Greg Bowman

Before I get into the topic of the day, I would like to promote our upcoming Gordon Extension Lunch and Learn series. The concept is pretty simple: you use your lunch hour from 12 noon until 1 p.m. to come to the Gordon County Agricultural Service Center to learn about a topic. You bring your lunch with you. All we ask for you to do is register so I know how many people will be attending. Our first class will be March 1 with guest speaker Alexis Roberts, Bartow Extension Home Economist. She will be have a nutrition based class about using herbs and spices to reduce the salt in our diet. There will be a food demo included. March 6 will offer a Landscape Trees 101 event with Mary Carol Sheffield from Paulding Extension. This class will include tree identification and also tree health. March 28, I will be giving a presentation on composting and mulching. The April 10 lunch and learn will feature Floyd County agent Keith Mickler and will center on pruning in the landscape and tips on how to do this chore correctly. The final lunch and learn of spring is actually a site visit on April 24. We will be visiting David Gregory with Georgia DNR and will do a walking tour at the Arrowhead Wildlife Management Area. This class will center on land management topics including waterfowl and wildlife. This event will be an approximate 4-hour event.

If you would like a flyer, give me a call or send an email and I will be happy to give you more details on these events. Hope to see big crowds at these opportunities.

If tomatoes are the most popular home garden item, peppers have to be in the top two or three for many gardeners. Typically, most pepper varieties are easy to grow. The two major types of peppers can be categorized as either sweet or hot. You may not know this, but the pungency of a pepper is actually in the seed. Pungency is actually rated on the Scoville Heat Index. Your mild peppers such as banana peppers are at the bottom of the index. The middle of the scale would be peppers such as red cayenne and hot wax peppers. The top of the Scoville Heat Index would be the habanero and chili peppers. Pepper variety choice is personal preference plus the goals with the peppers. I will be sharing information from a publication by UGA staff members, Malgorzata Florkowska and Bob Westerfield.

Peppers are considered a warm weather plant and belong to the same family as tomatoes and eggplant. Peppers are self-pollinating and like full sun environments. Do not be tempted to plant your peppers too soon in the growing season. Soil temperatures actually need to be around 70 degrees F and night temperatures need to be staying above 50 degrees F before planting. Do not plant them early in cool and wet soil or when we still have the risk of a late freeze. Some people like to start their own pepper plants from seed and that is fine. It will just take more work. It normally will take pepper seeds 10 days to germinate and the seed will need to be started indoors 6-8 weeks prior to transplanting the peppers in the garden. Most folks will simply purchase transplants for our local stores.

Keep in mind that peppers need a well-draining garden area like most garden items. Remember again that peppers like full sun. The area at least needs to provide 8-10 hours of sunlight per day. I suggest to conduct a soil sampling procedure to get exact liming and fertilizing recommendation for best results. This needs to be done 2-3 months prior to planting. When you do plant peppers, it is suggested to space plants 12-24 inches apart in the row. The rows need to be 3 feet apart. You can mulch the pepper plants to help conserve moisture and combat weeds. Just make sure the mulch material is herbicide free. Pull the mulch back off plant stems.

Proper watering is important with soaker hoses and drip irrigation being the best option to keep the 6-inch root zone moist. Keep in mind that consistent watering is important for fruit set and development in peppers. Most peppers are ready for harvest 70-85 days after planting. Bell peppers are popular in the area. Bell peppers can be harvested green when full size and the pepper walls are firm. It is suggested to cut the stems instead of pulling to reduce the breaking of branches. If you choose to leave green bell peppers on the plant after full size, they will turn red in color. At this time, the red bell pepper will be sweeter in taste than the green pepper.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.