How to Grow Lots of Sweet and Hot Peppers
Both sweet peppers and hot peppers are easy to grow with just a little care. With the right summer weather, you'll get more than you can use. Here you'll find how to grow these beauties without using chemicals.
Peppers are good for your health. Surprisingly, they have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit. They also contain high amounts of Vitamin A, E, and B1.
Hot peppers raise a person's metabolic rate and help to burn more calories. Hot peppers can help dissolve blood clots and help prevent strokes and heart attacks. They are also great for helping to relieve congestion from a cold. They even raise your endorphins and help improve your mood.
There are two types of peppers, the sweet peppers and the hot ones. The sweet peppers are mild, and the hot ones can be a little hot to very hot. They come in a large range of shapes and sizes.
Of the sweet ones, bell peppers are the most recognized variety. But there are also Lamuyo European sweet peppers, Italian bullhorn, pimento, and many others.
The hot peppers are available in so many different varieties, ranging form mildly hot to so hot they burn all the way down. Some of the extra hot ones are cayenne, serrano, red chili, and Thai. They are smaller in size than the sweet ones.
The capsaicin in the pepper is what causes the heat. The more capsaicin in the pepper, the hotter it will be. In large enough quantities, it can cause stomach ulcers. So use care when trying the very hot ones.
How to Plant From Seed—Indoors
If you want to grow peppers from seed, you'll want to plant them indoors about 50-70 days before your last frost date. Plant 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep in pots or flats in light soil. If using flats, plant the seed at least 1 inch apart. You can use styrofoam or yogurt cups, or whatever you can find around the house that you are able to poke holes in the bottom for good drainage. Be sure to mark your containers if you are growing different varieties. When young, all the plants will look alike, and you won't know which is which.
While they are germinating, keep the soil at a 75-95 degrees. You can accomplish this by using a heating pad. Growing them on the top of a dryer or refrigerator works well, too. The soil needs to be kept moist once the seeds are planted. You can purchase the plastic tops that go over flats to accomplish this. If you are using small containers, I've used plastic wrap and it worked well. Wrap the plastic tightly around the top. Only use warm water when watering.
Once the peppers are about 2 inches tall, transplant them in a larger container about 2 inches apart. You'll need lots of light once the seed has germinated. Use a grow light or a sunny southern window. When placing in a window, be sure the glass isn't too cold or you'll shock the baby plants.
How to Plant From Seed—Outdoors
Once all danger of frost is past in your area, plant your seedlings outdoors as soon as possible. Peppers like a light soil that drains well. Sandy soil with organic matter is good. If you have heavy clay, you are going to have to mix it with other soil.
You don't want a lot of nitrogen in the soil. One year, I learned this lesson well. I planted bell peppers in nitrogen-rich compost made up of grass clippings. I thought I'd get a good harvest with all the nutrition for the plants. I ended up with 6-feet-tall pepper plants that didn't bear a single fruit. I'm not kidding. These plants were like healthy shrubs and just as wide as they were tall. Small plants bear more peppers than the large ones, so you don't want a big plant that you can brag about.
Plant in full sun about 18" apart. Most varieties of hot pepper plants stay smaller than the sweets, so these can be planted closer. Place the rows 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart.
If you don't have a lot of space, peppers are ornamental looking plants. So they can even be grown among your flowers. The leaves are waxy and shiny, and they yield little white blossoms. Some of the hot peppers are colorful and would add a beautiful touch among your ornamentals.
Mulching the plants will help. Peppers like to be kept moist, or else the blossoms will drop. Mulching will help keep the moisture in the soil. It will keep the roots cooler, too, if the summer gets too hot.
Planting in containers is a good idea. How much soil is needed will determine how big of a pot you will need. Smaller peppers will need about 2 gallons of soil. Most plants, except the extra tall ones, will need at least 3 gallons of soil. If you plant more than one plant in the container, be sure to space at least 18 inches apart and use more soil.
Purchasing Pepper Plants
Plants that are about six weeks old are best. Don't look for the biggest plant in the store. Look for healthy, dark green plants without spots or damage.
How to Care for Your Plant
There are some conditions that you just don't have any control over. If it gets too hot and dry, the peppers don't like this and will drop their blossoms. A cool weather period can cause the plants to keep from blooming.
Using a hoe is the best way to control weeds. Only hoe about 1 inch deep, so you don't disturb the plant's roots.
Keep the plants watered. A deep watering once a week should be enough. Even a short dry spell can cause the blossoms to drop off the plant. Reapply mulch if needed to help keep in the moisture.
If the plant gets large, caging will help the stem from breaking either from the weight of the plant or from the wind. For shorter plants, this isn't necessary.
Tips for Harvesting
When picking hot peppers, wear rubber gloves. These can burn your hands. When preparing the peppers, do the same. If you put your hands up to your face, you'll have a burning face you'll never forget.
The sweet bell peppers can be picked green or red. Some varieties turn yellow, white, or purple depending on the variety. The darker the color at harvest, the sweeter the pepper will be. Pick the fruit about an inch above the stem.
When you hear the first fall frost is expected, either pick the fruit off the plants or pull up the entire plant. You can hang it upside down in a protected place and let the peppers ripen.
Saving Pepper Seeds
The fruit of any pepper can be saved, unless it is a hybrid. If you'd like to try this, only save seeds from heirloom varieties. Sweet peppers are self-fertile and pollinated by insects, so they will cross with other pepper plants. If you want to save the seed, you should keep different varieties at least 20 feet apart so they don't cross pollinate.
Allow the fruit to completely ripen. Leave it on the plant until it shrivels a bit. If it has begun to get cold in your area, bring the peppers inside to finish ripening. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Remove the pul, dry, and store.