Are you the type of person who sees three red peppers beside a menu item and thinks, “Should I?” and then does, and lives to slightly regret it, but still appreciates the burn through the tears and the forehead sweat?
If you said yes, then you are like me. For us, spicy food is the spice of life. So the perfect plant to grow, naturally, is peppers.
Peppers are easy to grow, look beautiful, and will provide you with the heat that you crave. This guide will teach you how to grow peppers, explaining how to grow them in your garden, in containers, from seeds, and from seedlings.
What You Will Need
- Pepper Seeds/Seedling
- Small Pots
- Common Graden Tools
- Container (optional)
- Stakes (optional)
Pepper Seeds or Seedlings?
Unless you are a glutton for punishment, plant pepper seedlings.
I recognize that all the masochistic gardeners who read that are currently rubbing their hands together in glee, plotting ways they can successfully grow peppers from seeds in their garden.
Let me emphasize that IT WON’T WORK unless you live in the deep south, with extremely warm temperatures, and have the patience of a saint.
For everyone who isn’t a super-human gardener, grow peppers from seedlings.
You can start your seedlings indoors a couple of weeks before the last frost. Plant the seeds in small pots and diligently water them for two months before moving them outside. Always keep them in a warm spot with temperatures between 70 F and 90 F.
To speed up your seed germination process, place seeds between two damp sheets of a paper towel and then place that bundle in a sealable bag. Then leave the bag in a warm place like the top of your refrigerator. They will soon begin to sprout and then you can plant them in a small pot.
If that sounds like a lot of waiting and a lot of work you can take the E-ZPass lane to growing peppers, and just buy pre-grown seedlings from a gardening store.
Health Benefits of Peppers
Peppers can have a lot of nutritional benefits. For starters, they contain Vitamin C and A, potassium, and fiber. Spicy peppers can also even help you lose weight.
Spicy peppers contain capsaicin. Capsaicin boosts your metabolism and slightly suppresses your appetite.
Capsaicin raises body temperature which expends more energy in your body, leading to more pounds lost.
Of course, just eating spicy peppers won’t do much for your weight loss, but they can help.
Types of Peppers
The two types of peppers most commonly grown are sweet peppers and chili peppers, which vary in spice levels, general flavor, shape, and color.
Sweet peppers are big bell-shaped peppers that blend sweetness and spiciness. They are one of the most common types of peppers, including varieties like, European sweet peppers , Cubanelle peppers, and sweet banana peppers. These peppers are versatile and can add sweet and spicy flavors to cooking, or be enjoyed raw.
Chili peppers are spicy, containing high levels of capsaicin. They can vary in their size, shape, and level of spiciness, some examples being jalapeno, serrano, and poblano peppers. These peppers can be enjoyed raw, if you are brave, in cooking, or dried and ground up into spices.
How to Grow Peppers
Step One: Prep for Peppers
Pick a spot to grow your peppers. Whether you are growing them in your garden or a container, peppers should be in a spot with lots of sunlight.
The soil they are grown in should be rich, loamy, and well-drained. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0. If you do not have the appropriate soil, add a light layer of fertilizer, preferably compost, to your soil before planting the peppers.
Plan to plant them far after the last frost because peppers hate the cold. The temperature during day and night needs to be at least 60 F before you plant them outside.
Pro Tip: Avoid soil high in nitrogen because an excess of nitrogen can make peppers grow too quickly, making them more susceptible to contracting diseases.
Step Two: Prepare Your Seedlings
Gradually introduce your pepper seedlings to outdoor growing conditions. This will make it less of a shock to the seedlings when they are transplanted outside, allowing them to adjust more quickly. In the long-run, this will set your peppers up to have a more productive and healthy harvest.
Once temperatures are solidly in the mid-60’s range, leave the seedlings outdoors in a protected location for a couple of hours. Over the next week, extend the time that you leave the seedlings outside by 1 hour.
Once you have completed exposing them to the sun for at least 7 hours a day, and the pepper plants have reached a height of 8 inches, prepare to transfer them to the garden.
Pro Tip: Consider warming the soil that you will be planting the peppers in by covering it in dark trash bags or landscape fabric.
Step Three: Plant Your Peppers
It is time to plant your peppers!
It is best to plant them on a cloudy day because this will cause less stress for the plants.
Before planting your peppers, add stakes to your garden near the planting spots. The support from the stakes will prevent plants from being damaged by the weight of the peppers. Once planted, tie the pepper plant to the stakes with a material similar to nylon.
The peppers should have over a foot of distance between them. They should be planted in holes that are a bit deeper than the ones in their containers.
After planting the seedlings, water them thoroughly.
Step Four: Water your Peppers
Hot peppers not only require a lot of water to eat; they also require a lot of water to grow.
Throughout their growth, peppers should be receiving at least an inch of water a week.
However, if your peppers are growing in a climate with extreme heat, they may need as much as a gallon of water each day. To also combat the dehydrating effects of heat, add a layer of mulch to the soil around your peppers to help them retain moisture. This will also work to keep the soil from becoming too hot.
Pro Tip: When your peppers start to flower pinch those flowers off. This may be against most people’s nature to literally destroy flowers, but trust me, it will help the plants produce larger fruits later.
Step Five: Pick a Peck of Peppers
You can harvest your peppers as soon as they turn green. You can increase your yield by harvesting earlier however, the sacrifice may be flavor. Some peppers, like jalapenos, are meant to be harvested when they are green. Others, like bell peppers, can be more delicious and nutritious if you wait for them to turn red.
Use hand pruners to harvest your peppers. Manually pulling them can damage them. Peppers that feel “thin” are not ready to be harvested while those that are “squishy” are overripe.
Step Six: Enjoy Your Peppers
Peppers are a great addition to numerous recipes. You can use them on pizza, in pasta, in stir fry, and so on- the skies the limit when it comes to this delicious fruit.
If you don’t know what to do with your peppers after harvesting them, consider pickling your peppers or drying them and making spices out of them.
Alternate Method: Growing Peppers in Containers
It is super easy to grow peppers in containers.
They make an awesome container plant, not requiring a huge vessel, and also making a great patio decoration. You can leave the container on your patio, balcony, or even near your garden, you just have to make sure that it is receiving ample sunlight and water.
Peppers are already thirsty plants, but their thirst is amplified in containers because of how the water drains. Water your pepper plant at least once a day during warm temperatures, around 65 F, and twice a day when it gets really hot, and the temperature rises above 80 F.
Your container should have drainage holes so that water does not build up and cause the pepper plant’s roots to rot. Use rich, loamy potting soil in your container. Be wary of using regular gardening soil because it might compact too much and suffocate your roots.
Peppers are self-pollinating so don’t feel any pressure to pollinate them just because they are away from typical nature. However, if you for some reason do feel pressure, put them somewhere that bees frequent or try hand-pollinating them.
Spice up your life by growing peppers!
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