Pepper Growing Guide
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Pepper Growing Guide

Growing Peppers in Your Garden

Growing pepper plants in your garden is a fun way to add a pop of color and spice to an otherwise simple vegetable garden. These prolific plants come in so many varieties and, more importantly, flavors that there are a million different ways to utilize these spicy treats. From the sweet bell pepper to the extreme Trinidad Scorpion, choosing the right pepper for your vegetable garden can be a fun process.

Which Type of Pepper Should You Grow?

Peppers have hundreds and hundreds of varieties in all kinds of shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors. A good place to start deciding really comes down to what you and your family like, how you intend to use them, and how much space you have.

While you can absolutely grow peppers from plants that are already established, we always suggest starting pepper plants from seed. Starting your pepper plants from seed gives you the opportunity to have access to unique varieties that commercial growers otherwise don’t as well as the ability to experiment with different types to see what grows best in your garden.

Hybrid & Heirloom Pepper Plants

If you’ve ever explored the world of growing your own vegetables, you’ve no doubt heard the terms hybrid and heirloom. Heirlooms are varieties that have not been crossbred for 40-50 years or more. These varieties can be passed down through generations and keep their characteristics through those generations because of the careful planting to prevent cross-pollination.

Hybrid varieties have been specifically bred to have characteristics that are desirable to the grower. These characteristics can be anything from size, color, flavor, or disease resistance. When planting a hybrid variety, you have a much better idea of the characteristics of the fruit that the plant will produce. Most people tend to be much more successful planting hybrid peppers because of their improved disease resistance.

So which type of pepper do you plant?
Well, we recommend both. Heirloom peppers will have an unexpected yield typically, but what you do get is not only special because of its history, but the flavor is phenomenal. Hybrids are tried and true and will give you a great crop that is reliable. Plant both and experiment with multiple varieties.

Can You Grow Peppers In Containers?

The short answer is ABSOLUTELY! Peppers are very well suited to grow in containers and make an excellent choice for small space gardens. One main reason is that peppers are very sensitive to cold so if you have an unexpected late frost, having your pepper plants in containers makes it very easy to just move the inside and out of the danger of being damaged by frost.

Pepper plants grow similar to indeterminate tomatoes, so they have ore of an upward growth habit, making them perfect for getting a lot of peppers and maximizing your garden space. For example, our 15 Gallon Root Pouch can comfortably grow up to 4 pepper plants with a tomato cage or heavy-duty stakes and that will give the root structure plenty of room and enough space to grow upward for a really nice pepper harvest.

Did you know?

The substance that gives peppers their heat is called capsaicin. Capsaicin stimulates nerve endings in your skin, mouth, and other mucous membranes, causing a sensation of heat or spiciness. The spiciness level of peppers is measured using the Scoville scale, which ranges from 0 (no heat) to over 2 million (extremely hot). The Carolina Reaper, currently one of the world's hottest peppers, can reach over 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Pepper Plant Spacing

Transplanting Your Pepper Seedlings

Transplant your pepper seedlings by checking the weather and knowing that the danger of frost has passed and the pepper plants are firmly rooted in their start trays. Test the plants by very gently tugging on the base of the stem and if all of the roots and soil stay in tact, they are likely ready for transplant into the ground.

Stepping Up Peppers

If the danger of frost has not quite passed but your pepper plants are outgrowing their cells, transplanting them temporarily into 4″ pots will give the root system more time to develop while staying in a controlled environment.

Hardening Off Peppers

Because peppers are not cold hardy, they need more time to adapt to the cooler air outside of the greenhouse. This adaptation process is called hardening off. For peppers, it’s best to let the plant dry out a bit, cut off fertilizer, and put them outside during the day to let cooler air circulate around them to help with the transition.

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing – 3 feet
Plant Spacing – 12 to 24 inches
Planting Depth – Transplant at soil level

Raised Bed & Container Planting

Row Spacing – 2 feet
Plant Spacing – 12 to 24 inches
Planting Depth – Transplant at soil level

Pepper Plant Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Soil Requirements to Grow Peppers

  • Well-draining loam
  • pH between 6.2 and 6.8
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

HOSS always recommends getting a soil sample to your local extension office several weeks before planting. Once you get your results, you will need plenty of time to adjust your soil accordingly and make sure your plants are getting the best nutrients possible as soon as they hit the ground.

Click here to find your local extension office.

Pepper Plants On A Drip Irrigation System

Precise Watering for Optimal Growth

Drip irrigation will control the amount of water each plant gets and will push water into the soil slowly and precisely for maximum absorption. Too much water too fast can cause stress to the plants and keep oxygen from getting to their very deep root systems. On the flip side, too little water can result in cracking, low yields, and increased disease and pest issues, blossom end rot, and a host of other problems. A good rule of thumb is regardless of how you water your pepper plants, be sure they’re getting at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches of water per week but checking in on your plants and watering as needed is really the best way to manage irrigation for peppers.

8 mil Drip Tape Irrigation Kit

Ensuring Optimal Growth

Proper irrigation for any vegetable is important but probably more so with peppers. Being sure to not only water enough, but the right way will be a major factor in your crop. Drip irrigation is the only method we recommend for irrigating your pepper plants. Overhead watering is not a good option because having moisture on the leaves can introduce problems like disease and pest control resistance. Drip irrigation is the best option because the root system of peppers goes much deeper into the soil than most vegetables. Getting water directly to the base of the plant will help prevent excess evaporation, disease spreading through the crop from moisture on the leaves, and ensures water gets down into the soil directly to the root.

In-Ground Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.2 – 6.8, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Using the Hoss Fertilizer Injector, mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium 20-20-20 Fertilizer -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Alternate Every 7 Days

Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium Calcium Nitrate -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

*To prevent Blossom End Rot: Apply ½ cup of Hoss Pelletized Gypsum Soil Conditioner per plant. Spread evenly around plants roots at bloom set and every 2 weeks after.

Raised Bed & Container Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.2 – 6.8, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 2 cups of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Every 7 Days (After 1 Week Planting)

Mix 1 tablet each of Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble -AND- Dr. Joe Tomato & Vegetable Bubble into 1 gallon of water. Apply as a drench per 4 plants.

*To prevent Blossom End Rot: Apply ½ cup of Hoss Pelletized Gypsum Soil Conditioner per plant. Spread evenly around plants roots at bloom set and every 2 weeks after.

Pepper Pest & Disease Protection

Damage Control

Peppers can be susceptible to insect damage and a lot of different diseases. With the proper selection of disease-resistant varieties and a good pest control program, you can have success in growing healthy peppers.

Insects

Organic Controls

Spinosad Garden Insect Spray
Thrips, Horn Worms

Horticultural Oil
Aphids, Stinkbugs, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Spider Mites

Bug Buster-O
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Monterey BT
Hornworms

Take Down Garden Spray
Aphids, Horn Worms, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies

Diatomaceous Earth
Cutworms

Non-Organic Controls

Bug Buster II
Aphids, Horn Worms, Stinkbugs, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Spider Mites, Thrips

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Organic Controls

Crop Rotation and Select Resistant Varieties
Fusarium Wilt, Bacterial Wilt, Tomato Mosaic Virus, Blight

Complete Disease Control
Blight

Fungi Max
Bacterial Wilt

Liquid Copper Fungicide
Blight, Bacterial Spot

Garden Phos
Blight, Bacterial Spot

Vegetable, Flower, Fruit and Ornamental Fungicide
Blight

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Peppers

When & How To Harvest Peppers

Harvest time for pepper plants depends on the variety you chose to grow and what kind of flavor profile you’re wanting. Sweet peppers usually mature faster than their spicy counterparts, typically within about 90 days. Some hot pepper varieties can take up to 150 to mature. The color of the pepper is usually a good indicator of the best harvest time.

Sweet peppers like the bell pepper are usually harvested when they’re full size. They can continue to ripen on the vine and change color from green to yellow to red and will sweeten the longer they ripen.

Hot peppers are similar in that color and size are a good way to tell if your peppers are at peak flavor. When your jalapeno peppers are large and dark green, it’s a good time to pick them. Overall, if you’re in doubt, you can always just pick one of the peppers and give it a taste to see if it’s where you want it to be. If it still tastes green, give it another week or so and check again.

Peppers have delicate stems so when harvesting, use a sharp knife or pruning shears. Leave a 2-3″ stem at the top of the fruit when harvesting and be careful to make a clean cut. Don’t yank the fruit and damage the stem, as it can introduce harmful bacteria while storing. Depending on the variety you chose to grow, some peppers have extremely high capsaicin levels and can be harmful if it comes into contact with your eyes or mouth. Because of this, always wear gloves while harvesting peppers or wash your hands immediately after handling peppers.

Storing & Preserving Peppers Properly

Like strawberries, carrots can actually be overwintered depending on your climate. As long as pests aren’t a present issue and the soil doesn’t completely freeze through and through, you can keep your carrots in the ground during the winter months. Simply use mulch or row covers and let the roots continue to get sweeter the colder it gets.

After harvest, cut the green tops off leaving about an inch or two, keeping the dirt on the roots, and store in a cool, dark place and use them as needed. If you’re storing fresh carrots to eat within a day or two, washing off the dirt is fine as long as you store them with plenty of cold and moisture. So a plastic perforated bag in the fridge with a damp paper towel will keep them fresh.

Peep Our Peppers!

Pepper Plant Growing Tips & Tricks

Companion Planting For Peppers

If you are planning on companion planting your peppers, they make good neighbors to lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and corn. Because beans keep nitrogen levels in check, they are ideal for ensuring your peppers produce lots of healthy fruits.

Be Patient!

Don’t give up on your pepper plants! Depending on how hot they are, they can take a really long time to grow. But once they come up, they usually take off really quickly. Be sure and harvest often to keep your pepper plants producing all the way through their long growing season.

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