Peppers, like tomatoes are considered warm season vegetables, and need to be planted after all dangers of frost has concluded. Techniques such as Walls of Water (Link), plastic containers and tunnels (Link) are very effective in protecting the plants from frost, and will lead to early harvesting.
Peppers are very easy to grow from seed, about 7-8 weeks from your last frost date, sow seeds in Deep Root 6-Packs (link) filled with The Cooks Garden Soilless Seedling Mix (Link). Peppers do require more water during the germination and seedling stage than most vegetables, keep the soil moist to the touch and do not allow the soil to dry out.
Before transplanting to garden, condition the plants to outside temperatures and wind by moving them outside for 2-3 days before planting. Keep them in a protected location, in a short period of time, they will have adjusted, and ready to plant.
Soil selection is nearly any soil type, in pH range of 6.0-7.0 that has good drainage, water cannot stand after 24 hours following a heavy rain.
For maximum production of peppers, never let them stop growing, when the plant stops growing, production (flower buds) is impacted, flowers drop off and you lose yield. To keep the plants in ideal growing condition follow these tips:
- Mulch with compost, compost is a natural fertilizer that releases nutrients constantly
- Do not over apply nitrogen, when using any fertilizer, follow a 1-1-1 ratio, such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10, following label instructions
- Another reason to mulch is to keep weed population down, and eliminate pulling weeds or cultivation from around the plant. Any disturbance of the roots will impact production.
- Use a root zone soaker when watering, keeping the foliage dry, will decrease fungus populations, and increase yields. During periods of high heat, moisture level in soil must be high (but not soaking) to combat the wilting, and flower drop that follows.
- Plant peppers slightly deeper than the soil line of your seedlings, about 1" deeper is perfect.
- At planting, soak plants and soil with a fertilizer drench similar to Seaweed/Fish Fertilizer, following label instructions. About 30 days later, another application.
Planting distances are often dictated by your gardens spacing, but peppers respond well to dense plantings of 18" in the row, and row spacing of 3'. A dense planting is good because of the shading the planting creates on the fruit produced inside the plant, and the shading prevents sunburn on the fruit.
Pepper yields can be extremely high and over a long period of time. Yields are directly related to the flowering, and how many of those flowers develop fruit. Fruit often is produced within the plant on thick, heavy branches, and peppers stems are very tough. When picking, use a sharp tool or pruning shears, and cut the stem, trying to pull the fruit off usually leads to broken branches.
After harvesting, when stored at room temperatures, the shelf life is 2-3 days before the fruit begins to show signs of wrinkling. In an air conditioned home, shelf life is 4-5 days. Placed in a refrigerator, shelf life can be 6-10 days.
Peppers freeze exceptionally well in freezer bags. Remove cap, and take out seeds, then slice into pieces about the size of the ribs. Give thoughts to how you will use them, pack some as straight colors, pack others as a mix of reds, yellows and orange for winter grilling.
An amazing trait of peppers is how much the flavor increases as you get fluctuation between day and night temperatures in late summer, early fall. The fruit becomes very juicy, and the walls thicken, packed with flavor. These peppers are ideal for using as stuffed peppers, roasting and making soup. Pepper relish made from your garden is easily canned in small 8 oz. Ball Jars.
Growing peppers is a rewarding experience for every gardener. Pepper plants are small and can easily be grown with flowers, their attractive foliage and colorful fruit is ornamental. Peppers do very well in containers, plus during periods of high heat, you can move them into the shade. Enjoy all the wonderful culinary uses peppers provide, and when eaten as a snack, loaded with vitamins.