-9:30 am), followed by direct overhead mid-day sun (12-2?), and half sun (broken up by the railings / some tree shade) for the rest of the afternoon.

Sorry this is so long, but I really would love some guidance for the best next steps since my boyfriend is SO excited to have his own home-grown peppers... I just need to get them there now... and I know the details are important in order to offer any help. Thanks a bunch in advance!!

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Steve, Z (6Bground,5B roof) Cincy,OH

I have my garden covered with about an 8 inch layer of leaves. My plants are in tubes that reach to the dirt level. This seams to really work well. I can't tell you whether it is better or this is a good year. If you mulch, the pepper plant stem has an increased chance of succumbing to damp-off even a large plant. Make sure you stem dries between watering.

Pepper and egg plants are in 5 gallon bottomless buckets for roots to pass. watermelon are in bottomless one gallon food tins. blueberry plants are in 28 in bottomless boxes. Most of this won't apply to you, but I have found the mulching to work very well.

See pick

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:21AM
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Hello, I also have tried spraying soapy water to get rid of aphids, I think it's working. However my problem now is the birds, they keep eating the leaves of my pepper plants, I wish they'd finish a whole leaf but they take a bite on each leaf, as if they're doing a taste test. That's what they do to my basils too. What a bunch of hungry birds. They eat not just the leaves but also the cayenne peppers. Does anybody have suggestions on what to do? Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:45PM
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