Peppers are tropical plants that need lots of heat and attention to detail when starting them. Well grown in a warm summer, they are the gardener’s triumph. Interestingly, the hot peppers often do better in a cool summer than the large bell peppers. If the hot peppers have not coloured up fully on the plants, pull up the whole plant and hang in a warm dry area. Follow along with this handy How to Grow Peppers from seeds guide and grow spicy and sweet delight.
When I Get My Seedling Home
Keep seedlings under very bright light to prevent legginess. Artificial lights are ideal, but a bright (ideally, south-facing) room will work for the short term. You may have to pot on seedlings more than once before they go out to allow for root growth. This is done by transplanting them into a slightly larger container with enough additional soil to keep the container mostly full. Keep the soil moist by daily watering and allow for free drainage so the plants are never sitting water.
Do not transplant outside until night time temperatures are steadily 10°C (50°F) or warmer. This may mean keeping seedlings indoors for up to a month. The plants should not require any fertilizer until transplant time.
Tomatoes thrive in fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Dig in finished compost and/or manure, and add 1 cup complete organic fertilizer beneath each transplant. Dig a hole in the garden approximately the same size as the seedling container, or a couple of inches deeper. Invert the seedling and gently tease it from its container by holding the stem and supporting the root ball. Tomato seedlings can be transplanted either to the same depth of their container, or slightly deeper, up to the first set of leaves. Press the root ball into the soil, fill in with soil, and water thoroughly.
Soil should have abundant phosphorus and calcium, so add lime and compost to the bed at least three weeks prior to transplanting. Mix ½ cup of complete organic fertilizer beneath each plant. Though peppers will tolerate dry soil, they will only make good growth if kept moist. Harden off before planting out in June, 30-60cm (12-24″) apart. Water in with kelp-based fertilizer. Using plastic mulch with a cloche can increase the temperature by a few degrees. Pinch back growing tips to encourage leaf production. This helps shade peppers and prevents sun-scald in hot summers.
When fruit is firm it is ready to pick. But if you wait the fruit will ripen further turning red, yellow, brown or purple. The sweetness and vitamin C content go up dramatically when the fruit changes colour. If you pick green the total numbers of peppers harvested will increase. Fruit that sets after late August will not usually develop or ripen. Pull out the entire bush just before the first frost and hang it upside down in a warm, dry place to ripen hot peppers. Expect 5-10 large bell peppers per well-grown plant, 20-50 hot peppers per plant.
Diseases & Pests
To prevent rot and wilt, plant in well-drained soils and follow a 4-year rotation. If cutworms are a problem, use paper collars at the plant base. Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV): young growth is malformed and leaves are mottled with yellow. To prevent it: wash hands after handling tobacco, before touching peppers. Control aphids, which spread the disease.
Pepper plants make good neighbours for asparagus, basil, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, oregano, parsley, rosemary, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Never plant them next to beans, Brassicas, or fennel.