Peppers are a challenging plant to grow, especially for those who live in colder climates. Luckily, there are a few helpful tips and tricks that you can use to increase your chances of success.
If you’re growing peppers indoors, begin by planting seeds 1/4 of an inch deep into pots filled with potting soil. Once they’re large enough to start producing leaves, transplant them into larger pots or into the ground.
Peppers — sweet or hot, tiny or a foot long — need warmth to thrive and can be started indoors or under cover in most climates. Sow seeds in late winter or early spring no more than two months before your last frost date and harden off for a week before planting outdoors.
Plant your peppers into a potting soil mix that’s at least 12 inches (30cm) deep and wide, preferably enriched with organic matter, such as compost. Space your plants a minimum of 16in (40cm) apart in a row.
Water your peppers regularly, aiming for a total of 1-2 inches per week. During periods of drought, you may need to water more frequently, so stick to your normal schedule but make changes when necessary.
Pepper plants require consistent watering to thrive. If pepper plants dry out, they can wilt, change color or drop from the plant.
Often, these symptoms are related to watering habits but they can also be caused by other issues.
Soil can become overly wet, or water wicks up through the soil and soaks the stem and leaves, which may result in disease and fungus growth.
When watering peppers, a good rule is to allow the soil to partially dry between watering sessions. Use your finger or a moisture meter to check the soil’s moisture level.
Once the soil is dry to a depth of 2-3 inches, it’s time to water again. If you’re unsure, lift the pot and feel the top of the soil. If it feels heavy, water again.
If you want to produce the best-quality peppers, you need to fertilize them correctly. Fertilizer can play a big part in the development of strong root systems, healthy stems and leaves, and the eventual production of flowers and fruits.
Many commercial fertilizers are available, including granular and liquid options. They all provide the energy plants need for a successful growing season.
Some pepper plants are more tolerant of phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen, so you may need to use a fertilizer with a higher percentage of one of these nutrients. You can also make homemade fertilizers from things you already have in your garden, such as manure tea and bone meal.
You should begin fertilizing your pepper seedlings after the first two sets of true leaves appear. Start with a half-strength, well-balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks.
Pruning your pepper plants is a great way to improve their performance and ensure that they produce as many fruits as possible. There are different types of pruning that can be done at various times during the growing season, depending on the needs of your pepper plant.
Early-season pruning, which occurs during the establishment phase, is designed to establish a strong branch structure, encourage root development and manage disease. It also helps to hasten fruit ripening when the threat of frost is imminent.
Topping or tip pruning involves removing excess stems and nodes that don’t form a healthy Y-shape on young pepper plants. This allows for better airflow around the roots and limits the risk of fungal pathogens that thrive in damp conditions.
Peppers are a very fun plant to grow. They come in a variety of colors and flavors, from sweet to hot.
When harvesting, choose a time that works for your pepper plants and your needs. Mild peppers and hot peppers can be harvested at any stage, but the best flavor is usually achieved when they reach full size and color.
Depending on your growing conditions, most sweet varieties mature in 60 to 90 days while muy caliente varieties can take up to 150 days from transplanting.
For storage, you can keep them fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze them whole. Drying them is a great way to preserve the flavor and nutrients.