Peppers are vigorous plants, but they need warm soil to thrive. They also benefit from a rich potting mix that’s slightly acidic.
Sow seed indoors in a heated propagator from January or March (or plant out into the garden after risk of frost). Keep transplanted plants in 7.5cm pots until they grow to 30cm, then pinch out growing tips to encourage bushy growth and more fruit.
Pepper plants need rich, fast-draining soil. They also need plenty of organic nutrients and proper spacing to grow sturdy plants that produce good yields.
If you’re planting in containers or raised beds, try using a premium quality potting mix. For in-ground gardens, mix several inches of compost or aged nutrient-rich garden soil into the topsoil.
For the best results, a soil test should be done before adding fertilizer to your pepper garden. The test will help you determine if the soil needs to be amended. Organic fertilizers are generally preferred over synthetic chemical products.
It’s a good idea to mulch the soil around pepper plants, especially in hot, dry climates. Mulching keeps the soil cool, moderates water retention and prevents weed growth. Wait until the soil has warmed before mulching, however, or the pepper plants may suffer frost damage.
In the garden, space your pepper plants about 18-24 inches apart, stem to stem. This will allow them room to grow into large, mature plants.
Peppers are tropical plants and require warmth for good germination and growth. They can’t tolerate frost, and even cool climates can slow their growth. Peppers also need ample sunshine to mature.
Start seedlings indoors in late winter or early spring, about two months before the last expected frost date in your area. Fill small pots or plug trays with seed starting mix and sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, three to four seeds per container. Place trays in a propagator or use a warming mat for faster germination and stronger seedlings.
Once transplanted outdoors, ensure peppers are in full sun and can receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Inspect plants regularly for signs of disease and insects, and thin them if they become too crowded.
Mulching around in-ground pepper plants helps retain moisture and prevent soil from splashing onto leaves, which can lead to leaf spots and powdery mildew. Apply a balanced organic fertilizer in the fall or early spring to keep peppers healthy and productive. Refrain from adding too much nitrogen, as this can cause the plants to focus on growing leaves rather than fruit.
Pepper plants need a moderate supply of water, and the soil should drain well. Peppers are sensitive to excessive wetness, which can lead to fungus and rot. It’s important to plant in a spot that gets plenty of sunshine, and if the planting site was cropped to solanaceous vegetables (like tomatoes or potatoes) in previous seasons, the soil needs to be amended with organic matter before putting in peppers.
Aim for a soil that’s rich in organic nutrients, but also fast-draining and not too compacted. If the peppers grow tall, staking them may be necessary to prevent wind damage and breaking branches.
It’s best to pinch off the first blossoms on young plants to direct the plant’s energy toward growth rather than fruit production. However, be careful not to remove too many flowers, which can result in poor pollination and lower overall yields. Even and consistent watering is important, which helps prevent blossom end rot, which results in deformed fruits.
From sweet and crisp bell peppers in rainbow shades to smoky habaneros hot enough to bring tears to your eyes, all varieties require a long growing season and ideal conditions for full yield. Pepper plants need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to produce sturdy, healthy plants and large fruits. Plants that are tightly packed won’t get the full amount of light necessary and will have smaller harvests.
Seedlings need a mix of well-draining potting soil and a planting container that isn’t too large. A 3 or 5 gallon pot will give them ample room to grow and stretch out their roots.
Peppers need nitrogen for strong stems and foliage, phosphorus for fruit production and potassium for healthy roots. At transplant time, add a handful of compost and a teaspoon or two of 5-10-10 organic fertilizer to the planting hole. When peppers start blossoming, side-dress with a sprinkling of the same fertilizer.