Growing Peppers in Your Garden: Tips, Hardening Off and Soil Mix
Growing peppers is a great way to spice up your garden. Whether you’re growing hot or sweet varieties, there are some important tips for success. Starting with the right soil and conditions can make all the difference when it comes to germination and transplanting of pepper seedlings.
Jiffy peat pellets are a popular choice for starting tomatoes, but they can also be used for peppers. Peppers take longer than tomatoes to get going, so start them first. They prefer warmer temperatures and drier conditions than tomatoes do. When transplanting leggy plants, bury them deeper but don’t expect much root growth along the stem like with tomatoes. Avoid cold temperatures as this will set back the plant significantly. Plant peppers closer together than tomatoes since they enjoy rubbing shoulders. Support may be needed depending on variety, though not as much as with tomatoes.
When transplanting peppers into the garden, be sure the air and soil temperature is warm enough (above 65 degrees F). Hardening off before planting is essential, and cloudy days are ideal for transplanting. Don’t plant peppers too deeply; just at their soil line. This helps avoid rotting stems which can occur if the stem has already hardened (lignified) prior to planting. Mulching is helpful in keeping the soil evenly moist without making it soggy.
If you’ve had good experience with jiffy peat pellets for tomatoes, then they should work fine for peppers too. However, many people opt for soilless mix instead due to better results. A heating mat can help keep temperatures above 80 degrees F while germinating seeds. It’s also important to remember that shorter season peppers tend to produce better in cooler climates where frost arrives sooner. Sweet potatoes planted beneath peppers can increase production of both plants and adding Epsom salt to the planting hole and supplementing during the season can result in larger fruits with thicker walls.
What is the best way to start peppers from seed?
Peppers need more warmth than tomatoes do to germinate and get started. You may need some kind of heating mat. I personally would never use another peat pot for starting any seeds, but if you've had good experience with them with tomatoes, they should work fine for peppers. Be sure to harden them off before transplanting on a cloudy day. Transplanting deeper than their soil line is not recommended as there is the risk of the stem rotting.
How should I care for my pepper plants?
Pepper plants need warmer air and soil than tomatoes do, so it's important to transplant them 1-2 weeks later than the tomatoes. Keep them warm and evenly moist (but not soggy). Mulching is helpful. Sweet potatoes are a great companion plant for peppers, and adding extra Epsom salt in the planting hole and supplementing it several times during the season can increase size and production.
What kind of fertilizer should I use?
A balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 is a good choice for peppers. If you want to go organic, fish emulsion or seaweed extract are great options. You can also use compost tea or worm castings. Be sure to fertilize every two weeks during the growing season.
How much water do peppers need?
Peppers need about 1 inch of water per week, so be sure to check the soil moisture regularly. Water deeply and evenly, making sure not to over-water or let them dry out too much. Mulching helps retain moisture and keep weeds down.
When should I harvest my peppers?
Harvest your peppers when they reach their desired size and color. For bell peppers, wait until they are full size and have turned red, yellow, orange, or purple (depending on the variety). Hot peppers should be harvested when they are bright green or when they turn red, orange, yellow, or purple (again depending on the variety).