Peppers are vegetables we usually eat in their immature state. The common green pepper, for instance, is considered mature when it turns red. If we left the peppers on the plant, they would turn red, but we usually pluck them when they are green. Other varieties may first have white, red or yellow peppers that turn colors as they mature. Click here for three easy-to-grow peppers.
Although peppers usually don’t start producing until late summer, their flavors and colors make them a must in the garden or container. Plants will produce peppers for six to eight weeks. Here are some tips for growing your own.
- You can grow peppers (Capsicum annuum) from seed or you can purchase starter plants at the garden center. Peppers may take two months once transplanted outdoors before harvest, depending on the cultivar. Check out the plant tag or seed packet to see how long it will take for the plant to reach maturity and produce peppers.
- If growing from seed, start the plants indoors about six weeks before the last frost date. Make sure to give the plants plenty of light. Follow seed packet instructions.
- If buying starter plants in cell packs at the garden center, look for those that are short, squatty and healthy looking. Avoid plants with yellow leaves or signs of insects. Roots on the transplants should be creamy white to light brown. When ready to plant, remove the transplants from the cell packs. Don’t plant the transplants any deeper than they were growing in the cell packs. Planting too deep will cause the plants to rot.
- Don’t transplant peppers outdoors until all danger of frost has passed. Peppers are a warm-season annual and very sensitive to cold temperatures. Also, if the soil has not had its spring warm up, the plants won’t grow or they may be stunted. In the south, set out transplants from mid-April to mid-May. For the Midwest, New England and the Atlantic states, the best time is from mid-May to mid-June.
- Plant peppers in well-drained, average soil in a spot that has at least eight hours of sun a day. At planting time, apply a ring of compost around the base of the plants or lightly work an all-purpose granular fertilizer into the soil. Read and follow the label instruction on the fertilizer you use.
- If growing the pepper plant in a container, the larger the pot the better. A 5-gallon bucket is just the right size. Punch holes for drainage in the bottom of the bucket. Use a lightweight, soilless potting mix for good drainage. Don’t use soil from the landscape; it may have insects or diseases that will harm your plants.
- At this time, apply Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer.
around the transplants at least 3 inches tall to keep weeds from sprouting and competing with your food. Made from corn gluten, this 100-percent natural weed preventer is safe to use around children and pets; however, always read and follow label directions. The product prevents annual weeds from growing in vegetable gardens for four to six weeks.
- Harvest when fruit feels firm, but not hard. The longer the fruit matures on the plant, the more the colors will change.
- When the plants are killed by frost, pull them from the soil. Toss them on the compost pile or dispose of them.