How to Grow Colorful Peppers
Can I tell you a secret?
Tomatoes are not easy to grow. I pretty much already knew it, but after completing the Master Gardener Class I learned that it’s not just me. Tomatoes are tricky.
If you want to know all the top tricks and tips for a successful tomato harvest go here.
BUT Peppers are Easy.
The biggest problem with growing peppers is that they have such a long growing season.
Seeds are usually started indoors in January or February. If you don’t want to grow a garden in your home, just buy seedlings (baby plants) from your favorite nursery.
PLANT THEM DEEP
Plant peppers in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
When I transplant my peppers I plant them deeper than the soil level in the pot.
Space them 18-24 inches apart unless you are using raised beds. Raised beds allow you to plant closer together because the roots can go down instead of out. Deep soil allows for more plants in less space. If you have raised beds you can plant your peppers 12 inches apart.
Water well after planting. They like 1-2 inches of water per week.
Once the peppers are in the ground you will probably notice about nothing until July. They grow slowly and seem like they’ll never get moving.
If you look closely, there may be some flowers hiding under the leaves of the tiny pepper plants.
Hang in there, they are just getting started.
Peppers will really start to grow when the temperatures are too hot for human habitation.
Peppers like it hot.
To speed up the pepper growing season I like to mulch around them with some hot manure. Specifically, chicken manure. Each year at some point in June I get sick and tired of waiting for my puny pepper plants to get on with it. I’ll grab a wheelbarrow and head to the chicken coop. We use deep litter in our coop (this just means there is a whole bunch of hay in there with the manure). I clean out all the hay and manure & carefully spread it alongside the peppers.
WAIT! HAY? I know – I am a stickler for never putting hay in your garden. Hay is a bad idea in the garden because it is a perennial & will come back to haunt you for the rest of your life.
This is the one time that I will actually put hay in the garden – WHY? Because it has been in the chicken coop for 4-6 months. This means that the chickens ate every last seed out of the hay. Hay that has been around chickens for any amount of time will be clean hay that will not grow into grass.
Side dress only – Do not let the manure touch the stems of the plants – it will burn them. Simply ‘side dress’ the rows of peppers with the manure & hay. Side dressing is just what it sounds like. You spread the composting manure right down the rows in between the peppers plants.
An added benefit of side-dressing is the mulch effect. I love mulch in my garden and would never garden without it. Mulching prevents weeds from growing, holds in moisture and provides nutrients to the soil.
Pepper plants need some support. Especially as they get bigger and have large fruit hanging from them.
There are several ways to stake pepper plants. Tobacco stakes are an easy way to support a pepper plant. Some garden twine can be used to ensure the pepper plants stay up with the stake.
My favorite way to stake is to use tomato cages.
I actually think store-bought tomato cages are terrible for supporting tomatoes BUT they are fantastic for staking pepper plants.
My tomato plants are always way too big for those little cages (yes, even the large cages). I make my own tomato cages from woven-wire fencing. It is super easy – go here to see how I build tomato cages.
If you want to increase the production of your plants (pretty much any plant) – harvest often. This is true of peppers too. When the peppers are huge and the plant is falling over because of the weight – pick it.
It can turn red or orange or purple in the house on the counter (out of the sun).
Harvesting the fruit does several things:
1 The purpose of plants is to reproduce. If you leave the fruit on the plant until the fruit is huge and red and beginning to wilt – the plant will think it has done what it set out to do. It raised a baby pepper. It created enormous seeds within that fruit. It can die happy because it has raised its family.
2 On the other hand, if you are always picking the peppers just before they are completely mature the plant will start over. It will make more flowers. It will make more fruit. It will keep trying to reproduce. More picking = more fruit.
3 If you leave the fruit on the vine until it is perfectly red (or yellow, or orange or whatever) it is more likely to rot, wither or get infested with bugs. I pick my colored peppers as soon as I notice the pepper beginning to change color. It can finish the ripening in the house. Get it before the garden does.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Pepper lovers rejoice. There just aren’t any real pest problems and very few diseases that affect peppers. Most problems can be avoided by regular watering and proper spacing.
Peppers are a slow food. They take a while to get going.
Once the harvest begins to come, you’ll be happy you planted the peppers. How to freeze peppers here.
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