And now, on to a plant in my plot that is not faring so well, my bell peppers. As you can see in the photo of one of them, they have not grown much in the month since they were purchased as 4-5 inch tall seedlings and transplanted.
I seem to have all of the necessities for successful growth covered: rich soil--check. When the compost shipment arrived in late May, I added a 1-2 inch layer to my bed. Full sun--check. Some of the taller nearby plants, such as the tomatoes, may produce a little shade, but the peppers are exposed to sunlight for long periods, especially at midday. Warm temperatures--check. The temperatures in Boston have reached highs in 80s and 90s on most days. Water--check. Between intermittent showers and thunderstorms and my efforts, they rarely go more than two days without being watered.
Other peppers in the community garden seem to be flourishing. I hadn't run into any of their tenders in recent visits, so I searched the web for answers. A participant on the iVillage Garden Web forum had a similar problem. In many responses the gardener was encouraged to wait longer, that peppers take time. Some brought up the issue of the range of temperatures between day and night, and one gardener suggested that if the plants were overwatered, that could lead to root rot, causing the plant to put more energy into regrowing its roots than in its growth above ground.
The University of Illinois Extension web site warns that while fertilization can help, nitrogen may inhibit the growth of the fruit. Interestingly, extreme heat is also a possible culprit, as idea that runs counter to what participants in the forum were suggesting.
Everyone could be right, or wrong, depending on the situation. Maybe it's been too hot, or too cold at times, or maybe I need to add fertilizer. But perhaps my other plants could provide a clue. Yesterday I noticed some blossom end rot on one of my heirloom tomatoes, an indication that I should take a closer look at my watering practices.