are fast becoming one of the most popular of all vegetables to grow,
second only to tomatoes, why? Well...Why not? There are
hundreds of varieties available to the home gardener, especially if
you grow them from seed. They come in all shapes and colors, and
range from the sweetest to downright fiery. One final attribute,
most are prolific producers, are not seriously fussy about the soil
pH, and have relatively few problems with pests and diseases.
Often, gardeners get addicted to growing peppers by chance. They buy
a variety at the local nursery for fun and to experiment. It turned
out to be such a success, next year they plant three. Because of the
limited varieties offered at garden shops, they’re now buying seed
and starting their own. With hundreds of varieties and all easy to
grow it’s easy to become a real fan of peppers. Soon they have a
dozen different cultivars thriving in their garden.
Lets talk about kinds of peppers. There are almost as many varieties
as there are of tomatoes! They come in various shapes and sizes from
small tapered or ball shaped ones to long cones and big round bells.
Thick fleshed ones are best for roasting and cooking, while the thinner ones
are great for eating raw. And some of them are HOT!
50X hotter than Jalapeno
||1 1/2" dia
the most common types - banana and bell types are usually available as
started seedlings for transplanting into the garden. For small
gardens, these are the best way to go. To get a wider variety, you
must start with seeds. Information on seed
starting and tending seedlings is
Peppers must be started about
2 months before planting out time. Peppers like the extra warmth of
being started with soil that is warmer than the ambient room
temperature. This can be accomplished by placing the seeded flats over
any heat source that will raise the soil temperature about 5-10 degrees
(75-90F degrees). Use a humidity-retaining cover over the seed trays
until sprouted, then gradually raise it, misting occasionally if the air in
your home is too dry. Once they have at least one pair of true leaves,
peppers can be transplanted into individual pots and grow on in a sunny
window sill or under lights.
Peppers cannot be planted out
until the outdoor soil and night temperatures remain above 65 degrees.
Planting out too early in cold and wet conditions will stunt them and harm
fruit production. But remember, they must be hardened off just like
your tomatoes before planting out.
Peppers, especially hot
pepper plants with their usually small but colorful fruits, are ideal for
spot planting around a garden, providing contrast in flowerbeds, or
brightening a container garden. When growing peppers in beds, avoid planting
the peppers where other members of the nightshade family have been
previously planted as they are subject to similar diseases. To prevent
cross-pollination, hot pepper plants should not be planted near sweet or
bell pepper plants.
When buying pepper plants choose
those that are sturdy with deep green leaves and without fruit or
Choose a location in your garden,
patio or home that receives morning sun - and at least 6 hours of
While full sun and heat are good
for peppers, too much can damage the fruit. Protect from the
intense afternoon sun with taller plants (or beans on a trellis),
by planting them in a block no more than 1½ feet apart, or
situating house or patio pepper plants so that they will receive
filtered light in the afternoons.
Transplant pepper plants to garden
beds two to three weeks after the last frost and when the soil
temperature is at least 65 °F (18 °C).
When transferring pepper plants to
a garden bed or container, do so in the evening or on a cloudy day
to reduce the chance of sunscald.
Keep the soil moist—not soggy—to
encourage root development and prevent blossom wilting and
bitter-tasting peppers. Use a mulch, such as straw, grass
clippings or plastic mulch, to keep moisture in and protect roots.
Ensure that the soil drains well,
whether in a garden or container, so that the roots aren't sitting
in water. Raised beds are helpful in poor-draining garden soil.
Chili peppers like an acidic soil:
Peppers enjoy an well-amended
soil that contains plenty of organic matter, supplemented with a balanced
fertilizer or better yet, one with slightly higher nitrogen and phosphorous
levels. Place in an area that will receive the most sun and plant 18 inches
apart with rows 3 feet apart. Soil must be well drained too.
Work the top 8-10 inches of soil several weeks before planting. Break up the
large clods. Remove rocks and trash, weeds, etc.
Peppers grow best in soils
which have lots of organic matter and drain well. If possible, spread 2-3
inches of organic material over the planting area. You can use
materials such as compost, leaves, peat moss or rotted hay. Work it into the
top 4-6 inches of soil. Work the garden soil only when it is dry enough not
to stick to the garden tools. This is particularly important if you have
Add 2-3 pounds of a balanced
fertilizer such as 10-10-10 for every 100 square feet of garden area. Spread
the fertilizer evenly over the area. Mix it with the top 3-4 inches of soil
when working the soil before planting.
When the first fruits are
about 1 inch in size, scatter 1 level tablespoon of fertilizer around each
plant. Scatter it about 6 inches from the stalks. Work it lightly into the
soil. Water the plants after fertilizing. Fertilize them every 3-4 weeks
throughout the rest of the growing season.
If you plan to grow single
plants, dig a hole 2 feet wide and 10 inches deep. Refill the hole with half
soil and half organic matter. Mix 2 level tablespoons of fertilizer into
this planting area. This same approach would work for container grown
peppers, but watering needs will be increased so keep an close eye on your
container grown peppers.
to 3 weeks after your last frost, plant out your healthy, green plants 6-8
inches tall. Make the transplant holes at least 3-4 inches deep -
about an inch or two deeper than they were in their pots as they will grow
roots from the stem and better feed the plant. Small fruiting
varieties can go in at 1-1.5 feet apart. Bell pepper plants will require
more space, and may require staking or caging to support the heavy fruit, so
get those in place at planting time. Choose a cloudy day or an evening
Pack the soil gently, and
firmly around the plant. Leave a slightly sunken area around each plant to
hold water. Adding a "collar" of anything from paper cups (with
the bottoms cut out) to circles of plastic garden edging (staple the cut
ends together to form a ring) around the base of your plant will help keep
cutworms away from your young, tender tomato stems, and also helps to catch
water. Put these on when you plant, carefully sliding them down over the
planted seedling and pushing gently about 2" into the earth.
Filling the collar with water immediately after planting with drown any
cutworms inside the area.
During the Season
Mulch isn't necessary, but
does help retain moisture and keep roots from overheating. Place a 2-3
inch layer of organic material such as compost, leaves or hay around
the growing plants, but keep it a good 6-12 inches away from the base of the
plants. Mulching helps stop weed growth and water loss from the soil.
Pepper have very few pests or diseases.
Water the plants slowly and
deeply to help grow a strong root system. Do not let them wilt, or yields
and fruit quality will be low. Prolonged hot days may require that you
create some temporary shade for them during the hottest part of the
day. Use anything from sheets of cardboard or wood, or erecting
a frame to hold an opaque blanket, etc. that will shade the plants.
Keep the watering
regular to avoid alternating wet and drought. Fluctuating moisture
levels will cause wilt and blossom end rot.
|Large, sunken water soaked
spot develops on blossom end of fruit, spot turns black and mould may
grow on surface. Maintain the soil pH around 6.5. Liming will supply
calcium and will increase the ratio of calcium ions to other competitive
ions in the soil. Avoid drought stress and wide fluctuations in soil
moisture by using mulches and/or irrigation. Plants generally need about
one inch of moisture per week from rain or irrigation for proper growth
|Intense sunlight on peppers
causes thin, wrinkled, tan areas develop on the pods which become white
and papery. The areas of the fruit that are exposed to the sun are
susceptible; usual spots are on the shoulders of the fruit near the stem
end. Sunscald often occurs when plants lose leaves from foliar diseases or
from sudden pruning of the plant canopy. Control leaf diseases with
pesticides to prevent leaf drop which exposes fruit to sun, or make a
shading frame that dapples the sunlight. Both Habanero and Rocoto peppers
are especially prone to this problem.
|A disease caused by a soil
fungus Verticillium, that enters plants through the roots and plugs the
water-conducting vessels. Once the fungus enters a growing area, it can be
a problem for years as it withstands extreme environmental conditions. The
first noticeable symptom of this disease is severe wilting of occasional
plants when they start to produce pods. Plants usually recover at night,
but after a few days they wilt severely and the leaves begin to turn
yellow and fall. Plants eventually die. Verticillium wilt is a problem
only in areas where peppers have been extensively grown for several years.
Using a crop rotation, where peppers are not planted in areas where
tomatoes, eggplant or other nightshades have grown in the past 3-4 years.
|The same fungus that causes
chile wilt is responsible for phytophthora pod rot. Pods infected by this
fungus shrivel and rot. A white mould can often be found inside the pod
when it is broken open. The disease can become severe following periods of
heavy rainfall and high humidity, especially when plants are crowded or
over fertilised with nitrogen. Control by using the same practices used to
control wilt below.
Root Rot (Chile wilt)
|Chile wilt, sometimes called
root rot or phytophora root rot, is caused by the soil-borne fungus,
Phytophthora capsici. The fungus becomes a problem when soils are
excessively wet because of over-irrigation or heavy rainfall or both.
Plants wilted; dark brown canker at base of stem. Planting on a raised bed
and avoiding excessive moisture in the plant bed are the best means of
controlling this disease.
Tobacco Mosaic Virus
|Tobacco mosaic virus may be
seed-borne, soil-borne on crop debris and is carried on tobacco products
and by certain chewing insects. It is readily transmitted mechanically
from plant to plant by gardeners' hands, their clothing, and their tools.
Tobacco mosaic virus frequently infects pepper and many weeds.
|Often caused by a virus. If
the leaves are yellow and sickly looking, with leathery new growth, throw
the plants away, don't compost them. Leaf curl can also be caused by
aphids, they stick the leaves together and suck out the juices. So, open
some of the leaves to see what you find. If you see aphids, try a garlic
spray or insecticidal soap. (garlic sprays - one bulb garlic crushed up
and placed in one pint oil; use approximately one teaspoon per 2 pints of
water to spray, adding a drop of dish soap to help it stick).
|Plants are clipped off at
ground level. The insects injure the plants at night and hide in the soil
during the day. Damage from later generations is less severe since the
plants are larger and better established. To prevent cutworm injury,
surround the plants and stems with paper cups that have had the bottoms
|Green aphids suck sap
causing a downward leaf curl. The insect is a known carrier of the mosaic
virus. A heavy infestation will coat the leaves with sticky honeydew. A
black, sooty mould can grow on the honeydew. The insects can be green,
white, pink or black. Try spraying the affected areas with a mixture of
soapy water and chile powder, (mix two pints of water, 1 drop of detergent
or liquid soap and a teaspoon of hot chile powder).
|Round water soaked spots
form on leaves and stems. The spots enlarge to 1/4 to 1/2 inch and turn
white with dark margins. Infected leaves drop. When the fungus threatens
to spread during periods of high rainfall, spray with one of the copper
fungicides suggested for control of bacterial spot. The fungus does not
live in the soil but is carried in the seed.
|Can occur if the ambient
temperatures around the chile plants are either too low or too high; when
night temperatures drop much below 60 degrees F, when night temperatures
are above 75 degrees F, or when day temperatures are much above 90 degrees
F. The problem can also be caused by the use of a fertiliser with too much
nitrogen in it. Try a 5-20-20 or 5-20-10 type, instead of a higher
nitrogen 20-20-20 balanced type.
|Chlorosis has occurred when
the leaves turn yellowish but the veins remain green. Iron is needed for
the production of chlorophyll and therefore, a lack of iron results in a
loss of the green color in the leaves. In severe cases, leaf color may
change from yellow to white to brown. Use Iron Chelate to cure problem.
Tomato Spotted Wilt
|This virus can cause
dwarfing of the pepper plant. Remove and destroy affected
plants. There is no cure.
Pick pick peppers at either
their immature green stage, or when they reach their fully ripe red, orange
or even brown stages. Use garden shears to cut them from the stem, as
pulling them will result in breaking off the stem. Cool them as soon
as possible after harvesting to retain flavor and quality. If you have to
rush out to pick green ones on the eve of a frost warning, treat them like
tomatoes to get a bit more ripening. Store them in layers between
sheets of newspaper in a good, sturdy brown paper bag. Close the top of the
bag and store in a slightly cool, but dark place to allow them to ripen
properly. They will shrivel during this process.
Peppers can be stored in the
refrigerator for several weeks, but they will lose their peak flavor after a
few days, so eat them fresh or cook them up in various recipes as soon as
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