1. Q. Why do my pepper plants often bloom but fail to set fruit?
A. Peppers, like tomatoes, are sensitive to temperature. Most peppers will drop their blooms when daytime temperatures get much above 90 degrees F. in combination with night temperatures above 75 degrees F. They will also drop their blooms in the early spring if temperatures remain cool for extended periods. Hot peppers, such as jalapenos, withstand hot weather fairly well and can often produce fruit through the summer in most areas. Optimum temperatures fall between 70 degrees and 80 degrees F. for bell-type peppers and between 70 degrees and 85 degrees F. for hot varieties
2. Q. If I remove the first few blooms on a pepper plant, will my overall production be increased?
A. Maybe. Occasionally, if a bell pepper plant sets the first bloom that flowers, the plant will be stunted as it matures that fruit. This is likely to happen if the plant is growing under marginal conditions which might include low fertility or perhaps low moisture. With the first bloom removed, the plant will grow larger before setting fruit which often does result in higher total yields. However, if the plant is grown under satisfactory cultural conditions removing the first bloom should not affect subsequent yield.
3. Q. If you plant hot peppers beside sweet peppers, will the sweet pepper plant produce hot fruit?
A. Absolutely not. Pepper flowers are self-pollinated, although occasionally cross-pollinate. However, the result of this crossing will appear only if seed is saved from this year's crop and planted next year. It will not result in off-flavor or differences in fruit characteristics of this year's crop.
4. Q. Can I cut back my spring planted pepper plants in late summer or early fall for increased production later?
A. Yes, although this is not a recommended practice. In the northern parts of the state spring-planted pepper plants can often be carried through to first killing frost without pruning. However, in southern parts, judiciously pruning the pepper plants and applying additional fertilizer as a sidedress application can prolong pepper production until the first killing frost. Pruning should not be severe in southern parts of the state as excess foliage removal can often result in burn, stunting or death of the plants.
5. Q. Is there any difference in taste or nutritive value between green peppers and those that mature and turn red?
A. Peppers that are allowed to mature and ripen entirely, from green to yellow to red, are higher in vitamin content, especially vitamin A. There is little difference in taste although there is a considerable difference in texture caused by the ripening process.
6. Q. How can you tell when jalapeno peppers are mature?
A. Jalapeno peppers are edible and flavorful at all stages of their growth. However, a connoisseur of jalapeno peppers can distinguish a definite flavor difference between a fully mature jalapeno and one harvested early. A fully mature jalapeno pepper, regardless of size, generally exhibits small cracks around the shoulders of the fruit. Often a darkened area on the fruit indicates maturity and the initial stages of a color change in the fruit.
7. Q. Can I save seed from this year's pepper crop for planting in my next garden?
A. Yes. Peppers are self-pollinated and consequently will breed if seed is saved from this year's garden for planting in next year's garden. Although an occasional cross-pollination will occur, this is generally not a problem. Do not save seed from hybrid pepper plants as these will not breed true and will result in plants exhibiting characteristics different than the desired hybrid.
8. Q. The foliage on my pepper plants developed spots or lesions and the leaves have dropped off.
A. This could be a combination of three foliage diseases: Alternaria leaf spot, Cercospora leaf spot and bacterial leaf spot. In most cases, two or more of these occur simultaneously on the foliage. They can be controlled with foliar sprays using a combination of chlorothalanoil and Kocide or any other copper fungicide. Begin at the first sign of the disease and continue at 1- to 2- week intervals during the critical disease periods.
9. Q. The foliage and fruit of my pepper plants are distorted and small. The leaves have a mosaic pattern.
A. This could be one of five viruses that attack peppers in Texas. The best control is to buy healthy plants and to follow approved cultural practices and a good insecticide program. The viruses are transmitted by aphids. For this reason, it is important to control insects. Also, when a plant becomes infected with one of the viruses, remove the plant.
10. Q. After the recent rainfall, my plants wilted and died soon. The inner stems of the plants were dark.
A. This is Phytophthora stem rot. It is a soilborne fungus that attacks peppers. It is particularly severe in areas where water stands around the plant. Plant on a raised bed for optimal drainage.
11. Q. After a summer rain, my pepper plants died rapidly. I found a white growth at the base of the plant. Intermingled with this growth were small, round, bead-like structures the size of a pinhead.
A. This is southern blight, caused by a soilborne fungus. Crop rotation and deep burial of organic material will help control it. Do not allow leaves to collect around the base of the plant because the fungus will feed on them and later develop on the peppers.
12. Q. There are small wiggly trails all over the leaves of my pepper plants. What are these?
A. These trails are caused by leaf miners. Heavy infestations can defoliate plants and reduce yields. Control this pest by treating with diazinon or a recommended insecticide. Two or three applications at 5-7 day intervals may be necessary to achieve control. Use as directed on the label.