How to Grow Peppers

  Orange Sun Pepper
If you are starting from seed, you must maintain warm soil temperatures from 70 – 85° F for reliable germination. Start your seeds in trays with full light exposure and allow eight weeks for field-ready transplants. Move your plugs to 2-3" pots about four weeks after you plant your seeds.

Pepper seedlings need warm temperatures to ensure a good start. They are native to the warm, humid tropics of South America and will not thrive in cool or dry conditions. The ideal daytime temperatures should be between 70-80° F and 60-70° F at night. Setting seedlings out when temperatures fall below this range can hinder fruiting later.

Set your seedlings 15" – 18" apart in the row with 24" – 36" between rows, using the closer spacing if you live in an area with very hot summers. This closer spacing allows the foliage from the plants to shade one another and to create a humid microclimate. Water the new transplants well. Adequate soil moisture is an important factor for developing pepper seedlings. They will not tolerate drying out and if this happens they may drop their blossoms and fruit. In locations that have very hot, dry summers, peppers can transpire too much water and may need a layer of mulch to retain moisture. In July and August when temperatures soar and the plants begin to mature, it is important to water your pepper plants daily.

Pepper plants are heavy feeders and should be fertilized once a week. This is especially important when the plant begins to set fruit. As the heat of the summer sets in, and you begin to water more frequently, important nutrients may be leached from the upper layers of the soil, making them unavailable to the plant.

One technique to maximize pepper production is to pinch the buds from the plant as they appear, continuing to do this until the beginning of August. This allows the plant to put its energy into growing large, not into early fruit production. In August, stop pinching the buds and allow them to grow to maturity. The plant should begin to produce peppers rapidly for the remainder of the season.

Peppers can be picked when they are immature or full sized, although the vitamin C content is higher when the fruits are mature. Harvesting full sized fruits encourages continued fruit set. Cut them from the plant with scissors or a knife. Pulling them can disturb the roots and interfere with continued fruit production.

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