Latin America is such vibrant and colorful part of the globe. When someone says “Brazil,” you think of football and samba. When Peru is mentioned, llamas are the first thing which comes to your mind. When Mexico is the topic, I think of spicy food and sombreros.
Although sombreros can’t be grown in the garden (apparently, because they are hats), I have decided to produce a cultivar of chili peppers (without Anthony Kiedis). Knowing how to grow jalapeno had indeed shown me that food has better taste when you do it yourself.
Why Grow Jalapenos In The First Place?
Since these peppers are of a spicy kind, the primary reason for raising them is to add a distinctive taste to your meals. Predominantly used in Mexican dishes which are known for their spiciness, jalapenos are also a challenge for gardeners.
Anyhow, here are some of the facts about these (mostly) green peppers.
How To Prepare For Growing?
Due to small space which plant occupies, jalapeno peppers are great for growing indoors, in a pot, or in a container. I will do my best to cover both of those ways since the majority of this procedure is the same for both.
Preparations both for garden and pot growing begin with planning. Every plant which grows from seed goes through the process of germination. In simple words, roots and stems are developing at this stage, and the plant begins to grow. Now, each vegetable requires specific conditions, and the most important factors are sunlight, water, and warmth.
Jalapenos will need loamy soil, so this was the first thing I had to provide. Since I decided to start them in pots and transfer to the garden later, a quick journey to a local Gardening center was in order. I bought ordinary potting soil, with required pH (6.0-6.8). While I was there, I could buy seeds as well, but I had those already at home. Still, you may shop a bit more if you don’t have gardening gloves, a trowel, and scissors.
Should I Always Start The Seed In A Pot?
The answer to this question depends on your area. If the spring in your city is warm and pleasant, without sudden drops of temperature, feel free to sow the seed directly into the soil. However, since the weather seems to have conscious, I don’t recommend it. This process requires about 10-12 weeks, and I wanted to repot jalapenos in May - June, so I have sown the seeds in February.
Instead, take the pot, fill it with bought soil and put several (2-3) seeds and cover lightly with more soil. Even though jalapenos love the sun, in this stage it can harm the plant. Therefore, put the pot in an area with partial lighting. For this purpose, I have provided a curtain, but not too thick; some light must pass.
For jalapenos, watering is essential, so I was careful not to overdo it. The soil remained moist, but not damp. Temperature is vital, too low will kill the plant, and too high will dry the soil so the water will not get to the plant as quickly as needed. Keeping it in the range between 80 – 85 degrees is the best course of action.
After the sprouts and a few leaves appeared, it was time to move my little Mexican buddies.
To The Window Or The (Not Wall) Garden?
This one as well depends on your preference. You wish to keep the plant inside? Not a problem, just transfer it to a bigger pot. On the other hand, planting them in garden requires a bit more preparation.
My garden was ready for transferring jalapenos, but just in case, here is what I have done. Checking the acidity of the soil was the first step since I could plan which fertilizer to use. My pH soil tester showed that it is slightly off the charts (5.9), but it wasn’t such a big deal. These border values are merely suggestions; it won’t kill the plant if pH is higher by few notches. Keeping in mind sunlight and the amount of sun jalapenos need (6-8 hours), I have set the location.
Next, I have worked in organic matter with just a touch of fertilizer. Jalapenos are not heavy feeders and don’t require intense fertilizers. 5:10:5 is an ideal one for them since the high amount of nitrogen can overdevelop leaves and the stem, leaving the yield stunted. As for organics, old and worn out manure did just fine; this kind barely has any nutrients, so it didn’t spoil the concept. Tilling once in every few days provided aeration, which is also essential.
In case that you have heavy soil with an abundance of clay, I strongly suggest sticking with container growing. This kind of ground is very inconvenient for jalapenos, and they can’t develop properly. You could work in organic matter and sand, but this process requires a lot of time, which we don’t have right now.
How Far They Should Be, And How To Plant The Seedlings?
As for space, jalapenos will require at least 15” apart. Anything below that might lead to stunted growth and poor harvest. Of course, more than that is also not so good, because you will lack space at the end, and the water will evaporate from the soil a bit faster.
In case that you are planning to plant more than one row, space between them should be about 2-3 feet. A good rule of thumb is to spread the line of rope so that lines will be straight. More than aesthetic value, vegetables planted this way will prevent you from accidentally stepping on one while walking between rows.
By using a trowel, dig a hole a bit larger than the pot is. Be extremely careful while taking the seedling out of the container, since they are still tender and fragile. I have used a knife for peeling fruits to loosen the soil in the pot, so it came out together with the plant. Together, those were put in a hole, more soil was added, so it was firm and stable, and I have watered it lightly.
How To Be Sure That The Plants Are Progressing Nicely?
One thing is the most important when growing jalapenos. They must not remain thirsty. Water is the stepping stone and the difference between beautiful peppers and those which are considered a failure. Therefore, if it is summer, make sure that the ground is moist but not overwatered. In case that they need too much water, but the progress seems halted, mulching will probably be required.
Straw or mushroom compost can do wonders when it comes to feeding the plants. First is a fantastic temperature isolator, while the other has small amounts of nutrients which will help the plant to progress without burning the roots.
Of course, every straw of weed should be eliminated immediately, because those are drawing nutrients and precious water from the ground. You don’t want your plants to suffer, do you?
How Should I Harvest Jalapenos?
Three or four months is the period after which harvesting might be considered. But, since not all gardens are the same, you will have to evaluate by yourself. Once the peppers are nicely developed, firm to touch and have that deep green color, they are probably right to harvest.
Now you will need those scissors from the beginning of this text. Cut the petiole halfway to the stem, while holding the pepper with the other hand. Peppers harvested at this stage are usually milder, and the majority of people are making the harvest now.
However, there is another approach. You can leave jalapenos to turn dark green, black and ultimately red. Their pungency will grow; black ones are hotter, while red peppers are the hottest. Depending on your preference, do so. You can harvest one third while they are green, one third while black, and one third while being red.
Watch not to scratch your nose while harvesting, as I did. 15-Minutes long sneezing was a pretty unpleasant experience.
Is Storing Jalapenos Hard?
In case that you are planning to consume peppers in the next few days, keeping them in the refrigerator will do the trick. On the other hand, if you wish to keep them for the more extended period, some processing must be done.
Jalapenos are great because of many ways in which they can be stored. Dried, pickled, frozen, roasted or smoked as chipotles, whichever approach you choose, you will enjoy the taste. My favorite method when it comes to peppers, in general, is to stuff them with cheese and wrap and fry in the deep fryer.
Which Pests And Diseases May Attack Jalapenos?
Although the position on the Scoville scale doesn’t guarantee that these plants are free from pests, there are only but a few who will dare to attack jalapenos. They can be used as repellents for certain types of aphids of mites.
Speaking of which, you should keep a close look for caterpillars and cutworms are not afraid to experiment with a bit spicier food, neither are aphids. For these little critters, you may want to use neem oil mixed with water and a few drops of soap, to keep the mixture even. Also, there are a few more organic ways to keep the pests away (it even rhymes!).
So, I hope that his guide was beneficial for you. How to grow jalapeno peppers is something you should do without any problems. Raising them was an adventure for me. Even though these are peppers, growing jalapenos is somewhat different.
As always, if you have some questions, suggestions or ideas, feel free to share them in the comment section below.