Peppers are delicious fresh, sautéed, smoked or dried. They come in a wide array of colors, shapes and flavors. They thrive in containers and in the ground. Peppers need heat to develop and ripen. Hot peppers grown in the Pacific Northwest will not have the same fire as those grown in New Mexico because of our mild climate.
Peppers require at least 7 hours of direct sun and rich, well‐drained soil. Sweet peppers prefer a bit of shade from the hottest sun in the peak of summer. Prepare the planting area by mixing 2‐3” of composted manure and lime into the top 4‐6” of the soil. Mix in an all‐purpose granular fertilizer and lime in the bottom of each planting hole.
You can start seeds indoors mid February through March, 6‐8 weeks before desired transplanting date. Sow seeds 1⁄4” deep and cover with a fine layer of soil. Bottom heat will help them sprout faster. Transplant seedlings into 4” pots when they have two sets of true leaves. Harden off your seedlings two weeks before desired transplanting date.
Peppers thrive in warm, dry weather and are best planted outdoors late May through June when soil is 65°F. It helps to warm the soil first by covering the planting area with 1‐2” of compost, plastic mulch or a cold frame. Pepper growth is stunted by air temperatures below 55°F, so it is best to protect new plants with a cold frame, cloche or other product until temperatures are consistently warmer. Set out plants 12‐18” apart in rows 2‐3’ apart. Water in new plants with liquid seaweed or B1.
Keep new beds well weeded and slightly moist. You can cover new plantings with floating row cover for 3‐4 weeks to prevent flea beetles and other insects. Plastic or organic mulches can help heat the soil, retain moisture and prevent blight. It may help to stake your plants to help support heavy fruit.
How much water your plants will require depends on the soil and weather. Peppers are somewhat drought tolerant, but yield best with a steady supply of moisture. Weekly slow, deep (2‐3 gallons) waterings are ideal. A consistent water supply can help prevent blossom end rot. Drip irrigation is the best way to provide even moisture, while having fewer disease issues.
Peppers are medium to heavy feeders and benefit from having a mild liquid fertilizer every two weeks once the fruits begin to appear. Another option is to side dress plants once flowers appear with a composted manure.
Harvest when fruit has reached mature size and color. Any type of sweet pepper can be harvested when it is full sized but still green to get green peppers. Cut fruit with a 1” stem for maximum storage time. Peppers can store 2‐3 weeks in the refrigerator. All peppers can also be dried, frozen, canned or pickled.
Good gardening practices such as crop rotation, drip irrigation, proper planting time, floating row covers and removal of entire plants when harvest is done all help prevent many pests and diseases.