How to grow peppers: Referred to as sweet or bell peppers. Our surveys indicate that only 50% of home gardeners recommend to directly sow pepper seeds outside in the garden. The other 50% start growing pepper seeds inside (or other sheltered environment) or simply buy young or mature pepper plants and plant them outside in the garden when temperature is suitable.
Pepper seeds love heat. If they don’t get their desired temperature they will not sprout.
Sow pepper seeds in pots or trays 0.3 inches (0.7 cm) deep. Many home gardeners germinate their pepper seeds on wet cloth or paper towel encased in ziplock bag. Once the seeds germinate they transplant them into small pots or trays.
Optimal soil temperature for germination is between 79°F (26.1°C) and 88°F (31.1°C). Under these conditions seeds will germinate in approximately 10-19 days. If starting inside you may want to use a heating mat placed under the pots, trays or paper towels to ensure optimal temperatures for pepper seed germination.
Peppers require 70-90 days to be ready for harvest from seed, depending on the pepper variety and the weather during the growing season. Expect days to maturity to be closer to 90 days.
Once pepper seeds have germinated and 3-4 true leaves have grown optimal day temperature for growth is between 71°F (21.7°C) and 76.7°F (24.8°C). Optimal night temperature is between 60.5°F (15.8°C) and 66.3°F (19°C). Pepper can endure air temperatures as low as 60°F (15.5°C) during the night and up to 80°F (26.7°C) during the day.
Soil temperature during pepper growth should be between 62.9°F (17.2°C) and 68.3°F (20.2°C) in optimal conditions, but can withstand soil temperatures as low as 61.2°F (16.2°C).
Required soil pH for pepper growth is 5.5-7.0 but the optimal pH is 6.4-6.6.
Optimal sunlight for pepper is 6-12 hours per day. Pepper should be watered between 2-2.5 inches of water per week, adjusting for weather conditions and type of soil accordingly.
Over watering is a common problem with pepper plants. Many growers over water their pepper plants, and thus stunt plant growth and wash away vital nutrients. This may sound strange but as a general rule you should water your pepper plants when they are wilting.
The pepper plants wilt under hot temperatures as a mechanism to protect itself, by reducing surface area that is exposed to the sun. Make sure that water reaches the deep roots that can be even more than 5 inches deep. This will create a healthier plant, reduce watering frequency and enable the plant to survive longer without water.
Pepper spacing: When planting pepper seeds directly into the ground sow seeds 0.3 inches (0.7 cm) deep spaced 17.5 inches (44.5 cm) apart with rows spaced 25.2 inches (64 cm) apart.
How to grow peppers in your garden:
Pepper plants like hotter weather and should only be planted when there is no danger of frost. Pepper plants are susceptible to transplant shock, which can damage the plant, stunt plant growth and reduce plant yield. To reduce shock harden the plants prior to planting.
Sweet peppers should be harvested before they their change color and fruit must be firm and fully developed.
About peppers: I’ll start with a trivia question…sweet peppers and the spice known as pepper come from the same plant and are closely related, true or false?
The pepper, or as it’s also known, the bell pepper or sweet pepper, comes from the Capsicum annuum species, and the spice know as pepper is the dried fruit of a completely different plant, the Piper nigrum vine, which is native to Asia.
The Capsicum species encompasses all the varieties of peppers from the spicy habanero, jalapeno and chilly to the sweet bell peppers which many are familiar with.
Sweet peppers originated in Mexico, Central and South America and introduced in Europe in the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese explorers.
Sweet peppers are a warm season vegetable and come in a variety of different colors from the common green, red, orange and yellow peppers, to less common purple, black and even brown colored peppers.
The red orange and yellow peppers are simply different stages of ripening of the common green bell pepper, which not only changes in color during the growing process but also changes in flavor, sugar and nutritional content as the pepper matures.
How many of you have said to yourselves “I really feel like eating fruit…I’ll eat a pepper!” Not many I presume. However, the pepper is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, though we mostly think of it as a veggie. Since peppers have seeds and come from flowering plants, they are actually fruits and not vegetables. You can use this for your next trivia with friends…