Peppers come in many diverse forms that will be a treat to your vegetable garden — from sweet pepper varieties, to bell pepper plants, to jalapeños, chili peppers and habaneros. As vegetables that prefer a warm weather growing season, peppers are a perfect spring and summer crop.
Formally known as capsicum, this lovely plant is extraordinarily easy to grow and a culinary dream; peppers are the perfect garden choice for gardening newbies or at-home chefs. Here is the complete guide to growing peppers — from planting, to care, to harvest.
When to Grow Peppers
Peppers are a warm-season veggie. Ensure your climate is a match for peppers with Gardenuity match technology. Peppers thrive when nighttime temperatures only drop to a low of 53°F.
For best results, start seeds in your raised beds about 8-10 weeks before the last frost date. It’s best to begin pepper seeds indoors to avoid too cold of weather. For proper germination, the soil needs to be at least 70° F.
Plant pepper seedlings / transplants right after the last spring frost. For transplants to survive, the soil temperature needs to be at least 65° F during the day.
How long do peppers take to grow?
Most sweet peppers mature in 60-90 days. Hot peppers take a little longer somewhere between 3 and 4 months.
Days to Harvest
|Variety||Type||Days to Harvest|
|California Wonder Bell||Sweet||70-90|
|Corno Di Toro||Sweet||70|
|Yellow Crest Bell||Sweet||70|
How to Plant Peppers
When transplanting your young pepper seedlings, be sure to keep their spacing at about 18-24 inches apart in a sunny spot. At the time of planting, mix fertilizer into the soil and water immediately after planting.
Growing Peppers in Containers
Peppers thrive in container gardens. If you live in the city, are new to gardening, or simply prefer a mess-free option, a container garden kit is the perfect way to begin your pepper garden.
The key to successful container growing is to choose the right container and the right soil. Be sure to choose a container that breathes well, drains, and is deep enough. Then, pick a spot that gets enough sun and grow away!
Give our complete guide to container gardening a look to get more in-depth tips on container gardening!
Garden soil is the home of your garden. It’s imperative that it contains the right consistency and nutrients so that your peppers can thrive.
Peppers need well-drained soil with a soil pH between 6.2 and 7.0. Mix compost and/or other organic material into the soil when you plant. Organic matter or organic fertilizer, such as compost, added to your potting mix will help the soil retain moisture, which is imperative for good pepper production. You can find an organic fertilizer at your local garden center, or you can make your own at home. If you’re using a Gardenuity Garden Kit, you will already have our special compost mix handy.
Grow Pro Tip: Mulch the soil around the base of the plant after planting to ensure soil moisture. Using a few inches of mulch, like chopped leaves or straw, helps to maintain moist soil that is nice and cool for your garden.
Peppers need a lot of water, especially when growing in the middle of the summer. Generally, they need about 1-2 inches in total per week. During hot or dry spells, 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 every day. If the heat is too intense, move them into the shade; you may see some flowers fall off, but as long as you keep them watered, you will see a abundant fall harvest.
Ensuring your garden gets enough sunlight is imperative for fostering good growth. Peppers need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight — preferably more — to thrive. Be sure to set your pepper plant out where it will receive full sun, and check on it regularly for signs of sun deficiency. If your home garden will not receive at least 6 hours of sunlight, consider adding some grow lights to your pepper’s environment.
As peppers begin to show signs of fruit production, their growing weight can be a lot for a young plant to bear. If peppers plants are leaning to one side, spilling out of the container, or showing signs of stress, they need support.
Use a stake, cage, or trellis to support your pepper plant. Staking will also help keep peppers off of the ground, preventing unwelcome pests and disease problems.
Carefully tie vines to the support system with twine or sandwich twists. Make sure to keep the strings loose; tight knots will choke your plant as the stem grows. Double-check that your structure is secure and won’t blow over.
Grow Pro Tip: Cages should have spaces that are large enough for you to reach your hand inside to pick your peppers.
Pest & Disease Control for Peppers
One of the most difficult aspects of growing peppers is keeping them out of reach from pests and diseases. While this can prove to be quite a challenge, you can choose to grow disease resistant varieties. Particularly if you are growing by seed, you will be able to read a code on the seed packet which will inform you as to what conditions the plant will be best at resisting.
The most common types of pests for pepper plants are cutworms, flea beetles, aphids and whiteflies. You can easily be rid of most of these pests by mixing a mild solution of dish soap and water and spraying the leaves of your plants.
Peppers are also prone to a disease called blossom end rot is due to a major calcium deficiency and inconsistent watering practices. Get on a regular schedule and make sure your plants have plenty of vitamins in order to avoid this ailment.
The mosaic virus is also a common disease that attracts insects to pepper gardens. Once the virus has invaded the plant, it is already too late to treat the damage. This virus will result in limited fruit production and stunting of the plant’s true leaves.
Pepper Companion Plants/Foes
A pepper companion plant is a plant that, when planted near your pepper, helps your pepper thrive — either because of pest control, pollination, or increasing productivity. A plant foe is one that prevents peppers from thriving.
The following are pepper’s best companion plants and worst plant foes.
|Pepper Plant Companions||Pepper Plant Foes|
Why Peppers Change Color
Many garden peppers (like bell, cayenne, and jalapeño) grow green, yellow, orange, and red peppers on the same plant.
A redder pepper is a riper pepper. So, the green varieties are the youngest peppers and the yellow peppers are the middle of the spectrum. As peppers ripen, they develop a sweeter, fruitier flavor and 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.
When to Harvest Peppers
Depending on your preference, harvest your peppers at different stages of maturity. Young peppers are usually green while most mature peppers are red. As they mature, they get warmer in color and sweeter in color. This means an awesome variety of flavors and nutrients all from one plant.
If your pepper is red, harvest immediately — they’re ripe! Green peppers are continuing to grow seeds, but can still be harvested and eaten. The best way to harvest your peppers is to take a clean, sharp knife and to cut the fruit from the main stem.
However, be careful not to harvest too many peppers before they reach full maturity. When you pick green peppers, the plant gets nervous and produces more fruit. Although this might sound great, this is like having more and more children in a family; when resources are divided amongst a growing number of peppers, the flavor and nutrition in each decreases.
Harvest one or two peppers at a time as you grow to experience all of the different flavors while keeping your plant happy and productive.
How to Harvest Peppers
Use pruning scissors or shears to cut ripe peppers off at the vine, leaving a short stem attached. Do not pull off peppers by hand; this can cause entire branches to break.
Peppers will continue to produce tasty fruit throughout the summer. As the season continues, your plant will make less fruit until cold weather in the fall freezes them to the ground. At this point, dig up your pepper plant and compost the plant.
Why Are Peppers Hot?
Peppers are hot because of a chemical called capsaicin. When this chemical comes in contact with your nerve endings, it causes pain.
Peppers host this chemical to 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.
How to Handle Hot Peppers
If pepper juice gets in your eyes or nose, wash thoroughly with cold water. To avoid cross-contamination, wash cutting surfaces, knives, and other prep tools before using them with other food.
If you’ve opted for growing jalapeños, check out Brie’s quick tips here.
Pepper 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.
How to Store Peppers
First, wash and pat your peppers dry. Keep in mind that harvested peppers will continue to change color for 3 days after harvest when stored at room temperature. To stall maturation, place peppers in the refrigerator. If peppers show signs of shriveling or softening, refrigerate and use immediately.
Start Your Growth
Now you have all of the tools you need in order to grow a bursting and bustling pepper garden. If you have any questions during your gardening journey, reach out to our Grow Pros for expert growing advice and a confidence boost. Start your pepper container garden kit today!