By: Amy Grant
Are you growing peppers this year with limited success? Maybe one of your issues is thin pepper walls. The ability to grow plump, thick-walled peppers takes more than just luck. Why do you have peppers with thin walls? Read on to learn how to grow thick-walled peppers.
Reasons for a Thin Wall on Peppers
There are a number of reasons for having thin walls on peppers.
The most elemental reason when pepper walls are not thick is that immature fruit is being picked. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when fruit is ripe, or sometimes patience isn’t one of our virtues. Many peppers appear to be full sized, so we pick them only to find a thin wall on the peppers. The smoothness of the pepper is related to its thickness — wavy, gnarled peppers are more likely to have pepper walls that are not thick.
Gardeners in hot regions need to be especially patient with big bells and sweet roasting peppers. Both of these tend to wait until the nights are longer and cooler in late summer before fruiting and plumping up. These folks may want to plant banana peppers or sweet non-bells, which will ripen in time to use those bumper crops of tomatoes and basil. Peppers need time on the plant to absorb nutrients and water and plump up their flesh, so pack your patience.
Another reason for thin pepper walls is water. Firmness of pepper flesh is directly related to lack of water. Peppers like moist, not wet, well-draining soil. Prior to planting, work some organic matter into the soil to enhance water retention. During hot spells, keep the soil moist by using mulch. Inconsistent watering not only engenders thin walls on peppers, but makes the fruit bitter tasting.
Peppers are heavy feeders. Immature peppers do not start with thick walls, they grow into them as the fruit absorbs water and nutrients. A reliable soil test may be in order. Peppers grow best in soil with a pH of between 6.2 and 7.0, but they can tolerate a slightly more alkaline soil as well.
Either too much or too little of a nutrient can cause problems. For example, potash found in the soil can inhibit nitrogen uptake. Then again, a lack or surplus of zinc may hamper the plant’s ability to utilize iron and magnesium. Calcium and potassium are the primary nutrients responsible for building thick walls in peppers.
Fertilizing can be tricky. Too much fertilizer will make the foliage develop at the expense of pepper production. Work a 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil just before transplanting. That is usually sufficient, but you can also side dress the plants with a sprinkle of 5-10-10 when the plants begin to bloom.
Lastly, thin walled bell peppers may be the result of certain cultivars. Some cultivars are prone to thicker walls than their counterparts. Try planting any of the following varietals for large, thick walled, sweet fruit:
- Keystone Resistant Giant
- Yolo Wonder
- Jupiter sweet pepper
This article was last updated on
Vegetable Garden 101: TOP 10 Gardening Mistakes To Avoid
Planting a backyard vegetable garden is a great way to grow your own food, a fun way to teach your kids where food comes from and an invigorating hobby that can increase your physical activity. You can grow some of your favorite herbs, fruits, and vegetables while enjoying the convenience of having fresh produce available just steps away from your kitchen.
But if you are new to gardening, there are some common mistakes that can limit your success and take the fun out of an otherwise enjoyable endeavor. To help you get your garden off to a good start, here are 10 vegetable garden mistakes you will want to avoid.
Gardening Mistake #1: Starting too Big
After you have been growing your own food for a while, you will probably want to expand your garden. You just might find yourself sticking a container of strawberries in an open corner on your deck, seeking out every spare inch of ground to fit in one more pepper plant, or eyeing your flower bed and fantasizing about replacing your roses with radishes. This is pretty common among folks who have been successfully growing a backyard vegetable garden for a few years.
However, you do not want to start too big. If you are new to gardening, you really cannot be sure how much you will enjoy it or how successful you will be at it. Therefore, rather than spending the time and money required to transform half of your yard into a vegetable garden, and then later finding out gardening is not your thing, it is better to start small and build on your successes.
A smaller garden is easier to maintain, requires less time and allows you to focus your efforts on learning how to grow fewer varieties. It also allows you to learn how to water, amend the soil and perform other gardening tasks on a smaller scale and without worrying about losing 20 rows of expensive plants if you do it wrong.
Start growing your herbs, vegetables or fruits in a few containers on your patio or in one or two raised garden beds. You can always expand your garden as your gardening skills develop and when you can better judge how much time and money you want to spend on your backyard garden.
Gardening Mistake #2: Starting with too Many Varieties
Once you have decided that you want to grow a backyard vegetable garden, it is pretty common to then want to grow everything your local nursery has to offer. You might go in for tomatoes, but as soon as you see the peppers, and then the squash, and then the basil and so on, your cart will probably start piling up with seed packets or plants.
It all looks so fun to grow and it is generally much more appealing to grow a wide variety of foods — rather than just one or two basic options. This is particularly true if you have an overall goal of becoming more self-sustaining or growing a good portion of your family’s food.
But even urban farms can be started small and can develop into a cornucopia of produce over the years. So even if you only grow most or all of the tomatoes your family needs this year while picking up the rest of your produce at the farmer’s market or grocery store, that is a good start.
Starting with fewer varieties allows you to learn more about the needs of those particular plants, where they do best in your yard, and what your family will or will not eat from the garden. Starting with too many varieties makes it easy to spread yourself too thin and miss out on the joy of growing your own food while you scramble to learn about squash fungus, cabbage worms and tomato-loving aphids all in the same year and on top of everything else there is to learn.
For the best chance of long-term success, begin with a few, basic varieties that allow you to hone your gardening skills, and then expand your garden a little each year.
Gardening Mistake #3: Starting with the Wrong Varieties
Starting with the wrong varieties is not necessarily a huge mistake, but it may make your introduction to gardening more difficult, more time consuming and less fun. There is a reason most backyard gardens have certain staples, such as tomatoes, zucchini, basil and bell peppers: They are easy to grow.
If you choose something like asparagus, you might lose interest in gardening while you wait for the two to three years before you actually get to harvest anything. If you plant cool-weather crops with long growing seasons, like lettuce or cauliflower, anytime after late winter, you might find that our Southern California weather warms up too much before they have had a chance to mature. Another example would be trying to grow long varieties of carrots in our area’s clay soil if it has not been properly prepared.
Some varieties of fruits and vegetables are more susceptible to pests, cannot withstand fluctuating temperatures, or are too temperamental when it comes to how often and how much you water them. Some simply require more care. This is not a problem for an experienced gardener with plenty of time, but it can be very frustrating for a gardener who is just learning or needs to fit their gardening time into a busy schedule.
You will have a better chance of success and be less likely to lose interest in your garden if you choose varieties that your family enjoys, work well in your yard and are easy to grow. Try the aforementioned tomatoes, bell peppers or zucchini. Or, if you are particularly busy, you may want to stick to an all-herb container garden for your first year, including easy-to-grow herbs, such as basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme.
Gardening Mistake #4: Planting Invasive Plants Without a Border
There are some options that are fun to grow and delicious to eat but will take over your garden if you let them. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, varieties of mint and dandelions. Dandelions, in particular, are a bit difficult to tame, which is why most Americans think of it only as a weed, but other invasive plants that are grown for food can be controlled.
Planting oregano, peppermint or spearmint in containers is the easiest way to keep them from taking over your garden. If you really want them in the ground, dig a large hole, sink a container into the ground and plant them inside the container. You can also plant most invasive herbs and others in beds with borders to keep them from crowding out their neighbors.
Gardening Mistake #5: Not Labeling Your Plants
Some new gardeners get so excited about getting their plants or seeds in the ground that they completely forget to mark their rows or to take that little plastic tag out of the pot and stick it in the soil. Unfortunately, when you fail to mark what is where in your garden, it can cause all sorts of issues.
First off, it may lead to you forgetting where you have planted, which could mean that you will sow pumpkin seeds where you have already planted lettuce, or it could mean that you neglect to water that spot because you forgot that you planted something there. It can also lead to mistaking your plants for weeds or not caring for the soil properly because you are not sure what is planted there.
You can use all sorts of things to mark your rows. For example, you can staple your seed packet to a paint stirrer and stick it in the ground, use the tags that came with your plants, use a permanent marker to write the names on old spoons, or purchase inexpensive plant markers.
Get as creative as you would like, just make sure you somehow mark what is planted where.
Gardening Mistake #6: Not Being Able to Identify Your Plants
This may seem like something you can learn as you go and something that will be obvious once your plant begins to produce, but you might be surprised at just how much baby collard greens or kale can look like common weeds.
Become familiar with what your herbs, fruits, and vegetables look like at different stages of their life so that you do not accidentally pull them and leave the weeds to flourish.
Gardening Mistake #7: Overfertilizing
Sometimes, new gardeners buy into the idea that fertilizer is the key to success just a little too much. With good intentions, they get a bit overzealous and sometimes think that if a little fertilizer is a good thing, then a lot must be even better.
Too much fertilizer can actually kill your plants, make them more susceptible to disease, burn them, or be completely counterproductive and cause them to not produce.
Make sure you purchase the correct fertilizer for the type of plants you are growing and follow the directions on the label. To keep chemicals out of your yard and reduce the chance of burning your plants, choose an organic fertilizer that releases nutrients over time.
If you have prepared your soil by mixing in organic compost, you will need less fertilizer and might do fine with no fertilizer at all.
Gardening Mistake #8: Crowding Your Plants
There are good reasons why seed packets tell you how far apart to space particular plants and why thinning seedlings is a good practice to follow. While it can be tempting to plant your seeds close together in hopes of a more bountiful harvest, this is rarely the case, particularly for beginner gardeners. There are some forms of gardening, such as those practiced in potagers, that place plants closer together than recommended, but this is not a good plan for your first couple of years of gardening.
It can also be difficult to pull out perfectly good plants, which leads a lot of gardeners to skip the thinning stage completely. Spacing your plants appropriately is not just about giving your plants room to grow it is also about making sure your plants get their fair share of water and nutrients from the soil and that their leaves receive enough sunlight. When crowded too closely together, plants tend to be less healthy and to produce less.
Gardening Mistake #9: Overwatering
It may come as a surprise that more vegetable gardens are killed from overwatering than from underwatering. Southern California is pretty much always in a drought anyway, so one way to remember when to water your garden is to just always pretend your city has mandatory water restrictions in place. Heck, half of the time, this will probably be true anyways.
Watering once or twice per week should be all your vegetable garden needs and, just like other plants, your fruits, vegetables, and herbs will do better with deeper, less frequent watering. A good rule of thumb is one inch of water per week.
Watering too much or too often can promote harmful fungus issues, make your plants more susceptible to disease or drown them.
Make sure your plants have well-draining soil and water them only when needed. Do keep in mind that seeds require more frequent watering and soil should be kept moist until they germinate. This may require watering every other day or even every day if the weather is particularly dry and hot.
Gardening Mistake #10: Not Keeping a Garden Journal
A journal may seem like just one more time-consuming task to add to your list of watering, weeding, pruning and harvesting, but it really will prove helpful if you keep one.
Keeping a journal allows you to keep track of what you plant where each year. This is important because you do not want to continue planting the same crop in the same spot year after year. Crop rotation is a very old practice that has been proven successful, and you will want to implement this practice in your backyard garden.
Keeping a journal also allows you to keep notes and compare them each year to see where certain plants thrive or do not do as well in your yard. If you use fertilizers or pesticides, it will also help you come up with the treatment schedule that works best for your garden and to determine which products were or were not effective.
We all make mistakes while we are learning how to garden. If you could go back in time, which vegetable gardening mistakes would you avoid making?
Photo Credits: morgueFile, Seemann morgueFile, gracey morgueFile, GeoffS morgueFile, msthurnell morgueFile, Seemann morgueFile, Castlelass
Roasted Red Pepper Tortilla Soup
- Author: Cookie and Kate
- Prep Time: 45 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: about 9 to 10 cups 1 x
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: Mexican
Homemade roasted red pepper soup with a Tex-Mex twist. This soup is creamy yet cream-less and thoroughly delicious. It’s gluten free, as long as your tortillas are gluten free, and easily made vegan (just skip the feta). Recipe yields 4 large servings.
- 7 medium to large red bell peppers (around 3 ½ pounds), halved, seeded, membranes removed
- 6 cloves garlic, in peel
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, skip if you’re sensitive to spice)
- 4 cups ( 32 ounces ) vegetable stock with peppers
- ½ cup water (optional)
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch (optional but recommended for super creamy soup)
- 3 corn tortillas, sliced into thin, 2-inch long strips
- 1 avocado, pitted and diced
- Handful cilantro leaves, chopped
- Feta, crumbled (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Roast the peppers: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven. Arrange your halved peppers, cut side down, in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Place the whole cloves of garlic in between the peppers. Roast on the upper rack (and lower rack, if you’re using two baking sheets) until peppers are blackened across the top, around 20 minutes.
- Steam and peel the peppers: Once the peppers are deeply blackened, remove them from the oven and use kitchen tongs to transfer the peppers to a medium-sized bowl and cover (or transfer them to a plastic bag and seal). Let the peppers steam for at least 10 minutes. Remove the cover and let them cool until they are manageable. Use your fingers to peel off the charred top layer of skin and discard (you may want to wear kitchen gloves for this). Peel the skin off the garlic, too.
- In a 3 ½ quart or larger Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the chopped onion, peeled whole garlic cloves and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and turning translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Cook the soup: Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt and optional cayenne pepper and cook for one minute, while stirring constantly. Add the peeled red peppers and vegetable stock and stir. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, make your crispy tortilla strips: Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once warmed, add the tortilla strips and a dash of salt. Stir to coat the strips, then arrange them in roughly an even layer in the pan and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate linked with a paper towel to cool.
- Optional but recommended step (yields super creamy soup): Whisk together ½ cup water with arrowroot or cornstarch until thoroughly blended. During the last minute of soup cooking time, pour the water/starch mixture into the soup and stir to blend. Once your soup is done cooking, remove it from heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
- Blend the soup (two options): For the creamiest soup, transfer soup to a stand blender in batches (do NOT fill your blender over halfway, soup will go everywhere!) and cover the top of the blender with a thick layer of kitchen towel (so the steam doesn’t burn your hands, be careful). Transfer puréed soup to another pot or a bowl and continue until all of the soup is blended. Or, use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If you did not add the ½ cup water and starch mixture earlier, taste your soup and decide if you want to stretch out the soup with ½ cup water (in which case, stir it in now) or leave it as is.
- If necessary, transfer soup back to your cooking pot and rewarm gently on the stove. Divide soup into individual bowls. Top with crispy tortilla strips, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, optional crumbled feta and a light sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Serve!
Soup recipe roughly adapted from Food Network and A Spicy Perspective.
Preparation tips: If you’d like to save time later when it comes to cooking the soup, you can roast and peel the peppers and garlic in advance. Store them in a bowl in the fridge, covered.
Why buy organic? Conventionally grown bell peppers are treated with lots of pesticides, so it’s best to buy organic. Womp.
Make it vegan/dairy free: Skip the feta.
Make it gluten free: Make sure to use certified gluten-free tortillas.
Serving suggestions: I’ve been enjoying this soup as a meal in itself, but I think it would go great with my feta fiesta kale salad (feel free to make a simplified version) or any of my other Mexican recipes, really.
Storage suggestions: This soup should keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for several days, or freeze it in individual portions for later (like this). Top with fresh garnishes just before serving.
If you love this recipe: You’ll also love my vegetarian tortilla soup, black bean enchiladas with roasted red pepper sauce and red pepper pesto with roasted cauliflower.
How to Grow Cucumbers Vertically
1. Prepare a trellis .
I’ve found that an A-Frame trellis made out of 1″ x 2″ boards (like the one pictured above that Brian made for me this year- it folds down for easy storage!) or bamboo poles work the best.
They can be grown up a single trellis (meaning a trellis between two posts vs. the A-frame), but it will need to be secured more than normal to be ready for the full-sized plants loaded with fruit.
Update: The wood trellis pictured lasted about 4 seasons before the legs rotted out. I have since found 10-ft U-shaped rebar that we fashioned an a-frame trellis from so they won’t rot at the legs.
Update #2: The rebar trellis isn’t good use of space in our smaller farmhouse raised bed garden, so I’m now growing them up a hog/cattle panel.
Update #3: Here’s a wood trellis DIY I found similar to ours, but using thicker wood so it may last longer than ours: A-Frame Trellis Tutorial.
I’ve added photos of both of these trellis options at the end!
2. T rain the plants up the string (or fencing, or whatever you use) during the growing season.
This is not difficult- it takes about five minutes as you’re working or harvesting in the garden. Just wind the plants around the string one or two times and they will take it from there.
Oh, and don’t you love the watch? It’s my super stylish dollar-store watch that helps keep me on task in the garden. I’m known for losing track of time out there. I’ll go out to do a few things at 11:00 am and before I know it, it’s 2:00 pm, and I’m thinking: “No wonder my stomach was growling…” Which, come to think of it, is much better than Brian coming out to ask me, “Didn’t you have a dentist appointment?” Ugh. Definitely. Need. The. Watch.
3. Water from the bottom.
While trellising and training are really the only things you have to do, I think using a soaker hose is a really smart idea (but I think that for a an entire easy care garden, too). It waters right where you need it, doesn’t get water on the leaves (wet leaves contribute to diseases like mildew), and waters deeply.
I turn the hose on for about 2-1/2 hours once a week (every 5 days if it’s really hot) and the plants are growing great. If you live in a hotter climate, you can add some type of mulch to the soil to help keep the moisture in.
4. Easily harvest the fruit.
The very first cucumbers grown on a trellis will appear at the bottom (like the photo in #3 above), and may be a bit dirty, but once the plants have grown up the trellis a bit more, you will just be able pick just by reaching in, push the leaves aside and grab a perfect, mostly straight fully colored cucumber!
And as they grow taller (the photo above is two weeks later than the picture at the beginning of the post) you might not even have to stoop to pick the fruit!
Although it is really nice that they do take up less space, too.
You will be able to plant the cucumber seeds closer together (I plant about 2 inches apart and then thin to 5-6 inches apart) because you are training the vines up. This of course means you will have a much larger harvest in a smaller space than letting them sprawl on the ground.
But that probably goes without saying, because that’s why we like to grow vegetables vertically. And even though it’s not a part of the “official” 5 reasons to grow cucumbers on a trellis, it’s a pretty good one still, right?
Can you tell I really like growing cucumbers this way?
Do you grow cucumbers on a trellis? Why or why not?
Update: 2 Cucumber Trellis Options
U-Shaped Rebar with Twine
- Pros: Doesn’t rot so lasts forever tall easy to set up (though I had to stand on a bucket to get the twine over the top, lol).
- Cons: Not easy to find this rebar shape (a neighbor gave it to us) bottom straight rebar simply tied on with twine, so rots eventually large size not as adaptable to raised beds.
Hog or Cattle Panel Trellis (this is what I’m currently using)
- Pros: Easy to find and inexpensive to buy panels and t-posts (we install them just like we do for the tomatoes we shared here) no need to attach (and then remove) twine fits in a lot of spaces.
- Con: The only one I’ve found so far is that it’s not as easy to train the cukes up the wire panels as it is the twine. One reader told me it just didn’t work, but I’ve not had any issues if I don’t let them grow too much without training (I’m in the garden daily or every other day, so I just take a few minutes to train the stems up).
This article has been updated – it was originally published in August of 2011.
Make This Year's Garden A Success!
Welcome - so glad you've joined the AOC community! Your first step is to check your email to confirm your subscription.
Since 2009 Jami Boys has helped readers live a simple homemade life through whole food recipes, doable gardening, and easy DIY projects on An Oregon Cottage. Whether it's baking bread, creating a floor from paper and glue, or growing vegetables and canning them, Jami's done it and written about it. She's been featured in Cottages and Bungalows, Old House Journal, and First for Women magazines as well as numerous sites like Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, and Apartment Therapy.
3. Most houses built before 1940 have lath and plaster walls that need regular inspections and repairs.
If you live in a house built before 1940 and the walls haven’t been updated, they are most likely plaster. As long as they’re in decent condition (not falling away from the lath in chunks), you may opt to leave them as they are. For many, plaster walls are a big part of an older home’s historical charm, and they’re well worth keeping intact. If this is the case, the best way to ensure the walls remain in good shape is to regularly inspect them and have cracks repaired as soon as they’re noticed.
Repairs can be as simple as filling small cracks by skimming over them with new plaster. Sometimes, repairs are more involved—removing loose sections of plaster and filling in the spot using a standard Three-Step Plaster Method. While skimming over small cracks is DIY-friendly, re-plastering entire sections is a job for a professional plasterer.
Rigid, right-angled cracks in bricks that resemble a staircase indicate a problem with the foundation underneath the wall. Horizontal cracks also are a problem, since they mean the wall is starting to fail. Unfortunately, there are several problems that can cause this type of cracking. Horizontal cracks occur when something such as dirt or wind is pushing against the wall, but it also can be caused by poor soil below the foundation. Clogged gutters and water damage also create cracks in brick walls.