Growing Peppers in your Home Garden: How to Plant and Cultivate Hot or Sweet Peppers

It seems that every American garden grows a variety of peppers. They grow right next to the tomatoes and cucumbers and provide their sweet or hot flavor to many dinner dishes.

Americans introduced the pepper to Europeans who came to discover a New World. They grew all over South America, Central America and Mexico.

Most everyone knows what a bell pepper is. It is a common sweet pepper that comes in a variety of colors; green, yellow, purple, orange and red. Banana peppers are yellow and have an elongated nature. Pimento peppers, Sweet Cherry, Marconi, and Cubanelle Peppers are also in the sweet category.

Hot peppers include Paprika Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Hot Cherry Peppers, Poblano peppers, Serranos, and Jalapenos. Other really hot peppers are Asian peppers and Habaneros. One rule of thumb is the smaller the pepper the hotter it will be.

You can start peppers from seed but you will need to start them 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to plant them. Plant seeds, two to a hole, in potting soil. Spray water on the soil and place container inside a plastic bag to germinate. Peppers love heat and will sprout quickly by doing this. Once sprouted remove the bag and place pots where they get about 8 hours of sun per day. After they get 4 leaves (the first two aren’t really leaves, they are parts of the seed) move them outside in a protected place. Take them back indoors during the night for a few nights until they get used to temperature changes. After about a week and a half you are ready to plant them in the garden.

If you don’t have the time or resources to start peppers from seed, just get plants from your local nursery and plant after all danger of frost is over.

Peppers aren’t finicky about the type of soil in which they grow, but the soil should be well drained and receive about 6 hours of sunlight per day. Peppers will benefit from the addition of compost and peat moss to their growing area.

The best time to transplant into the garden is on a cool shady day or in the evening when the sun isn’t beating down on you or the peppers. Peppers can be planted about 1 foot apart. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the transplant and place it in the hole covering with soil. To keep slugs and other crawly pests away from your seedlings wrap a piece of newspaper around the stem and up to the leaves. Plant part of the newspaper with the roots and crawly bugs won’t bother your plants. Just make sure to keep the newspaper loose enough around the stem to not constrict growth. Water after planting and apply a layer of hay or dry grass. You can also use shredded black and white newspaper. Some pepper varieties have a problem once the fruit begins to grow and get large. They tend to break the stems with the weight of the fruit so it is a good idea to purchase bamboo stakes and begin to tie the plant to the stake as soon as it grows enough to do so. The best thing to use to tie it is panty hose.

Once your plants start to get taller you can use a 10-10-10 fertilizer per package instruction. Fertilize again when they get blossoms and again when the fruit appears. Peppers like a good amount of water. They will start to wilt when they need it so water as soon as you see them start to droop. An inch of water a week is a good rule. Be careful about the amount of nitrogen that is in your fertilizer. If you add too much the blossoms and small fruit will drop off because the nutrients will want to go into growing foliage. As said before, peppers like heat. For maximum fruit you need a temperature of 67 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.