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Growing Organic Pimento Peppers
Pimento peppers, also known as the cherry pepper, originated in the United States. The pimento plant produces large heart shaped fruit measuring 3 to 4 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches wide. People grow pimentos to use in canning recipes, stuffing into olives and many other recipes. Pimentos are rich in vitamins A and C. Transplant this pepper outdoors when the ground is warm and all frost danger is past. It takes approximately 95 days to fully mature.
It's a good idea to start the pimento seeds indoors at least 7 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. If you don't want to starty your own seeds or you don't want the hassle of planting the seeds, watering and waiting for them to germinate, you can usually find them at the local garden supply stores.
Fill the Cell Packs
Fill cell packs with well drained potting soil. I like sowing seeds into the cell packs better becaue they are easy to remove the plants and transplant into the garden. This eliminates their roots from getting all tangled up if you plant them into seeding trays. But, choose the type of container that you like the best.
When filling the cell packs, leave the soil flush with the top of the packs because the soil will settle down when watered. There are different kinds of cell packs to choose from, such as 4 and 6 pack cells. These are found at most garden supply centers, or online. The number of cell packs containers you'll want to fill depends on the number of seeds you have to plant.
Sow the Seeds
Place one seed on top of the soil over each cell. Push the seed into the soil with your finger or a pencil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Cover the seed with soil and gently firm the soil in place.
If you haven't all ready, place the cell packs into a container with sides. Water the cell packs thoroughly. The water will come out the bottom drainage holes at the bottom.You can also fill the container up with water and set the cell packs inside. When the top of the soil is visibly moist, remove the packs and allow them to drain. When no more water is running out the bottom of the packs, place them into a tray. Not only will this make carrying them easier, it will also contain water spills.
Cover for Germination
Cover the cell packs with a sheet of clear plastic and place them on a heat mat with the temperature set to 70 degrees F. If you do't have a heat mat, place them on top of the refrigerator.
Peek under the plastic every day, if possible. You'll want to keep the soil moist, but not soggy or the seeds may rot. It takes a week to 10 days for the seeds to germinate.
After the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic covering. Now you'll need to move the pimento plants to a sunny window. Continue to grow the pimento plants in this location until about a week before you want to plant them outdoors. Check the soil often. You don't want the soil to dry out or your pimento plants may die.
Harden the Pimento Plants
It is important to harden the pimento plants before planting them outdoors in your garden. When the pimento plants have four true leaves and the day time temperatures are in the 70 degrees F., take them outdoors. You'll want to find a protected area like by a tree or on your patio or deck, but do not place them in direct sunlight. Once you find the right place, take the plants outdoors and leave them for an hour the first day. Repeat this step of outdoor exposure, but increase the outdoor time by an hour each day over the course of 7 days.
Prepare the Garden
While you are hardening the pimento plants in, you'll want to prepare the garden area. Try to find a sunny location to transplant the pimento peppers.
It is a good idea to till up the soil to a depth of 12 inches, but if you don't have a tiller, you can turn the soil by hand with a garden fork.
Amend the soil with 2 to 4 inches of compost. The compost helps the soil to drain better, and it adds nutrients that the pimento plants need to grow.
After the plants have been hardened in over the course of a week, it is time to transplant them into the garden. Dig holes in the soil with a trowel that are twice as wide as the root ball, but keep the depth the same. Space each hole 2 feet apart and space each row 3 feet apart.
Squeeze the bottom fourth inch of the cell pack to dislodge the root ball of the pimento plant. Insert the root ball into the hole and fill in with amended soil. Do not plant the root ball any deeper than it was growing in its container or the stem may rot away.
Water and Feed
Don't forget to water the soi. Pimento peppers like to have at least an inch of water per week. To help the soil retain that moisture, place a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch over the ground around the pepper plants. Mulch also helps keep the weeds from growing. This is a plus in my book.
When your pimento plants start to grow, feed them with an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer when your plants start to grow. You'll want to fertilize again when the blossoms appear and then again when the peppers form. Read and follow label directions on the fertilizer for mixing and application proportions.
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