Fresh green peppers make a healthy, tasty and crunchy addition to your summertime recipes. Growing your own peppers helps your kids get their hands dirty and learn about where vegetables come from, but you don't want them digging in a bunch of chemicals if you can help it. Using organic fertilizer feeds your plants and keeps your kids safe.
A benefit of buying chemical fertilizers is that the bags clearly state the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio, which helps you make sure you give your plants food they need without overloading them with harmful nutrients. Each plant has an ideal balance of nutrients. According to Ohio State University, that ratio for green peppers is 1-2-2, which might also be expressed as 8-16-16 or 2-4-4. Organic fertilizer doesn't always share the NPK ratios on the bag, and it can vary with fertilizers you make at home, such as compost. However, each type of organic fertilizer has a basic NPK ratio that helps you know which is best for your green peppers.
Animal byproducts are fertilizers that come from animals, such as from their bones, blood or feces. Many are too high in nitrogen to make ideal fertilizers for your green peppers. One of the lowest in nitrogen is fish emulsion, which typically has a 5-2-2 ratio. This is best used when you first plant the peppers because the nitrogen provides a fast-growing boost. Commercially composted manure, not fresh manure, is safe to use around your peppers; fresh manure might carry the E. coli bacteria, so must never be used around vegetables. Depending on the animal from which the manure came, it typically has relatively equal amounts of the three main fertilizer ingredients. Beef manure, for example, has 1.1 percent nitrogen, 0.9 percent phosphorus and 1.3 percent potassium, according to Colorado State University Extension.
Fertilizers made from plant byproducts are a little more difficult to pinpoint in a traditional NPK ratio. However, they contain valuable micronutrients and helpful bacteria that make your peppers grow vibrantly. Kelp powder, a form of seaweed fertilizer, typically has a ratio of 1-0-4 so is a negligible source of these nutrients, for example. The easy-to-process micronutrients make the organic fertilizer adequate for your peppers' needs. Compost, whether you make it at home or buy it at a garden supply store, also provides these helpful micronutrients. In addition, compost usually has a breakdown of 1.5-0.5-1 to 3.5-1-2, depending on what vegetable matter is included in it, says Sunset magazine.
Green peppers need well-draining soil to thrive, and some organic fertilizers also serve as soil amendments. Mixing compost and composted manure into the soil before you plant helps dense soil drain and loose soil retain enough moisture to keep your peppers healthy. Turn the compost or composted manure into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil before planting, then spread more around the base of the plant every three to four weeks during the growing season.