How to Grow Peppers
Instructions for Growing Peppers
in Your Garden
*** Growing Peppers is: Moderately Easy ***
Peppers come in many different varieties: bell (green, red, yellow, purple), banana (used mostly for salads and pickling), cayenne, and jalapeno peppers, just to name a few. In hot climates, peppers are perennials. In all other climates, they grow as annuals. Peppers are a warm weather crop, and have little tolerance for cold.
Peppers such as bells and bananas are known as sweet peppers. They're often used as a fresh snack on a vegetable tray, in salads, pickled, stuffed, on kabobs, or as an ingredient in a cooked dish. Bell peppers are commonly eaten when green, but if left to ripen on the vine, they will turn red, yellow, orange, etc. (depending upon the variety).
Peppers with some "heat" are commonly referred to as chile peppers or chiles. These peppers are often used to add zest to pickles, guacamole, pasta dishes, stir fries, and anything in between.
Note: This plant has no relation whatsoever to the plant that produces peppercorns for your common table condiment (also called "pepper").
Peppers offer: Dietary Fiber, vitamin K, C, A, E, B6, Folate, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Potassium, Manganese and Niacin.
Note: adding a little cayenne pepper to your meals, besides the tasty "zing" it offers, is reported to act as a circulatory tune-up for your body (when eaten regularly, over an extended period of time).
Growing peppers of any type, requires a great deal of sunlight. Plant in a full-sun locatin in your garden.
Peppers have very similar growing requirements as tomatoes, but are even less accepting of cold.
Most pepper plants will require some support to help protect it from wind. I've found it best to insert a stake (stick, post, whatever you have to use) when I transplant the plants in the garden. Then, when the plant starts to bear fruit, I lightly tie the central stalk to the stake for support.
Gardening Tip for Growing Peppers - If you wait until the pepper plant needs the support to insert your stake in the ground nearby, you will cause damage to the growing pepper plant's tender root system. Instead, insert the stake when transplanting, before the plant's root system has formed.
Do NOT try growing peppers in a location that had peppers or other plants from the same family in it the gardening season before (such as tomatoes, eggplant, etc.). Check the companion planting guide.
Prepare the ground for growing peppers by digging in plenty of organic matter (compost and well-rotted manure). Mix it in thoroughly so that your soil is friable (crumbly) and drains well. Peppers tolerate a wide range of soils, and will grow in soils with a pH level of 5.5-7.0. (See Testing your garden soil's pH.)
When growing peppers from seed, plan for approx. 3 weeks for the seed to germinate. Time when to start the seeds so that the pepper plants are ready to plant when the ground temperature (and the air temperatures) have stabilized at above 60 degrees. (I normally plan to start my seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before when I want to transplant them in the garden outside.)
Plant your seeds indoors in light, well-drained soil, in a warm location. Keep your seedlings warm and the soil moist (but not soggy), or you're inviting troubles (plant diseases or pests). If necessary transplant to larger containers. Harden your pepper plants gradually before transplanting them.
Gardening Tip for Growing Peppers - DO NOT transplant your seedlings outside until the weather is warm and settled.
Space your pepper plants about 18" apart in your garden. Cultivate the soil often to keep the weeds down. However, be careful not to dig deeply when weeding, as you can easily damage the plant's roots (which can weaken your plant, inviting plant diseases or pests).
Growing peppers (of nearly any variety) makes a decorative addition to your container garden. Grow them on your patio for accent, or even indoors for a house plant that provides peppers year round.
Use good potting soil that drains well. Do not over-fertilize, or you'll have lots of leaves and few fruits. You can apply an occasional dose of liquid fertilizer like compost tea though. This will help keep the leaves from turning yellow from a lack of nitrogen. Place in a full-sun location. Bring indoors as a house plant before the cool nights of fall arrive.
Gardening Tip for Growing Peppers - You may wish to pinch off shoots, to encourage a bushier and more compact plant.
Keep the plants evenly watered so that the soil is evenly moist (but not soggy). This helps prevent flower drop.
Prepare beds ahead of time with plenty of organic matter. Do not fertilize again until the plant starts to flower (or you'll have a bumper crop of green leaves, with few fruits). Once the plants are in bloom, you can fertilize if desired.
Aphids, fruit flies, cutworm, and powdery mildew are the challenges that sometimes present themselves with pepper plants. Rotating your crop to a new location in your garden each year will help minimize these problems.
It is best to pick your peppers frequently, to encourage them to bear fruit for the entire gardening season. (If left too long on the vine, they will slow production). However, that being said, peppers left to ripen on the vine have a far superior flavor to those that ripen off-vine. Chiles (hot peppers) are hotter if left to ripen on the vine as well.
If you still have fruit on the vine when your first fall frost approaches, remove the fruit before the frost. They will store in a cool cellar for 3 months or longer.
-------------- Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.