Pepper plants are a classic warm-weather crop for home gardeners. But did you know that growing peppers can be a little tricky? It’s true. Sometimes you need to spend a little extra effort creating an ideal environment for your pepper plants to grow. But once you do, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and thriving garden.
Get ready to discover 10 top tips for growing peppers. We’ll give you some pointers on maintaining soil quality, how to properly water pepper plants, keep pests away, and more. Before you know it, you’ll have a flourishing garden filled with peppers.
1. Choose the Right Peppers for Your Garden
We always recommend planting what you and your family already enjoy eating. Still, because there are so many different types of peppers you can grow, don’t be afraid to experiment!
Capsaicin is the chemical that gives peppers their heat, so you’ll want to consider this when you’re deciding which pepper varieties you’d like to plant. Sweet peppers are perfect if you aren’t looking for anything spicy, and bell peppers are a good starting point.
On the other hand, hot peppers have a wide range of spiciness, which is measured on the Scoville heat scale. Habanero, jalapeño, and Thai chili peppers are great options if you’d like to add some bold flavor to your cooking.
Psst: Take a peek at Back to the Roots’ organic essentials variety pack. You get two different varieties of peppers along with other delicious veggies that are perfect for summer.
2. Seeds vs. Seedlings
Another critical part of growing peppers is deciding whether or not you’d like to start from scratch with seeds or seedlings.
If you opt for starting with seeds, check the back of your seed packets for information on proper soil temperatures, spacing and lighting requirements, days to harvest, and germination techniques.
On the flip side, you can start your pepper garden with seedlings. Seedlings are young plants and a good alternative if you need to save time. Growing peppers from seeds doesn’t happen overnight, and if you don’t get an early enough start, transplanting seedlings works well to get things going.
Before you plant, look up the last frost date in your area by consulting the Old Farmer’s Almanac so you can plant your peppers at just the right time. You don’t want to lose your seedlings to cooler temperatures if you can help it.
For more info, take a look at our guide on how to grow peppers from seed.
3. Keep An Eye on Soil Quality
One of the best reasons for growing your own food is the ability to maintain soil quality. In your garden, you can always make sure your plants are getting the nutrition they need.
Start by getting the best potting mix you can; organic is best. Back to the Roots is launching organic potting soil in spring 2021, just in time for you to start your pepper garden so keep your eyes peeled.
Good soil will include organic matter such as kelp meal, bat guano, worm castings, mulch, and much more.
You can spring for organic fertilizer, but keep in mind it can be high in calcium. As such, it can alter the soil’s pH, so you’ll want to test it before making any significant changes.
Soil pH may not seem like a big deal, but it can make or break your garden. Finding that sweet spot means your pepper plants can absorb nutrients properly and benefit from a quality fertilizer. The healthier your plants are, the more resistance they’ll have to pests and diseases.
4. Consider Garden Design
If your goal is to have bunches of peppers to enjoy throughout the warmer months, it’s a good idea to give some thought as to how you’d like to arrange your garden.
Your peppers need full sun and hours of sunlight along with adequate spacing in between plants to grow their best.
Pepper plants need good drainage too and do well in a raised bed. If your summer months see a lot of rain, this is a setup worth looking into.
When you’re deciding where to plant, make sure your peppers are getting enough sunlight, are protected from weather, and aren’t sitting in soil with poor drainage.
5. Explore Different Irrigation Techniques
According to Dave DeWitt and Paul Boselands’ “The Complete Chili Pepper Book,” you’ll want to spend time setting up the right irrigation system for your garden.
With enough water, your pepper plants will yield better tasting fruit and more of it. But with too much soil moisture, their root systems will suffocate or become diseased.
In the beginning, you can use regular sprinklers. Once your plants grow nice and tall and sprout true leaves, it can be trickier to get the ground saturated evenly. Be prepared to hit up your local garden center to purchase an irrigation system or build one yourself.
6. Growing Peppers in Cold Weather
Since peppers are native to warmer regions, it helps if you’re growing them in a similar environment. But if you happen to live in a northern climate, fear not. You can still see success growing peppers, but it might take a little extra effort.
One of the things you’ll want to be mindful of is soil temperature. Your pepper plants won’t like chilly weather. An excellent way to keep them warm is with black plastic sheeting. This sheeting will absorb heat from the sun, and if you get an unexpected freeze in your area, it will protect your peppers.
Psst: If you don’t have sheeting, plastic bags will work in a pinch.
7. Managing Pests and Diseases
Keep an eye out for pests and diseases lurking in your pepper garden. Left unchecked, they could ruin your crop for the season.
If you’re going to grow peppers each year, seriously consider rotating where you plant them. Switching up their location can save them from root diseases and maintain soil integrity.
Spreading mulch can safeguard against insects while keeping the soil warm and helping with drainage. Maintaining proper soil moisture is essential to avoid disease. Don’t be surprised if blossom end rot takes hold if the soil around your pepper plants gets waterlogged.
Look for whitish blotches or stunted leaf growth. It could be a sign of a mosaic virus, which is generally spread from plant to plant by aphids.
With some luck, you might be able to get Mother Nature to lend a hand with pest control. Aphids are a common crop-ruining visitor when you’re growing peppers. However, they make a delicious treat for ladybugs who will love being on patrol to keep troublesome aphids out of your garden.
Other unwelcome bugs you might find are cutworms and flea beetles. Try using insecticidal soap for natural, chemical-free pest control.
Another option is to choose pest- and disease-resistant varieties of peppers. While it doesn’t mean you’ll never have an issue in your garden, you can expect fewer problems with certain types of peppers. California Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Jupiter, Sweet Banana, and Gypsy peppers are all good choices.
8. Harvesting Your Peppers
Unlike some plants in your garden, you can continually harvest peppers all season long. But when you harvest will depend on the variety you plant.
Some of the first you can pick will be small green peppers such as jalapeños, serranos, or young habanero peppers.
DeWitt and Boseland note that New Mexican pepper varieties are typically ready to eat when they turn red or reach four to six inches in length. Experiment with harvesting your peppers at different times; some people prefer young green peppers while others love the flavor of red peppers.
You’ll usually know a pepper is ready for picking when a gentle tug releases the fruit. If you have to pick peppers early to redirect the plant’s energy, use scissors to gently trim the plant’s fruit to avoid breaking a branch.
9. Storing Peppers
If you’ve had some success growing peppers, you might be wondering what you can do with any extras you have as the season winds down.
Try including them in batches of salsa and freezing them for later in the year. You can even freeze peppers whole. However, freezing does change their texture a bit, and they won’t be crisp like they are when they’re freshly harvested.
Another option is to can or pickle them. If you have any leftover tomatoes, think about making your own spicy ketchup and seriously upgrade your next burger night.
You can also dehydrate your peppers and grind them into a powder, creating a custom spice blend that’s sure to please.
10. Gardening in Small Spaces
Just because you don’t have a roomy backyard doesn’t mean you can’t grow peppers. If you have a small balcony or patio, try container gardening. There are some real advantages to growing peppers in pots.
You can easily move them into direct sunlight and bring them inside if nighttime temperatures dip a little too low. And because you can move them around, you can expect a long growing season compared to planting your pepper plants in a regular garden bed.
You can also start small with a Back to the Roots organic chili pepper grow kit. Everything is already included, from the perfect potting soil and fertilizer to the organic pepper seeds. All Back to the Roots seeds are 100% organic and always grown domestically in the United States, so you know you’re getting a safe and quality product for you and your family.
Start Growing Peppers in Your Home Garden
Growing peppers in your garden can be a fun and rewarding experience. With a bit of effort in creating the right conditions for your pepper plants to grow, there’s no reason you can’t have a thriving crop each season.