There are so many varieties of peppers on the market today that growing them is the easy part; its choosing which peppers to grow that presents the challenge. With such a seemingly endless number of different varieties available your veggie garden can become an amazing rainbow of color with the many shades of green, yellow, red, orange and purple.
Peppers can be roughly categorized into two types, sweet peppers or hot peppers and these are based on their flavor rather than their size, shape or color.
Sweet Peppers or salad peppers, include bell and pimento as well as some banana and cherry varieties.
Hot Peppers, Habanero, Jalapeno, Anaheim, Serrano, Cayenne, Tabasco, Thai and Hungarian peppers to name a few.
The Scoville Heat Index is used to rank how hot a pepper is by measuring the amount of capsaicin present. The index starts at zero for the mildest and goes to over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers.
Sweet Banana Pepper
Sweet Green Pepper
Hot Banana Pepper
Sweet Red Pepper
All sweet and hot pepper varieties are warm season vegetables that grow best in a position that receives maximum sunlight. They cannot tolerate frost and do not grow well in cold, wet soil. When night temperatures are below 50-55 F (10-13 C) the plants grow slowly, the leaves may turn yellow and the flowers drop off.
Some means of warming the soil, like black plastic mulch, and row covers to enhance the plants immediate surroundings is necessary if early spring planting in frost prone areas is going to be successful.
Like tomatoes, peppers love a well-drained, fertile soil composed of high amounts of good compost, and well rotted animal manure.
Most early failures in growing peppers is from planting out to early. Seedling should not be set out until the soil temperature is consistently above 70F (21 C).
Transplanting seedlings is the best and for most areas the only option for planting peppers in the home garden.
The most important aspects of caring for peppers are;
Peppers grow into small bushes and need good air circulation to help reduce the instances of pests and disease from being transmitted from plant to plant.
Give bell peppers enough room by spacing them 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) apart in rows at least 24-36 inches (60-90 cm) apart.
When growing peppers a uniform moisture supply is essential because dry soil will prevent fruit setting or cause small immature fruits to drop.
An even soil moisture is best achieved with good thick mulch that is maintained from transplanting through to harvest time.
Peppers plants need regular feeding to maintain high yields of quality fruit.
2 weeks before planting apply 5-6 quarts per 100 sq feet (5.5-6.6 liters per 9.3 square meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer. Use liquid starter fertilizer at time of transplanting to help establish the seedlings.
Side-dress with same rate as initial application when the first fruit are set - repeat every 2-3 weeks until the last fruit set.
Pepper plant size varies a lot between types and varieties. Many will require support to avoid damage to the plant mostly from the weight of fruit common on maturing plants.
A simple stake to tie the plant to is ok for smaller varieties
Any type of support that is used for bush tomatoes will do just as well for supporting pepper plants. This wire cage is good for either.
Nothing wrong with homemade from stakes or sticks
Towards the end of the growing season, pepper plant will still be setting flowers and growing strong. It is often necessary to remove the flowers and small fruits that have no chance of maturing before the end of season.
Scissors or pruning shears are the best way to remove excess flowers and fruit without damaging the plant.
Pepper plants should not be planted in the same bed that any member of the Solanaceae family, (tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant) have been grown in the previous 3-4 years as they are susceptible to the same diseases
Aphids, Colorado Potato Beetles, Corn Borer, Corn Ear Worm, Cut Worm, Flea Beetle, Leaf Miner, Slug, Snails, Tomato Horn Worm, Weevil.
Anthracnose, Blossom End Rot, Bacterial Spot, Cercospora, Mosaic, Soft Rot, Southern Blight, Tobacco Mosaic.
Sweet peppers can be harvested at any size desired, but are mature when they turn their final color.
Be careful when harvesting peppers. The fruit will break easily from the plant when mature, but less damage is done to the plant if the fruits are cut rather than pulled off.
Wash and dry bell peppers thoroughly before storing, they will last up to three weeks if stored at 45-55 F (7-13 C) and 90-95 percent relative humidity. Bell peppers are very sensitive to ethylene gas so do not store them with fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas.
To dry hot peppers, individual fruits or the whole plant can be picked and hung in a dry place with good air circulation. Gloves are recommended when picking or handling hot peppers because some of the very hot peppers can cause painful irritation to skin, nose and eyes.