Basics for Growing Peppers

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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variety of peppers for sale at farmers market

Bell, pimento, jalapeño, chili, sweet banana, cayenne – these are just a few of the many peppers you might choose to grow in your garden.

Peppers are warm-season annuals that grow best at temperatures of 70-85° during the day and 60-70° during the night. They generally require a long growing season and grow very slowly during cool periods. So, the time for planting is after the soil has warmed to 65° or more (usually when all of the dogwood blossoms have dropped in early May.

In the garden, peppers should be spaced 12-24” apart in rows or blocks. If you have limited space, peppers can also be grown in containers, just make sure the container is an adequate size. The soil should be well-drained and have a pH of 5.8-6.5 for the best growth. Wait a few weeks to apply mulch in order to allow the soil to heat up.

Peppers require only moderate amounts of fertilizer. Use a starter fertilizer solution at planting. Side-dress sparingly after the first fruit are about the size of a dime. Too much nitrogen before fruit set causes all foliage and no fruit. After fruit set, fertilize regularly using a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10. You may want to use stakes or cages to support varieties with large fruit to keep them from falling over.

Irrigate to provide a uniform moisture supply to the crop. Apply enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6”. The most important time for adequate moisture is during fruit set and fruit development. Mulching can help to provide uniform moisture, conserve water and reduce weeds.

Common problems you may encounter when growing peppers include blossom end rot, blossom drop, bacterial wilt, bacterial leaf spot as well as European corn borer, corn earworms, and armyworms. Don’t let this discourage you. Keep your soil and plants healthy and problems will be reduced.

Although many peppers are eaten when they are green, allowing them to ripen or change color to red, yellow, orange, or chocolate increases their flavor and nearly doubles the vitamin C content. Peppers should be harvested as soon as they change color. Store them in the refrigerator at a temperature of 45-50° and 80-90% humidity for two to three weeks.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!