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GROWING PEPPERS

Peppers have always been one of the more popular vegetables in the home garden. Growing pepper plants is easy. Bell peppers, and many hot peppers, are native to Central and North America. A wide range of hot pepper varieties are also native to Asia, most notably Thailand and China.

It used to be that any grower who liked peppers, would plant several sweet green bell pepper plants in their garden. Several weeks later, they would harvest some great tasting fruit. No difficult decisions on the variety. And, home grown peppers are not difficult to grow.

Today's gardeners enjoy the opportunity to select between a tremendous array of choices. You can pick sweet or hot. When it comes to hot, there are varying degrees of hot. The debates rage as to who has the hottest pepper. Varieties from Mexico, China and Thailand usually are the hottest.

You also get to select color. There are a wide variety of colors to choose from, versus the "plain old green" ones which were the only choices your parents and grandparents had to choose from. There are a number of yellow, red, and orange colors. There is even a variety with a striking purple color.

After you are done selecting hot/sweet and color, don't forget shape. There are traditional "bell pepper" shapes, long and slender, and of course round or "cherry peppers".

Peppers are best started indoors, eight to ten weeks or more before the last frost date for your area. Pepper seeds can be a difficult seed germinate, and seedlings grow slowly. Many growers simply visit their local garden store for seedling to transplant. Avid garden hobbiests find pleasure in a new challenge, and start their own pepper plants indoors.

There are many good seed starting mixes available at nurseries or discount stores. They work very well and I would recommend them as there is no mixing, measuring, etc. If you prefer to make your own mixture, go with 1/3 good garden soil (don't go with clay soil as it compacts badly), 1/3 vermiculite or similar growing medium, and 1/3 sand. Hot pepper plants love sand as many varieties originate in areas with sandy soil. Also it provides excellent drainage. Mix all 3 ingredients together very well. Peat Pellets also work very well for growing peppers from seed. They provide a nice little house to enclose the seed and provide it with the right amount of moisture.

Tip: Provide bottom heat or heat lamps to raise the soil temperature to 80 degrees. This will promote better and quicker germination.

 

Find a good and warm sunny windowsill. Seedlings prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight, the more the better. Hot pepper seeds need to be coaxed through the germination and transplant stages. Remember they all originated from a tropical environment. But keep in mind you'll be rewarded with a healthy, robust, prolific plant for your patience. Some varieties can be finicky to germinate. Its recommend soaking seeds overnight in warm water to give them a head start.

Then sow seeds 1/4 inch deep 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost. Keep seeds moist, but not soaked, through germination phase. They germinate best above 65 degrees. Ideal is 75 to 85 degrees. Because most homes are not this warm, another tip is to place them on top of your refrigerator until seedlings emerge. It stays pretty warm there. Don't forget my cling-wrap tip in a sunny windowsill. Be patient, some varieties can take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate. Others can show up in 7 to 10 days. It depends on temperature,sunlight, soil and variety.

seedling

As they develop their first set of leaves snip off with a scissors the weakest one. As they develop their second set of leaves snip off all but the healthiest one. If any variety starts to grow tall and too "leggy", open the window just a little bit to shock the plant with cooler air. This will slow down its growth and make its stem thicker and more conducive to transplant. Once you have healthy seedlings you're ready for the transplant and growing stage, then the harvesting stage.

 

 

INSECTS AND PESTS

cutworm

Cutworms are usually the most damaging and target seedlings.

 

aphids

 

Aphids cluster beneath leaves, excreting honeydew and causing spots. Pepper leaves become distorted and wilt. A common sign of Aphids is the increase spotting of ants. Ants are attracted to the honeydew that aphids excrete.

 

 

army wormfruitworms

Both armyworms and fruitworms feed on fruit pods and occasionally foliage.

 

 

flea beetle

Flea beetles attack young plants, which may exhibit numerous holes in the foliage.

 

 

corn bearer

Corn borers feed inside pepper pods.

 

hornworms

Hornworms destroy the foliage of pepper plants but are large enough for easy hand removal.

 

 

whitefly

Whiteflies can be extremely destructive to pepper plants. They not only help transmit harmful viruses, but also damage leaves, causing them to shrivel, yellow, and drop.

 

PEPPER PLANT DISEASES

Most pepper plant diseases can be prevented by choosing and planting disease-resistant varieties. Rotating vegetable crops every other year and implementing proper watering techniques also help. Fungus related diseases are the most common. Plants may exhibit discoloration, poor growth, and spots. Pepper leaves may yellow and drop.

Healthy pepper plants require loose well-drained soil. Make sure pepper plants are located in areas with good drainage. Excessive moisture is the ideal environment for the development of fungus.

One of the most common fungal pepper plant diseases is southern blight and is prevalent in warm climates. Stems rot and the plant wilts, eventually dying. Another fungal disease associated with warm, humid conditions is powdery mildew. Plants exhibit white, powdery growth on the undersides of leaves.

Ripe rot occurs on ripening fruit that is kept in warm, humid conditions. Harvest peppers prior to use and store any unused peppers in a cool area away from direct light.

Blossom end rot is due to calcium deficiency and sporadic watering.

Sunscald is a result of too much exposure to direct sunlight. The fruit may become light colored and feel dry and papery.

Bacterial pepper plant problems are often associated with infected seeds, try planting disease resistant types. One of the more common bacterial infections that affect peppers is bacterial leaf spot. With bacterial leaf spots, pepper leaves exhibit small yellowish spots. These may become brown or enlarge, leading to leaf drop.

Viruses can destroy entire crops. The best way to avoid viral pepper plant problems is to use disease resistant varieties and practice crop rotation. Mosaic is the most commonly seen, with leaves having unusually mottled color.

Growing disease-resistant pepper varieties, rotating crops, and keeping the area free of debris will help minimize pepper plant problems. Excessive moisture is responsible for most pepper plant bugs and diseases. Good drainage, adequate spacing, and proper watering should help alleviate these issues.

HARVESTING YOUR PEPPER PLANTS

Normally, chili peppers reach their maturity after seventy five to ninety days in the garden. If you're going to use the seeds inside the vegetables to grow more plants, then you'll have to leave the peppers on the vine for a bit longer than normal. Wait for the chili peppers to reach their full color, then wait another week or two before you harvest them. That way, the seeds will have reached their complete maturity.

After you retrieve the seeds, the remainder of the peppers can be used however you wish. You can use them in recipes, can them, dry them, or grind them up in a food processor to make chili powder Otherwise, if you're going to just eat your produce, then you'll need to harvest the chili peppers based on your personal taste. The longer the peppers stay on the vine, the more mature they become. And, the more mature they are, the hotter they are. So, if you want a milder tasting pepper that has less of a bite, you'll need to harvest them before they reach their complete maturity.

When you harvest your crop, you can carefully snap each pepper from its vine. Or, you can use a pair of sharp garden shears to cut the vine an inch or so above each pepper.

Click here if you want to learn how to dry your peppers

OVERWINTERING YOUR PEPPER PLANTS

Most people are not aware that peppers are actually perennials! The reason they are usually grown as annuals is because the winter temperatures in most places will kill them. They are semi-tropical plants, and just cannot handle cold weather. However, it is possible to keep a pepper plant alive for several years, via a technique known as "overwintering". Overwintering is a method of providing a pepper with the proper growing conditions to keep it alive and thriving during the cold winter months.

One thing that a pepper plant needs to survive during the winter is warmth, so the first thing that you need to do is to move your pepper plant someplace out of the cold, such as indoors to a sunroom or conservatory, kitchen, living room, etc., or somewhere else that is warm and protected from the cold winter temperatures. The general rule of thumb is, if the temperature is comfortable for you, it should be comfortable for your pepper plants as well. Next, a pepper plant needs sunlight, so be sure that you located it somewhere where it can get some sunlight, such as near a sunny window. Lastly, a pepper plant needs water and fertilizer, so make sure that you water and fertilize your plant regularly

In experimenting with overwintering, you will quickly discover that some pepper varieties are much easier to overwinter than others. We have observed three different ways that peppers can respond to being overwintered:

  1. Some pepper varieties, such as Habaneros, can not only be overwintered successfully, they may continue to produce new peppers for you all during the winter months!
  2. Other peppers, such as Cayenne Pepper, can be overwintered easily, but may react to the change in season by going into a semi-dormant state - looking much like a healthy houseplant, but not producing any flowers or peppers over the winter. Once spring hits, you can suddenly see a burst of new growth, flowers and peppers as the pepper plant "wakes up" from it's hibernation!
  3. Some pepper varieties, such as Jalapenos, just don't seem to like the winter, and can be more difficult to overwinter successfully. You shouldn't get discouraged if some of your peppers don't do well on your first attempt, some are just harder than others.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO OVERWINTERING PEPPER PLANTS:

  • Start any peppers that you might want to overwinter in containers. While it is possible to dig-up a pepper plant from the garden and re-plant it into a container, you are likely to cause at least some damage to the plant's roots in the process. By growing your pepper plants in containers, it will make it a lot easier to overwinter them later!
  • While some people prefer fancy (and expensive) grow lights for overwintering, we have noticed that light from a sunny window typically provides enough sunlight for peppers over the winter. An East-facing window seems to do the best.
  • Don't place your pepper plants directly in the windowsill if the glass gets very cold, in order to keep from freezing the plants out, but instead put them near the window where they can catch the incoming sunlight.
  • If you have to use artificial light (such as in a heated basement), use either grow lights or fluorescent lights. Light bulbs (incandescent lights) do not provide the proper kind of light spectrum for pepper plants, and can burn them.
  • If some of the plant's leaves start turning yellow or falling off after it is moved, this is a normal reaction to the reduced sunlight and change of season. The plant should perk up once it gets used to it's new growing environment.

 

 

 

 

 

TO WATCH A DEMENSTRATION ON HOW TO GROW HOT PEPPERS PLEASE CLICK BELOW