Peppers are a favorite plant in vegetable gardens. There are many types and varieties of peppers to choose from. They come in sweet varieties, bell pepper varieties and different levels of hot peppers. Growing peppers from seeds requires a high soil temperature to germinate. Because of this fact, most peppers are started indoors. If you live in a hot climate you may be able to start your peppers outdoors. The peppers should be started about 40-60 days before your transplanting time arrives. Some people enjoy hydroponic gardening indoors. Peppers do well grown by this method as well.
You should choose a place where the temperature gets to 70-75 degrees in the daytime and no lower than 60 degrees at night. When the soil temperature is consistently 60 degrees or more, you can set your plants out and plant them 12-24” apart in rows that are 24-36” apart in well-drained loam that you have added rotted manure or compost. If your soil is low in magnesium, dig in a bit of Epsom Salts.
Plant sweet and hot pepper varieties as far apart as possible in the garden to avoid any type of cross-pollination. It is possible in small gardens to pick up a little mild tangy flavor from cross-pollination.
Starting Your Peppers
You can use a starter solution, such as Miracle Gro to help prevent your plants going into transplant shock from indoors to out. Keep the soil weed free and consistently and thoroughly moist. Use a soaker hose if necessary during periods of drought or high heat. Feed the plants about twice a month while plants are in flower.
Peppers usually don’t need staking, but large cultivars planted where they are exposed to strong winds will benefit from being staked or put into cages. Prolonged temperatures below 60 degrees or above 90 degrees will cause the blossoms to drop, so be prepared to protect plants from such extremes with row covers, cloches, or a cold frame to conserve warmth in cool weather, and shade cloth or other sun blocker and mulch them when it’s hot. Pepper plants are grown from seeds or from transplanted plants.
*If you happen to have nice, lush plants with no peppers, it might be a sign of excess nitrogen or low humidity.
*Use rubber gloves when handling or harvesting hot peppers and keep your hands away from your face.
You should pick sweet peppers when they are any color. Pick hot peppers anytime for fresh use, but leave them on the plants until fully ripe if you want to dry them. Pick them often so that the plants will continue to produce new fruits. Use garden scissors to cut the stems and avoid damaging the plants.
The Value of Peppers
Peppers are high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and A. Red bell peppers contain more vitamin C than an orange. Although some people will not be able to consume peppers because of a gastrointestinal disorder, the pepper itself does not cause ulcers. The hot heat of a pepper comes from capsaicin, a naturally occurring compound that is suppressed in sweet peppers by a recessive gene.
How to Use Peppers and Store Peppers
Sweet peppers are used raw in salads, sandwiches, and on crudites. Hot peppers are good to roast, grill, or stir fry. They can be added to any dish that calls for a little spicy flavor. You can also poke holes in them and drop them into a bottle of olive oil or other vegetable oil. Within a few days they can be added to any dish, especially Asian dishes. You can store unwashed fresh peppers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To dry hot peppers, string them together by running a needle with thread through the tops near the caps and hang them in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.
Store dried ground peppers in a tightly sealed glas jar in a cool location away from sunlight. Peppers freeze well and do not need to be blanched first. Just wash and dry them, slice or chop them, and then place them into thin layers in plastic freezer bags.
Pests and Diseases of pepper plants include aphids, which can be knocked off with a strong spray from the garden hose, or use a mild soap for heavier infestations. Handpick and destroy any beetles or caterpillars that may appear. If whole peppers rot, check them for maggots or corn ear-worms and destroy the entire plant if it is infested. You can discourage tarnished plant bugs by practicing clean cultivation practices.
Choose cultivars with resistance to viruses. Avoid bacterial problems through clean cultivation and crop rotation. Control blossom-end rot by providing consistent moisture throughout the growing season.
Recommended cultivars and varieties of all types of peppers can be found in a separate article with specific variety names.