to allow the top layers to warm under the sun; alternatively you can cover the worked soil
with black plastic prior to planting. This will cause the soil beneath to heat up nicely. Prior
to planting, remove the black plastic and store for the following season.
Peppers grown best in a well-balanced, fertile soil which is well-drained and is
neutral-to-slightly acidic (pH 6.3-7), though can tolerate slightly alkaline soils (up to pH
7.3). They grow best in a loam or sandy loam soil, which can hold water evenly rather
than a heavier soil. Such a soil can prevent many growing issues including a disease called
blossom end rot, a common pepper disease. If your garden has a heavy soil with a tend-
ency to become soggy, working in compost can help improve the soil make-up, or think
about growing using a raised bed (see chapter 5). To help in moisture retention, use mulch
or a soil covering. Ideally your soil should be nutritionally well-balanced. Peppers can be
sensitive to deficiencies in phosphorous, potassium and calcium. These are essential both
in promoting tastier thicker peppers, but they can also combat blossom end rot. It is good
practice to test your soil every few years to identify any potential mineral deficiencies. To
ensure your soil is in good condition prior to planting, work in well-rotted compost (3-4
inches) into the top 6-9 inches of soil. Make sure the compost is well-rotted, to reduce the
risk of weed and seed transmission. If using manure, ensure not to overload the soil with
the manure (1.1lb of manure per square foot/5.5kg per square meter is sufficient). Similarly
use well-rotted manure as fresh manure can cause excessive leaf growth in your plant and
reduce the yield of peppers seen. If you are planning your growing season well in advance,
it can be useful to grow a cover crop over the winter, such as clover. In addition to stabil-
izing the soil, when the soil is then worked several weeks prior to planting, the decomposi-
tion of the clover will provide an excellent source of nitrogen for the growing plant. If you
do not use a cover crop, you may need to supplement nitrogen - peppers require approx.
0.2lb/100 square feet/0.01kg/square meter).
Peppers (bell peppers and chiles) are members of the solanaceae (nightshade) fam-
ily. Other members of this family include potatoes, strawberries, eggplant, chrysanthemum,
roses etc. All these plants are susceptible to similar soil and leaf diseases, especially ver-
ticillium wilt. Therefore never plant your pepper plants in a patch where you have grown
any of the above mentioned plants (or indeed have grown peppers before) in the previous
4 years. This will minimize the risk of infection.