by Jennifer Poindexter
Whether you’re an expert at raising peppers, and looking to compare notes, or you’re someone who would like to become better at growing peppers, this is the right place for you.
I’m going to share some of my top tips on raising peppers. Here’s what you should know when bringing pepper plants into your garden.
1. Peppers Love the Sun
When growing peppers, be sure to pick the sunniest location in your garden. They need full sun to prosper.
So be sure to pick a location where your plants will receive approximately six to eight hours of sunlight. If you’re growing peppers indoors, make sure they’re grown beneath a grow light for fourteen to sixteen hours each day.
2. Plant at the Right Time
If you’re growing your peppers outdoors, you must wait to plant them until the appropriate time. Check the frost dates for your planting zone.
When the final frost date has come and gone, you can plant your peppers. If an unexpected frost arrives, after the final frost date, be sure to cover your pepper plants. They don’t handle frost well.
3. Peppers Need Their Space
I recommend that you start peppers indoors, from seed. You should do this approximately eight weeks prior to planting.
Once all threats of frost are over, move the seedlings outdoors. When planting them, ensure you provide adequate spacing. You need a minimum of two feet between each plant. If you don’t want to start from seed, it’s still ok to use starter plants.
4. Water, Mulch, and Stake
Peppers have specific needs when it comes to caring for them properly. To begin, peppers should be watered using the deep watering method. You’ll water for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
Always test your soil before adding more water. If the soil is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to add water. If not, wait until the soil has finished absorbing the water before applying more. Mulch will help keep weeds down around the plants and keep moisture in the soil.
Finally, you should stake your pepper plants. As they become bigger, and produce peppers, the plants can become top heavy. Provide support to protect the stems of the plants.
5. Avoid Stunted Plants
It’s common to plant peppers in your garden and assume things are going great. However, you notice some peppers bloom early, stay small, and don’t produce much quality fruit.
You can avoid this by removing blooms of the early-blooming plants. Keep removing the blooms until the plants reach an ideal height. Once they have, you can allow the pepper plants to begin producing.
6. Add Calcium
If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know blossom end rot can happen. This is when your plants appear healthy, but as they produce, the product has rotten bottoms. Blossom end rot can impact pepper plants as well.
This happens because the plants are lacking calcium. Add powdered milk to the base of the plant when planting. If blossom end rot still forms, add more powdered milk. It’s a problem which can be easily corrected.
7. Be Patient with Your Plants
This is the hardest part for me when growing peppers. It seems everything else in my garden takes off long before my peppers do.
Each year, I’m forced to remind myself that peppers love heat! As everything else in the garden seems to shrink back, under such pressure, this is the time my peppers begin showing off. If your peppers seem slow to produce, keep caring for them, and wait patiently for the heat.
8. Add Magnesium
There are times when you’ll grow pepper plants, and the plants bloom beautifully. However, when it comes time to fruit, they do next to nothing.
This is a sign of nutrient-deficiency. Typically, the pepper plants are lacking magnesium. Avoid, or correct, this issue by placing Epsom salt around the base of the pepper plant during planting and as needed thereafter.
9. Don’t Forget to Amend Your Soil
No matter your gardening method, it’s important to amend your garden soil prior to planting peppers. As mentioned above, there are many things that can occur due to lack of nutrients.
By amending your soil, prior to planting, you’re ensuring that your peppers will have everything they need during their initial growing phase. It helps to give your peppers a healthy start.
10. Don’t Skip Weeding
Weeds are a major enemy of any gardener. They steal nutrients from your plants, supply a home to unwanted pests, and make your garden look cluttered.
Stop these things from occurring by taking steps to eliminate weeds. Apply mulch and weed barrier to keep weeds at bay. For the random weeds, which still pop-up, be sure to remove them by hand. Your peppers will be grateful.
11. Don’t Pluck Your Peppers
It’s common to walk through your garden, see something ready for harvest, and pull it from the plant. People do this with peppers, especially. Try to avoid this temptation.
Instead, keep a pair of clean shears with you when in the garden. This will allow you to cut the harvest away from the plant and avoid damaging your plant in the process. Any damage done to a plant is an invitation for disease and pests. Don’t run the risk of harming your plants right at harvest time.
12. Don’t Forget to Fertilize
We discussed earlier how it’s important to amend your soil prior to planting. It’s also important to fertilize pepper plants, as they need it, throughout the grow season.
In most cases, peppers should be fertilized at planting and again when they begin to flower. This provides a necessary boost during crucial times of their development.
13. Don’t Ignore Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, peppers have many enemies in the garden. A few of the common diseases include bacterial leaf spot, downy mildew, blight, and mosaic virus. Some of these diseases have no cure while others can be treated using fungicides.
You should remove any pepper plants impacted by mosaic virus and destroy them. Any damaged areas of a pepper plant should be trimmed away prior to treating for a disease. If your plants are impacted by a fungal disease, aside from treating it, you should ensure that the plants are properly spaced to receive adequate airflow. Be sure they aren’t being overwatered, either.
Pepper plants can also be impacted by common pests such as aphids, flea beetles, leaf miners, hornworms, and more. Most of these issues can be treated by using an insecticide on your plants. Stay alert to potential threats to best protect your pepper harvest.
These are my tips on how to grow thriving pepper plants. They aren’t overly complicated plants to grow, but they do require regular attention.
I usually recommend walking through your garden each night to take inventory of what’s happening with your crop. This will help you stay alert to potential threats and make a list of things your garden needs from you in the coming days. Care for your garden properly, and it should reward you for your efforts.