Peppers come in so many sizes and varieties that it may be overwhelming when you start to plan your pepper garden.
Here are some tips for growing peppers.
- Types of Peppers: There are two main types of peppers: hot and sweet. Hot peppers are heat-filled and heat-loving peppers, though they vary in degree of spiciness. They tend to take about a month longer to mature than the other type of peppers. Sweet or bell peppers are the mild versions of peppers. They take about two to three months to mature. They are commonly called bell peppers, but not all sweet peppers are bell-shaped. They vary in size, color and even shape. The only downside to growing bell peppers is that they might not produce as much fruit as the hot peppers.
- Space: Most peppers require a fair amount of space. They need this room to blossom properly and set fruit. Sweet peppers require more room because their fruits are larger than those of the hot peppers. Peppers should be at least 8 inches apart from one another to grow properly; 12-15 inches would be ideal. Some peppers might also require more space in a traditional garden bed than a raised bed or container. Disease is less likely to occur when the peppers are properly cared for and properly spaced. In a raised bed system, the plants can generally be closer together because the environment is more controlled (i.e. weed and pest control).
- By Seed or Plant: You should decide whether you want to start your pepper garden by seed or plant. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Since peppers thrive in a warm environment, they require lots of sun. If the peppers are started by seed, they may need to be started indoors or in a greenhouse. They won't tolerate any freeze and most will have damage with a frost. If you live in a warm area, don't plant the seeds until the frosts are over. It is generally less expensive to buy seed than to buy plants. Starting peppers by transplants is a good way to get a head start on the season, especially if you live in a northern climate where the season length is limited. By transplanting, you give yourself a head start of at least a few weeks. For hot peppers such as the habenero (whose maturity can take up to four months long), this is a great head start. Transplants generally cost more, however, than seed.
- Where to Buy: You can find both sweet pepper and hot pepper plants, seed and other accessories at any home and garden store and local greenhouses. Local greenhouses tend to have a wider variety of pepper plants. They have rare or unusual varieties that may be hard to locate elsewhere.
- Care of Peppers: Peppers love warm weather, humidity, and a long growing season, some taking up to four months to mature and set fruits. Peppers can benefit from mulching the ground around them to help retain moisture. They also like space. The more space the plants have, the more likely they are to give more fruit. Space also prevents disease from spreading plant to plant. Make sure the soil is free of weeds. Until peppers start to grow, weeds can deprive the soil of necessary nutrients that help the pepper plant thrive. Mulching around the plants helps keep out weed growth too. You can give the pepper plants a good balanced fertilizer if you'd like. This can help speed along the growing process and help enrich any soil that might be lacking in proper nutrition. If you are in to organic gardening, remember it requires you to not use chemicals in the care of your pepper garden.