How to Grow Peppers This Summer

Peppers are the veggies of summer, and we simply can’t get enough — especially when they’re harvested fresh. From bell peppers, to jalapeños, to the hottest variety around, we’re huge fans. Plus they are packed-full of good flavor and nutrition. Here are a few key tips to help you reap the rewards to a healthy pepper harvest.

Here’s your guide to all things peppers — from how-to grow, to how-to harvest, to health benefits, to why they’re hot at all.

How to Grow

First things first: peppers love the warmth! They are the perfect hot weather garden and should thrive all summer long. Peppers require warm soil and high temperatures to grow and produce fruit. If your pepper garden is planted in a container, which they love, you can move the garden around when extreme temperatures hit. During the day, be sure to move them out into a protected sunny spot! Peppers need about 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to grow happily.

GIVE THEM PLENTY OF WATER. Peppers need a lot of water especially when growing in the middle of the summer. As for water needs, they need about 1-2 inches total per week. If it’s hotter, give them a little extra. To make sure your peppers are getting enough water, check the soil often and see if the soil on top is wet. It should be damp at all times, but not wet. Remember if your peppers are growing in a container, they may need to be watered everyday. If the heat is too intense, move them into the shade; you may see some flowers fall off, but keep them watered and you will most likely see a nice fall harvest.

Peppers grow best in soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.0. Even in container gardens, it’s a good idea to put mulch around each pepper plant to keep the soil moist and cool.

How to Harvest

You can harvest the peppers at any stage, but the flavor will be sweeter if you wait for them to reach their mature color. Once the peppers are full size, you can harvest them — whether they’re green, orange, or red is your choice.

Simply use pruning scissors or a sharp knife to cut peppers off of plants. Don’t use hands — this can cause an entire branch to break off. Rinse harvested peppers with water, pat dry, and store in the fridge. If you have too bountiful a harvest, freeze, dry, or pickle your extras.

Why the Heat?

Peppers are hot because of a chemical called capsaicin. When this chemical comes in contact with your nerve endings, it causes pain.

Evolutionarily speaking, peppers host this chemical to theoretically attract birds (which do not react to capsaicin) and to repel other mammals. This is because birds may have the unique ability to spread fertile pepper seeds, while mammals do not.

What the Color Means

A redder pepper is a riper pepper. So, the green variety are the youngest peppers and the yellow peppers are the middle of the spectrum (you’ll see this phenomenon as you grow!) As peppers ripen, they develop a sweeter, fruitier flavor. They also gain more nutritional value as they mature! On average, red peppers have about twice the amount of vitamin C and almost nine times more beta-carotene!

The Health Benefits

  • Red peppers contain tons of vitamin C! In fact, it’s about 200% of your daily vitamin C intake.
  • Night vision, anyone? The huge amounts of vitamin A in peppers support healthy eyesight — especially how we see in the dark.
  • They’re a great source of vitamin B6 and folate, which can help prevent anemia.
  • Tons of antioxidants. Peppers are the most under-appreciated superfood and contain lots of lycopene, which has been shown to help prevent cancers.