Do peppers have a place in your summer garden? Whether it’s sweet, crunchy peppers in various colours or fiery habañeros that can make you cry, all peppers need a lengthy and warm growing season. However, cultivating peppers can be somewhat challenging. Occasionally, it is necessary to put in extra effort to establish an ideal environment for your pepper plants to flourish. Nevertheless, once you accomplish this, you will be rewarded with a stunning and thriving garden.
This article serves as your comprehensive guide to growing peppers.
How To Successfully Grow Pepper Plants
Choose The Right Peppers For Your Garden
Capsaicin is the chemical that gives peppers their heat, so you’ll want to consider this when you’re dWhen deciding which pepper varieties to plant, it’s important to consider the chemical capsaicin, which is responsible for the heat in peppers. If you prefer milder and snackable options, sweet bell peppers are a great choice. Not only are they perfect for snacking, but they are also an excellent option for children who prefer less heat.
On the other hand, hot peppers come in a wide range of spiciness, which can be measured on the Scoville heat scale. If you want to add bold flavour to your cooking, options like habanero, jalapeño, and Thai chili peppers are fantastic choices.
Pepper Seeds Vs. Seedlings
When growing pepper plants, one important decision to make is whether to start from seeds or seedlings. If you choose to start from seeds, refer to the information on the seed packet regarding soil temperature, spacing, lighting requirements, days to harvest, and germination methods.
On the other hand, you can begin with pepper plant seedlings. Before planting these seedlings, it is necessary to harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions. This process helps the seedlings adjust and reduces their stress levels, resulting in larger and more productive peppers.
In hot weather, gradually acclimate the pepper seedlings to the outdoors by placing them in a sheltered location, such as near the house or garage, for a few hours each day. This should be done for three or four days initially, and then gradually increase the amount of time spent outdoors over the next week. To provide extra warmth for the pepper bed, cover it with dark landscape fabric.
Before planting, check the last frost date in your area to ensure the peppers are planted at the appropriate time and avoid any potential damage from colder temperatures.
Planning Your Pepper Garden
To successfully grow peppers, it is vital to provide them with ample direct sunlight and well-draining moist soil that is not overly wet. Balancing sandy and loamy soil will promote good drainage and quick soil warming. Incorporating generous amounts of organic matter, such as compost, into the soil is highly recommended, especially if dealing with heavy clay soil.
While opting for organic fertilizer is an option, it is important to be cautious as it can contain high calcium levels. This can potentially affect the pH levels of the soil, so it is advisable to conduct a soil test before making any significant changes.
It is best to avoid planting peppers in areas where other nightshade family members, like tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants, have been recently grown. This precautionary measure helps minimize the risk of exposing peppers to diseases.
To start growing peppers, plant their seeds 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost. While sweet peppers germinate faster than hot peppers, it may take some time for the seeds to sprout. To speed up the process, provide bottom heat by using a heating pad or placing the flats on top of the refrigerator. However, be sure to water the soil regularly as it can dry out faster.
Once the seedlings reach around 6 weeks old and develop their first true leaves, transfer them into larger pots (approximately 3 inches) and continue their growth indoors.
It is important to harden off sweet pepper seedlings before transplanting them in the garden, especially because they are highly vulnerable to cold weather. These plants have a long growing season, so it is advisable not to rush the process. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and temperatures consistently remain above 50 F before transplanting.
When temperatures drop below 55 F, peppers grow slowly and may experience the loss of flowers and/or leaves. To plant them earlier, you can warm the soil by using black plastic or protect the plants by covering them with a floating row cover.
How To Plant Peppers Outdoors
When purchasing pepper plants, opt for those with strong and straight stems, 4 to 6 leaves, and no signs of blooming or fruit. To acclimate pepper plants to the outdoor environment, place them outdoors a week or more after the last frost date or when the average daily temperature reaches 65°F (18°C).
Prior to transplanting the pepper plants into the garden, incorporate aged manure and/or compost into the soil, ensuring it reaches a depth of 8 to 10 inches, and then repeatedly rake the area to break up any large clumps of soil.
Once your pepper seeds grow, they will outgrow their seed cell trays quickly. It is recommended to transplant pepper seedlings into larger containers after around 2-3 weeks of growth or when their root system reaches the bottom of the seed cells. At this stage, the plants usually develop 2-3 sets of ‘true leaves.’
Wait until the soil temperature reaches 65°F (18°C) before putting the transplants into the ground. During transplant, make sure to plant the seedlings about 1 inch deeper than they were previously growing in their pots. This will encourage the base of the stems to produce small roots, resulting in stronger plants. When planting in the ground, give each pepper plant a spacing of 14 to 18 inches.
To create a warmer environment for the pepper bed, especially as the plant adapt to outdoor conditions, you can cover it with dark landscape fabric.
Harvest Peppers Properly
Peppers can be harvested throughout the season, unlike other plants in your garden. However, the timing of the harvest will vary depending on the variety you choose. While some individuals enjoy the taste of young green peppers, others prefer the flavorful characteristics of red peppers.
When tending to your growing pepper plants, it is important to handle them with care as they can be fragile and prone to breaking. When it comes to harvesting peppers, it is recommended to use scissors or shears to gently remove them from the plant instead of pulling them off, as this can lead to damage.
Moreover, when harvesting hot peppers, it is advisable to wear gloves since the plant’s oils can easily transfer to your skin. Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally rub your eye after getting hot pepper oil on your hands!
For jalapenos, they are commonly harvested while still green before they fully ripen. However, if you prefer a sweeter taste and softer skin, allow them to mature on the plant until they turn bright red.
The same principle applies to green bell peppers. You can harvest either variety based on your preference, but make sure to wait until the peppers reach a mature size before picking them.
- After harvesting, it can be refrigerated in plastic bags for a maximum of 10 days.
- It is possible to freeze bell peppers for future use.
- Peppers can also be dried: Preheat the oven to 140°F. Wash, remove the core and seeds, and cut them into thin strips of around 1/2 inch. Steam the peppers for approximately 10 minutes, then spread them on a baking sheet. Dry them in the oven for 4 to 6 hours, turn them occasionally and switch the positions of the trays. Once cooled, store the dried peppers in bags or containers in the refrigerator.
Tips For Healthy Pepper Plants
Water & Mulch
Ensuring adequate water for your bell peppers is crucial as it prevents drought stress, which can lead to flower dropping. It is important to note that these plants may also shed flowers in extended periods of cool weather, excessive heat, and low humidity. In exceptionally hot and dry areas, applying a thick layer of mulch can aid in retaining soil moisture and regulating soil temperature.
Pepper plants can be fertilized twice – during the planting stage and when the first flowers emerge. It is recommended to use a well-balanced fertilizer suitable for edible plants. Some gardeners also opt to incorporate a small amount of Epsom salts into the soil during planting for an added magnesium boost.
As the plants transition to fruit production, maintaining a proper nutrient balance remains crucial. However, it is crucial to reduce the nitrogen levels, as too much nitrogen can result in a lush pepper bush with few peppers.
Most pepper plants, except for dwarf varieties, require support in the form of staking or caging. This is necessary to prevent the brittle branches from breaking and to ensure that the plants do not topple under the weight of the growing fruit. When tying the plants to stakes, it is advisable to use a flexible material like strips of nylon hose that can stretch as the stems get thicker. It is important to avoid using wire or twine, as these materials can constrict the plant’s growth.
Additionally, staking the plants will help keep the fruit from coming into contact with the ground.
Pepper plants require adequate light for healthy growth, particularly when cultivating them indoors throughout the year. To ensure the best result, we suggest utilizing LED grow lights, which are efficient, noiseless, and generate minimal heat. While it is not mandatory, artificial lighting can be employed, but a sunny window facing South will suffice for successful pepper cultivation.
Can Bell Peppers & Hot Peppers Be Grown Together?
Yes. Pepper plants have the ability to cross-pollinate, but this does not have any immediate impact on the current crop. The presence of hot peppers next to bell peppers will not cause the latter to acquire their spiciness. However, if seeds are saved from these plants, the resulting offspring may not exhibit the exact characteristics of the parent plant.
What Makes A Chili Pepper Hot?
Capsaicin, which is found in pepper seeds and the membranes surrounding them, is the oil responsible for the spiciness of peppers. The heat level of peppers is measured in Scoville units, with a higher number indicating a spicier pepper. The Ghost pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, was the first pepper to exceed a Scoville rating of 1,000,000. Although it’s not the world’s hottest pepper, it still retains its exceptionally fiery nature.
Containers Or In-Ground?
Will you be growing your peppers in containers or in a raised bed/garden bed? Although the growing process is similar for both methods, each method has its own advantages.
Growing peppers in containers allows for easier mobility, better control over nutrients and watering, and is ideal for those living in apartments or condos. However, it does require more frequent watering and can be costly to use high-quality potting soil.
Start Growing Peppers in Your Home Garden
Having a flourishing crop of peppers each season can be both enjoyable and gratifying when you put in the effort to create the optimal conditions for growing pepper plants in your garden.
Get started now!