Peppers (Capsicum annuum) are warm-season plants
that grow best at temperatures of 70 to 85 F during the day and 60 to 70
F during the night. Peppers generally require a long growing season and
grow very slowly during cool periods. Therefore, after the soil has
thoroughly warmed in the spring, set out 6- to 8-week-old transplants to
get a head start toward harvest. Do not plant peppers in the garden
until after the last chance of frost. Start seed indoors six to eight
weeks prior to this date.
Peppers should be spaced 12 inches apart in the row.
Rows should be 3 feet apart. Pimento peppers require 18 to 24 inch
spacing in the row. Rows should be 42 inches apart.
Select a well-drained, loamy or sandy
loam soil for planting. Avoid areas that have had eggplant, tobacco,
pepper or Irish potato planted in the previous year.
Although types of peppers belong in one of six groups,
most are classified according to their degree of hot or mild flavor. The
mild peppers include bell, banana, pimento and sweet cherry. The hot
peppers include the cayenne, celestial, large cherry and tabasco.
Bell peppers measuring 3 inches wide by 4 inches long
usually have three or four lobes and a blocky appearance. They are
commonly harvested when green, yet they will turn red or yellow when
fully ripe. About 200 varieties are available. Other sweet peppers are
conical, 2 to 3 inches wide by
4 inches long, have thick walls and are used when red
and fully ripe. Banana peppers are long and tapering and harvested when
yellow, orange or red. Plant Hungarian wax if a mild hot variety is
desired. Cherry peppers vary in size and flavor. Usually they are
harvested when orange to deep red.
Slim, pointed, slightly twisted
fruits characterize the hot cayenne pepper group. These can be harvested
either when green or red and include varieties such as anaheim, cayenne,
serrano and jalapeno. Celestial peppers are cone-shaped, Ĺ inch to 2
inches long and very hot. They vary in color from yellow to red to
purple making them an attractive plant to grow. Slender 1- to 3-inch
pointed tabasco peppers taste extremely hot and include such varieties
as chili piquin and small red chili.
Sweet Peppers - Blushing
Bear, Keystone Giant, Jackpot, Sweet Banana, Valencia
Hot Peppers - Jalapeno, Red
Chili, Giant Thai, Super Cayenne II, Hungarian Yellow Wax
Peppers require moderate amounts of
fertilizer. A soil test is always the best method of determining the
fertilization needs of the crop. Information on soil testing is
available in the fact sheet HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.
If a soil test has not been taken,
make a preplant application of 5-10-10 at the rate of 3 pounds per 100
square feet. Use a starter solution for transplants, and sidedress
cautiously after the first fruit reach about the size of a dime using
three tablespoons of 33-0-0 per 10 feet of row). Sidedress cautiously
until a large number of peppers are set. Too much nitrogen before fruit
set causes all foliage and no fruit. After fruit set, fertilize
regularly using a complete fertilizer. Soil pH should be 5.8 to 6.5 for
Practice good cultivation and provide
adequate moisture. Water the garden to provide a uniform moisture supply
to the crop. Water sufficiently to moisten the soil to a depth of at
least 6 inches. The critical period for moisture is during fruit set and
fruit development. Mulching can help to provide uniform moisture,
conserve water and reduce weeds.
HARVESTING AND STORAGE
Peppers should be ready for harvest in about 70 to 85
days after transplanting. When starting from seed, expect 100 to 120
days to maturity. Harvest sweet peppers when they reach full size, the
fruit walls are firm, and the peppers are still in the green or yellow
state. The stems of pepper plants are brittle. When harvesting the
fruit, cut the stems instead of pulling, to avoid breaking branches.
Varieties turn from green to red, yellow or chocolate
when allowed to mature on the plant. Bell peppers can be left on the
plant to turn color; however, they should be picked as soon as they
Hot peppers, except for jalapenos, are allowed to ripen
and change colors on the plant. Jalapeno peppers should be harvested
when the fruit turn black-green. Entire plants may be pulled and hung
just before full frosts. Yields are smaller for hot peppers.
Store peppers in the refrigerator.
The optimal conditions for storage are temperatures of 45 to 50 F and
80- to 90-percent relative humidity for two to three weeks.
Blossom-end rot is a common problem that causes a brown
to black sunken rot at the blossom end of the fruit. It is caused by
calcium deficiency. Blossom drop occurs when night temperatures are
above 75 F or when a crop of fruit set is excessive.
Insects that may be a problem include European corn
borer, corn earworms and armyworms.
Many disease problems can be avoided by using certified
disease-free seed and transplants. Do not use tobacco products near
peppers, since tobacco mosaic virus can be readily spread from tobacco.
The two most troublesome diseases of peppers in the home garden are
bacterial wilt and bacterial leaf spot. Other disease problems include
Fusarium wilt, Pythium root rot, Cercospora leaf spot, Southern blight
and anthracnose (on fruit). Root-knot nematodes can also be a problem.
Reduce disease problems by:
Rotating planting locations. Donít
plant peppers, eggplants and related crops in the same garden spot
more often than once every three years.
Removing all plant debris from the
garden each year. Eliminate any volunteer pepper plants that may occur
transplants. Inspect plants and be sure they have no spots or lesions
on them at the time of purchase.
Excerpted from Home Vegetable
Gardening, EC 570, 2002.