How To Grow Great Peppers

Chinese Five Colour Peppers start off purple, 
then turn cream, yellow, orange, and red.

Peppers are considered to be one of the trickiest vegetables to grow successfully. Folks just seem to have a hard time getting them to grow well and, most importantly, to produce well.

As they pretty much thrive on neglect, requiring little more than time and patience, it may simply be a case of too much kindness or tlc ; )

Here's a few tips on how to keep your pepper plants thriving and producing...

Plant peppers in three gallon pots

Plant them in pots.

While you certainly can grow peppers in the garden, they produce more peppers per plant when grown in containers.

Grow in a three to five gallon container, ideally black or dark in colour, so that they really soak up the heat. I use simple, black, three gallon grower pots. 

Fill the pots with a good quality potting soil, never use garden soil in any container. Mix in some compost or manure. I use my magic mix of 5 parts potting soil to 2 parts composted chicken manure.

Tip the plant out of the small pot, loosen up the roots a titch, and plant into the bigger pot. Unlike tomatoes, you can happily grow two plants in the same container.

If you plant them in the garden, make sure the bed is well amended with manure or compost prior to planting. Plant them eighteen inches apart for good air flow, to prevent fungal issues.

 Peppers grow low and squat or tall and narrow

Though most peppers tend to say quite compact, anywhere from one foot tall to maybe three or feet, they do get top heavy with all those peppers, so you may need to stake them, or put a small tomato cage around them.

Peppers in the greenhouse - mid-summer evening shot. 

Location ...

Peppers like heat. They want to be grown in a very hot and very sunny location, a sheltered area with a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sunshine.

I grow mine in a south facing greenhouse, so they receive tons of sunshine and heat all day long. However, you do not need a greenhouse to grow great peppers, you just need a spot with sun and heat.

I have grown peppers in pots on my deck, and one year I even had them all lined up on a concrete driveway pad that really soaked up the heat. Think outside the box, where is your best location? Lined up along the driveway, in the corners of your gravel garden paths, on your front porch...

Water pepper plants sparingly

Watering ...

Peppers do not like wet feet. Water approximately once a week. Yes, I only water once a week in my baking hot, south-facing greenhouse. I will water more often if they start to droop, of course, but is generally once every 5 to 7 days.

If you keep them consistently moist, they will not produce many peppers and the ones they do make will be bland, watery, and tasteless. So, stress them out a bit, let them go kinda dry, you will get loads of peppers. The hot peppers will be hot and the sweets will be wonderfully sweet!

When you do water though, you want to thoroughly soak them, whether garden grown or container grown.

For pots, water till the water is freely flowing from the bottom, then go to the next pot. Soak all pots really well, and then do it all over again. Maybe repeat one more time, just in case. You want to make sure that the soil is well soaked, through and through.

In the garden, water them slow and deep with drip hoses or drip tubes till the entire bed is really well watered. My beds take about 20 minutes to soak through, but it really depends on your beds and your set up. Do not water from above, wetting the foliage, or you may end up with fungal issues.
Apply Epsom salts to the top of your pepper pots once a month. 

Feeding... 

Once a month, toss a tablespoon of Epsom salts on top of the soil. As you water, the salts will slowly dissolve to feed the root system with magnesium for dark green, healthy plants and better yields.

While peppers are not heavy feeders, they benefit from a feeding or two during their active growing and fruiting season.

Here are a few ideas of how and what to feed them. (Tip #3 is the one I use most often).

1. Top dress the containers with manure or compost (in the garden, place in a ring all around the drip line). As you water, the nutrients will filter through to the root system.

2. Give them some 'booster juice'. Make a manure or compost tea (see HERE! for the recipes) and feed every couple of weeks.

3. Buy a jug of tomato food, fish/kelp fertiliser, or liquid seaweed. Water with the tomato food every few weeks till end summer, as needed. With the liquid seaweed, you are best to apply it as a foliar feed and spray it directly onto the foliage.

4. Use a slow release, organic vegetable fertiliser, such as Gaia Green all Purpose. Lightly scratch it into the soil, around your plants once or twice during the growing season.

Distorted leaves on pepper plants usually means you have aphids.
Pic from forums.gardenweb.com 
Pests

Peppers are relatively pest free, rarely bothered by any bugs, but do occasionally get aphids. These guys are easily dealt with by using Safer's Soap. Spray the entire plant till dripping, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves. This should do it. If needed, spray again exactly one week later.  

For the best flavour, do not pick the peppers until they have fully matured and coloured up. 

Harvesting...

Peppers, whether hot or sweet, can be picked at any colour, at any stage. If you want a green bell pepper, pick it while it is green and immature. For red or yellow bell peppers, wait till they have fully matured and coloured up for the sweetest peppers.      

For hot peppers, the more time they have had to fully ripen and colour up, the hotter they will be. While a Chinese Five Colour Pepper can be picked at any colour, any stage, the heat and flavour does not fully develop until the last stage, when they turn red. 
Please note that if you over water, you will have mild, bland tasting peppers.  

Peppers take a long time to mature, but are so worth the wait. The flavour is the last to develop, so for the best tasting peppers, the sweetest and juiciest, or the hottest and spiciest, leave till fully coloured up and mature before harvesting.  

Read more about pepper growing HERE!  


Holy Moly, lots of chili peppers!

Happy Growing!

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