How to Grow Peppers
When to Plant Pepper Plants
Wait until night temps are consistently above 55 degrees. If there's a chance of temperatures dipping into the 40s, it's better to wait! It's tempting to plant as early as possible, but it will payoff in the long run.
Pepper Plant Spacing
As a rule of thumb, plant peppers 24" apart. The farther apart the plants are, the larger they will be due to less nutrient competition for the roots, and more space above the soil for the leaves. If you want to try a lot of varieties in a smaller space, it's ok to plant closer together. You'll just have fewer (and possibly smaller) fruits, but will get to try more varieties. Don't plant too dense however, as good airflow is essential to disease prevention.
What Pepper Plants will do Best in my Area?
Most peppers will do well in most areas of the country, but be mindful of the length of your season.
Peppers that require an Extremely Late Growing Season (120+ days) may not produce well in northern areas.
Areas with short growing seasons need Early Season varieties. Fertilizing will help increase the fruit quantity and time to yield. See here for our write-up on fertilizing.
In areas with day temps normally over 90 degrees, peppers may drop flowers and stop producing. Include varieties in these areas that are Early Season (60-70 days) or Mid Season (70-80 days) , so that they produce a crop before the temps get too high and production stops.
In extremely hot areas locate your plants where they'll receive shade from the hot late afternoon sun which helps keep the night air temps cooler. Another alternative is to plant later in the season, so that you will get a late season crop. If temps stay above freezing, plants will overwinter and start producing early the next season.
How to Water your Pepper Plants
It is critical to allow your pepper plants to dry out between watering. To assess if your plant needs water, feel the soil at least 3 inches down from the soil line Make sure this is below the soil line - if your mulch is 3" deep, you'll want to check 6" down from the top surface. If there is moisture, wait to water until the soil is dryer.
If your pepper plant looks wilted with drooping leaves (flagging) during the day, this does not necessarily mean the plant is in need of water. If it hot and dry outside, the plant will transpire more moisture than it can take up from the roots. It is possible for the pepper plant to flag while having plenty of available water, especially while the root system is small and can't access all available water in the soil. If your plant is flagging in the morning, then it definitely needs water.
The morning is the best time to water your pepper plant. Water deeply at the base of the plant and try not to get water on the leaves. If your plant is in a container, water until it flows out of the bottom. Watering in the morning allows the plant to have more available water during the heat of the day, and also allows water on the leaves to evaporate. Water that remains on the leaves is a vector for disease. That is what makes night watering risky, because the water will stay on the leaves with cooler temperatures.
How to Prune or Top your Pepper Plants
When your plant arrives, it will most likely be a single stalk. Usually it will start to branch out shortly after up potting, but topping can encourage branching out earlier. We'd recommend topping at the time when you up pot. You can continue to prune additional branches above the first leaf node to encourage additional branching. More branches are beneficial because there is more physical area for peppers to grow, and a shorter, stockier plant is less likely to fall over or need staking. It's critical to stop pruning at the right time. Pruning encourages plant growth, but discourages fruit production. Stop pruning when it gives your plants at least 2 months of time to flower and produce pods.
See How to Fertilize
for additional information
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