peppers

12 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Peppers

Here they come!

Here they come!

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:

Don’t
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.

Don’t
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.

Do
Pinch any buds off if you have them. We continue to pinch for about 2 weeks after transplanting. Likewise,

Don’t
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.
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.

Do
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.

Don’t
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.

Don’t
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.

Do
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.

Do
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.

Don’t
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.

Do
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.
And enjoy!

Here’s an example of a good rain gauge:

The Do’s and Do Not’s of Tomatoes

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Peter Piper, Pick This!

growing peppers

the first pick

“My peppers aren’t happy” I commented to the manager of the local farm & garden store two weeks ago.
“Nobody’s peppers are happy” he responded.
“They’re all so small” added the owner, who was standing nearby, “the plants and the peppers, too- they’re so small.”

sakata seed company

the start of something big

I have pepper plants from two different providers, plus peppers from a third store at my work garden.
At this point, they were all producing a lot of buds, but the plants were small and the peppers were, too.

Except a few.
I received a package of seeds to test last spring from the Sakata Seed Company.
Gotta love free stuff.

growing hot peppers

little jalapenos

I started their jalapeno and bell pepper seeds indoors, and marked them when I transplanted; at the same time my store bought plants went in.
Two weeks ago they had very few buds on them, but looked healthy.

growing hot peppers

big jalapenos

Now both sweet and hot Sakata plants are significantly healthier and producing larger and more abundant fruit.
To be honest, I really didn’t expect to see any difference, and if I did, I thought the plants I started from seed would be worse. I’m not really good at starting from seed indoors.
Yet. Now I’m psyched for next year.

growing bell peppers

little bell

Now in any experiment you have to look at all variables- and there is one more.
I started some other brand’s hot pepper seeds indoors too.
I’m not going to show you those, it’s too sad.
No buds at all yet, plus they are small.

growing bell peppers

bigger bell

Until now, I didn’t think what brand seed you bought made that much difference, but I’m convinced their pepper seeds took the bad weather conditions we’ve had and stood up to it.

These particular jalapenos- Jalafuego F1 are listed on the package as “our hottest jalapeno” which I find interesting because I read recently that seed companies are hybridizing jalapenos to be less hot and larger, so more people will buy them for stuffing.

a bed of bell peppers

shorter peppers front and center

I was afraid to test this out, so I got Mandolin to give one a go.
“Definitely hotter” he concluded, as he tasted a slice; and chopped the rest of it and put it in the pan of home fries he was making for breakfast.

I guess some of my peppers (and my breakfast) are happy after all.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, How to Grow, peppers

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How to Grow – Peppers

baby pepper plants

hot and sweet baby pepper plants

Sweet and Hot Peppers are relatively easy to grow.

Peppers are members of the nightshade family, and like their cousins eggplants and tomatoes, they like warm weather.
They take about 4 months from seed to table, so plan on either starting indoors or buying transplants.

We start indoors about 8 weeks before planting time.
Be sure to label your pots, it is impossible to tell by sight which are the sweet and which are hot.

If you live in the cooler climates, you can extend your growing time by using low and high tunnels at the beginning and at the end of the season. Black plastic or stones around the plants help with the heat.

pepper buds

pepper buds

The recommended spacing is about 18 inches between plants.
My Dad contends “The best way to plant peppers is too close together.”
So in all honesty, I do follow his advice.
This actually does help protect them on windy days.

sweet peppers in the home garden

sweet peppers in spring

Both hot and sweet peppers do well in pots, we always grow my hot peppers in containers. Keep sweet and hot away from each other, as they will cross pollinate.
When this happens, the hot pepper wins.

We learned this the hard way, though we did have some interesting stuffed peppers that year.

hot peppers

one of Mandolin's favorites

The secret to a good crop or ‘peck of peppers’ Is to pinch off the flowers up until about a week or two after setting out. This gives the plants a better chance to establish a stronger root system, yielding more peppers in the long run.

Plant them in a good healthy soil, but don’t over fertilize; also like their cousins, this will produce a big bushy plant, but few fruit.

Hot peppers can be dried simply by stringing them as they mature, then crushed or ground into a powder.
Sweet and hot peppers freeze easily, with no blanching needed.

tabasco peppers

tabasco peppers

You can save your seeds, though hybrids will revert back to their natural state.
Be sure to clearly label them as well, the only way to tell the difference between sweet and hot pepper seeds is by tasting one.

I learned that the hard way too.

Botanical name: Capsicum annuum (plus varieites)
Yield: Prolific
Spacing: 18″, or less.
Days to maturity: From transplanting, 60-85 days.
Harvest: Pick early for green, or let turn color on the plant for certain varieties.
Storage: Dry hot peppers, freeze or dehydrate both, pressure can

Categories: How to Grow, peppers

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