When does someone say “peppers” what is the first thing which comes to your mind? Jalapeños? Bells? Pepperoncini? All of those? Learning how to grow peppers is more relaxed than naming all of the varieties which exist. Although there are a lot of them, conditions which are required for all of them are the same.
It is the goal of this article; to show an insight into the world of peppers. I’m sure that it will be an excellent guide for beginners, and a superb checklist for advanced gardeners.
Why Give Peppers A Go?
First of all, peppers should not be mixed with pepper. First are plants such as Cayenne or Serrano, while the others are tiny berries which are dried out and ground into fine powder and with salt are making the basics of every table.
In any case, here are some general facts about these little guys.
Which Kind Of Peppers To Grow?
Depending on what for you will use peppers, there are five families which you may take into consideration. Here they are:
This family includes bell peppers, jalapeños, sweet peppers, cayenne, paprika, and others. They are the most common ones.
These are South American cultivars; criolla sella and ají limon are among them. In general, these are spicy and hot.
Extremely hot, and include Habaneros, Trinidad Scorpions, the Bhut Jolokia (one of the hottest in the world) and the Carolina Reaper.
Tabascos and Indian cultivars are in this group. Often confused with the first group.
Includes the Rocoto and Manzano peppers. They are known for their long vines which can be up to 16 feet long.
Although I would love to try growing some of those extravagant and unusual peppers such as Malagueta or Bishop’s crown, I have decided to go with more traditional ones. Also, I wasn’t sure how those species would grow outside their preferable areas.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you cannot try to cultivate any which you see fit. Keep in mind that peppers are a great addition to meals, if they are hot, while those sweet and meaty varieties can be used in salads and stir-fry recipes.
How To Make A Plan?
A great program is half the job done, so to say. Therefore, it was vital for me to think in advance, but to keep in mind what I want to achieve. Do I wish to have an abundance of peppers for stews and everyday meals? Or do I need just a few chili ones to spice up the meal? Or perhaps both of those? All of those questions you must ask yourself now so that you may continue according to answers.
In any case, enough space with full sun will be needed, so if you don’t have this, perhaps growing in a pot can be the solution for you. Of course, smaller varieties are recommended for such approach, but in general, almost nothing separates these two ways.
What Kind Of Soil Do You Have?
I have kept in mind the quality and type of soil peppers require. Of course, there are varieties which thrive in abundance of water, but those are exceptions. The majority of peppers prefer loamy soil, richly manured and fertilized, with good drainage. According to this, I have begun preparations.
For all things said above (fertilization, drainage, and manure), one thing solved the problem for me. Working organic components into the soil several weeks before sowing made it rich, fluffy and aerated. Also, I have infused slow-release fertilizer (5:10:10), to keep the plants going. I have tilled the soil every few days, to make the ground perfect, well-mixed and ready.
The location is also important. I know my garden very well, so I decided to plant them where the Sun lights the area the longest. These little guys require it more than anything, so without proper lighting, the growth will be stunted.
Keeping pH value in range for specific cultivar is of utmost importance. Finding an excellent pH tester can be a troublesome task, so you can choose one of these since I have already covered that matter.
Ready, Set, Sow!
Now, with everything in place, I only needed to wait for warmer weather. Two or three weeks after the last frost are passed is the best time for sowing. Now, if you are starting from seedlings, this is the time for you.
On the other hand, if you plan to grow them from seeds, a few weeks in a wet paper towel and left in the Sun will make miracles. Keep in mind though that for germination to happen, peppers need about 80-85 degrees, so you will have to provide this.
As for schedule and seeding spacing, I was sure to leave at least a foot spacing between the plants, so they have enough space and sunlight. Also, there is a trick you can apply. Take a box of matchsticks and stick one per plant with “head” down. This way peppers will get phosphorus in sufficient quantities.
Of course, after planting, I have watered every seedling lightly. Do not worry if they hang their leaves. This often happens during transport of seedlings. Once they drink some water, they will straighten and look normal.
Since peppers have thin stems and small branches, proper support would be a good thing. Of course, smaller cultivars will not require it, since their fruits are smaller and lighter. I can recommend you to use either a stake and gently tie the stem to it, or a tomato cage. Both ways are great, so it is up to your preference to use which one you like.
Watering And Caring
As for the water, peppers require a regular supply of this liquid. Of course, too much water can make quite the damage, since waterlogged peppers are more susceptible to diseases and rotting of the roots. Again, depending on your climate, more or less water will be needed, but watering once in every few days is an average measure.
Scorching weather won’t kill the peppers, but more often watering will be needed. If it is possible, look that watering takes place early in the morning, if the soil is too hot water will either evaporate too quickly or will get heated so much that it will damage the roots of the plants.
Also, adding organic matter to the soil during their growth is also the great rule of thumb. Peppers love this stuff, so give them about a trowel of manure or mulch spread around the plant and worked lightly into the soil. Also, the mulch prevents water from evaporating too fast, keeps the weeds out from sprouting and cools down the ground.
Speaking of weeds, in case that any appears, it should be plucked right away. Taking the nutrients from my plants? Not in my watch.
Also, in this stage calcium deficiency can be the problem and the cause of several root diseases. To avoid this, use ground eggshells; these are made of the high amount of calcium and will help balance things again. Just sprinkle it around the plants when adding mulch or manure.
Once the flowers turn to fruits, watering should change. I have reduced the amount of water since I didn’t want to dilute the taste and spoil the fun later. Also, do not go another way either; too infrequent watering will make the plant wither.
Harvesting And Storing
Similar to onions, there is no “general deadline” when peppers are ready for collection. Keep looking out for the color of the fruit, once it is ripe and big enough, grab the gardening scissors and start harvesting. Cut the fruit between it and the stem, and that is it!
My recommendation is to harvest peppers early in the morning since the stem is full of water during the night, so it will be easier to cut or snap. During the day it can be a bit dry, and reducing that will require pretty sharp scissors.
When it comes to storing the peppers, there are two ways which you can undertake. Depending on your plans, you can either put them in refrigerator and use for the next few days or dry them in the wind so that they can spend more extended period preserved like this. Drying them will enhance the taste, and this is especially significant thing for hot peppers.
There is a third alternative as well. My mother used to bake the peppers in the oven at 400 degrees about 15 minutes. The outer layer of peppers would turn black, but this is the sign you are doing everything correctly. After turning them over and baking the other side, leave them to cool off. This blackish layer is easily peeled off. Pack these peppers into plastic bags and freeze them for winter.
Peppers prepared like this are served with vegetable oil, vinegar, and finely chopped garlic. Also, you can stuff them with cheese, breaded and deep-fried.
What To Look For When Growing Peppers?
Luckily for you, there are not many pests which will dare to attack peppers, especially hot cultivars. Their fruit contains capsaicin, a matter which can be used for making natural and organic pest solution.
Aphids and flea beetles are perhaps the only one who will dare to attack peppers, but those can be easily solved by introducing ladybugs and lacewings. Still, they will not cause wide-area damage as they would do to cucumbers, for example, but again, they need to be eliminated as soon as possible.
Cucumber mosaic virus can also attack peppers, but rarely than its primary target (cucumber, of course). If still appears, there is nothing you can do, unfortunately; there is no cure. Just remove infected plants and destroy them.
In the end, I hope that you have found this guide useful. Learning how to grow peppers for me was a great experience. These vegetables have probably certainly made my kitchen more productive and gave me additional sources of vitamin C, along with incredible hotness and excellent salad decoration.
In any case, feel free to share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas in the comment section below.