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          For the last couple of weeks, early in the morning, ladybugs begin to appear on everything in my kitchen. It’s a battle to make breakfast without cooking up a bunch of these colorful insects.
          After waking up in the spring, they appear to be hungry and a small drop of orange juice on the counter acts as a watering hole, soon one after another they land for a turn at this sugary treat.

          I’ve tried hundreds of techniques to capture these friendly critters, I found the most effective way was to take a firm piece of cardboard, pinch closed one end, it makes a scoop at the other end. Stand on something until you can reach up high, push the cardboard up the wall or window under the ladybug.
Captured, they quickly fall to the bottom of the scoop and can easily be dumped into a jar. Watch out, some of them move fast, if they get a chance they’ll fly away before you get them into the jar.

          Now here is the good part, if you have a greenhouse or cold frame (if nothing else dump them in your garden) these little pest eaters will stay there long enough to meet other ladybugs, ‘do their thing’ and lay eggs. These eggs will hatch at just the right time to protect your crops. The larvae of the ladybug is referred to as an Aphid Lion, they look like tiny striped caterpillars and they do the most wonderful job traveling from plant to plant eating tons of aphids a day.

          So many people have mentioned how they worry about the spots that are adding up on their ceiling and walls, a little soap, water and a sponge will easily wipe it clean, and if you’re planning to grow lots of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes (plants that are prone to aphid infestations) this free supply of ladybugs is definitely worth a little trouble.

          Every year, more people tell me that they cannot grow peppers where they live. Sweet peppers do take a moderately long growing season, lots of sunshine and mild nights to set their fruit, but it is not impossible to grow peppers in this part of North America.

          Plants need to be started indoors at least six weeks before transplanting outside. If you hurry, there’s still time.  Plant seed inch deep, I usually put quite a few seeds into one small pot where they can grow comfortably in the window sill until they are about three weeks old, then they need to be placed into individual pots, and kept inside until all danger of frost is over.

          When transplanting outside, place them two feet apart in rows that are 18 inches apart. (Note: if you follow my instructions for mini greenhouse covers, each set to be covered should not have more than 2 rows).

          To start off, make sure your soil is well drained; nothing sets a warm climate plant back faster than having COLD wet feet.  If your area is mostly clay, add lots of organic matter before setting your peppers out.

          If you have just started going organic and do not have tons of matter available fear not, you don’t have to worry about doing the entire garden at once, pick out where each plant is going, dig a hole about twice the size the plant will be when full grown and work in as much organic matter as possible.  If you do this every year, eventually the new matter will add up in your garden.

          Both hot and sweet peppers like a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. They are light feeders, so hold off fertilizing until the plants begin setting fruit. If they get too much nitrogen early the plants will develop excessive foliage and abort their flower buds. Once fruit is set, side dress with compost and organic fertilizer once a month.

          During flowering and fruit setting times, it is important to provide adequate moisture. In draught conditions, mulch each plant heavily with leaves, shredded newspapers, or compost. Avoid high acid mulches, such as pine needles and fresh sawdust.

           In order to have a decent sized pepper crop in a northern climate, peppers need to be grown in an area where they can get full sun for the majority of the day.

The only way most varieties of Hot peppers will produce peppers that are really hot is to grow them in a sunny, hot location.  Unless we get quite a few days of 90degree temperatures, our climate is not usually hot enough to grow these plants outside.

For the best results, grow HOT peppers in a greenhouse. You don’t have to invest a lot of money to be able to grow your own hot peppers. With a little imagination, you can easily create small-row covers; that will work like mini greenhouses for your pepper crop.

To help keep them warm throughout the night, place a plastic bottle filled with water between each plant. (Ones that have been painted black work best)   Flat stones placed strategically around the plants also help retain heat long after sundown.

          Aphids are the pepper plants biggest enemy. Whether red, green or black in color they feed on plants by sucking out its sweet sap. If your plant has curled, stunted leaves and shoots, check the underside of each leaf, chances are you will find either live aphids or their eggs.

          Gently hold the leaf between your finger and using your thumb rub the eggs until they are smashed.  Sometimes there is a bit of a webbing type material around them, pull it off, because this material will protect the aphid and eggs from coming in contact with whatever you wish to spray on to get rid of them.

Actually you don’t need a harmful chemical to keep aphids in check, a little dish soap mixed with water in a spray bottle will do a great job. The important part is to rinse the under leaf off well an hour after spraying and keep them rinsed often.

Remember nothing you can do works better than having a colony of ladybugs living and breeding in your greenhouse or garden.

                                                  The End.