How To Grow Peppers

Are you growing peppers this season? Here are some tips to help you harvest a healthy, abundant pepper crop. For this guide we are assuming you’ll use small transplants. 

1. Prepare The Soil

The right site and soil will make a world of difference in how peppers perform. Choose a sunny, well-drained spot where peppers haven’t grown recently. The soil should be deep and amended with at least one inch of organic compost dug in. Avoid adding too much nitrogen because that will cause pepper plants to grow fast but make them more susceptible to disease and less productive.

2. Plant

Peppers like warmth, so wait to plant until all frost danger has passed. If possible, set out your peppers on a cloudy day to help reduce stress on the plants. Space plants 12 to 20 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the variety, and set them a bit deeper than they were in their containers. (Like tomatoes, peppers grow extra roots from the buried part of the stem.) Consider staking or caging some varieties so that the stems do not break in strong winds or because of a large fruit load. After you plant the pepper seedlings, water them well.

3. Feed Your Soil

Peppers and tomatoes are heavy feeders, so they need plenty of organic food. Plants get all their nutrients from the soil, so it can be depleted quickly. We suggest a balanced vegetable fertilizer such as Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer. Used monthly, it will provide a slow release that improves the soil and it is balanced with calcium to help prevent blossom rot. Water well after feeding.

4. Water & Mulch

Throughout the growing season, make sure your pepper plants receive adequate watering. Deep watering every three to four days is better than a short water every day. Check the peppers often during periods of extreme heat and drought. Often the top layer of soil will be dry but when you stick a finger down into the soil it will be wet an inch below the surface. The trick is to maintain adequate water without drowning a plant or drying it out. Adding a thick layer of mulch will help retain soil moisture and moderate the soil temperature. But do this only after your soil has warmed—mulching cool soil will keep it too cool and stunt the pepper plants’ growth.

5. Pinch Off First Flowers

As difficult as it might be for you, pinch off any early blossoms that appear on pepper plants. This won’t harm the plants. It helps them direct their energy into growing and results in lots of large fruits later in the season (and a higher overall yield) instead of just a few small fruits early on.

6. Companion Plant

Okra: Growing okra near peppers can offer wind protection and partial shade for the peppers in the heat of summer, and may offer some protection from pests such as aphids.

Basil: Arguably one of the most popular summer herbs, basil is great on its own, but also has a place next to and around pepper plants. It’s claimed that growing basil next to peppers boosts their flavor, and may help to repel some common garden pests, such as aphids, spider mites, thrips, mosquitoes, and flies. Plus, pesto!

7. Harvest

You can harvest the peppers at their immature green or purple stage, but the flavor will be sweeter if you wait for them to turn their mature color—usually red, but sometimes golden yellow or orange. Italian fryers and jalapenos,  are possible exceptions: Many people prefer the flavor of these peppers when they are full size but still green. To harvest the peppers, cut them off with hand pruners. Pulling them off by hand can damage the plant.

Source: Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Treehugger.com

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