Like their cousins the tomatoes, peppers are a very popular home garden crop.
They have similar needs and wants, but not the same.
Here are some hints to growing peppers that we have learned over the years:
Whether you grow sweet, hot, or both:
Plant them as deep as tomatoes. You can put the plant in a little deeper than its pot, and even hill up a bit around the stem. Peppers don't want to go in any deeper than that.
Buy transplants with buds on them, if you can help it. Like tomatoes, it is better to let them get their roots established before they begin giving birth.
Pinch any buds off if you have them. We continue to pinch for about 2 weeks after transplanting. Likewise,
Wait for those first few peppers to get to their mature color. Whether you are looking to get a red, yellow, orange or even purple pepper, picking the first few while they are still green encourages the plants to produce more. Once they start reaching their mature state, the parent plant will back off on production. Save those great colors for the end of the season.
It is the same survival principle at work as when you pinch off flowers. The plant will put more effort into what it is doing, and you will be rewarded with a greater abundance.
Place your plants closer together than is usually recommended. Some gardeners may argue this point, but I learned this from my Dad who has been gardening for about 85 years and still going strong. Planting them 8-12 inches apart rather than 12-18 helps them to not need support, and lets them protect each other from strong wind gusts.
Many gardeners plant peppers in groups of 2 or 3. WE're trying this out to see how it works.
Over fertilize. Too much nitrogen, the first number listed on a bag of fertilizer, will make your plants look awesome. It will also make your harvest suffer. Look for an equal balance of numbers, like a 10-10-10 fertilizer or horse manure. You can also have your soil tested to see what it needs specifically if you want.
Plant your sweets and hots too close together. Generally peppers are pollinated by wind, either a breeze or the beating of bugs' wings. These bugs can also get some pollen on their little bodies when they visit the pepper flowers, and spread that around from one plant to another.
Of course, this only affects the seeds. But the seeds of hot peppers are hot, which can make even a sweet pepper spicier. This kind of cross pollination is unusual, but we did see it happen when our hots and sweets were right next to each other.
Lightly run your hand across the tops of your plants, especially if pollination is low. This will act like a breeze to spread that pollen about. You can also use a C Tuning Fork. This particular frequency is very similar to that of a bee's wings.
Give them enough water, about an inch a week. Using a rain gauge makes this easy to do. Mulch, if you don't have a problem with voles, is also a good way to insure they don't get too thirsty.
Plant peppers where their cousins were last year or even 2 years if you had pests or disease issues; this includes tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.
Companion plant to save space or to benefit one another. Like tomatoes, peppers like to be around carrots and their cousin parsley, and with basil. These plants easily fill in the unused space between pepper plants. Just be sure to water accordingly.
And finally, Don't
Let those peppers go to waste. If you have more than you can handle, just wash them off, dry and toss in the freezer whole. This will make your sweets a bit sweeter, and your hots even hotter when they thaw. Both types of peppers can also be roasted. Mmmm... Hot peppers can easily be stored by using a needle and thread to string them together, and hang to dry. This 'rista' is also a simple way to grab what you need when adding a little heat to your dishes.
More important than any other advice, have fun when you garden.
Guidelines are wonderful, but find what works best for you in your garden.
Here's an example of a good rain gauge: