In this article: Learn all you need to know about growing peppers in your garden. From starting peppers from seed, to growing tips, and when to harvest.
Growing peppers is a lot of fun. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors- and they are almost as fun as growing tomatoes!
Peppers are easy to grow from seed and thrive in most gardens with little to no pests or problems, but if you are new to growing peppers, let’s talk about how to grow the best peppers right in your backyard.
Pick up a copy of my Yearly Garden Planner to help you keep track of when to start seeds, transplant into the garden, and all of your other garden planning needs.
Everything You Need to Know About Growing Peppers at Home
Choosing Which Pepper Varieties to Grow
Choosing which type of pepper to grow comes down to what you plan to do with your harvest. Are you planning on preserving, grilling, eating a lot fresh?
Knowing what your plans are will help you choose a pepper variety to grow that will meet your needs. Read the descriptions for the pepper variety to see what it’s best suited for.
Types of Sweet Peppers
If you are looking for sweet peppers, there are a couple different types you may want to try to grow.
- Bell (red, orange, green, purple….)
- Sweet Italian
Though sweet bell peppers are probably the most popular, they are not my favorite to grow in the garden. I find the pimento-type peppers and Italians to grow better, have better fruit production, and taste sweeter.
Types of Hot Peppers
If you are wanting to grow hot peppers, there are also quite a few types, all with varying heat.
Knowing your purpose will help decide which variety to choose. Know how much heat you want and if you will be using them in salsa, stir fries, pickling them, etc.
Related Reading: 5 Sweet Pepper Varieties to Try
Growing Peppers from Seed
You can easily get started growing peppers by picking up a couple plants at your local nursery, but by starting your own peppers from seed you will have so many more options on varieties (plus it’s fun and rewarding!)
To grow peppers from seed you need to start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.
You can use a seed starting soil mix, peat pellets, or fill containers with a mix of organic peat moss and garden soil. It’s easiest if your soil is a bit moist before you get started.
Place your pepper seeds just under the soil- about ¼ of an inch deep. You can plant 2-3 seeds in each pot and thin to the strongest once they have grown a few inches tall.
Place your seed trays in a sunny window or under grow lights. Don’t let them dry out, but don’t over water either. The soil should be moist, not wet. I like to use a pump spray bottle to water my plants as they germinate.
Your pepper seeds should germinate and sprout within 7-10 days. Peppers like it warm and the seeds won’t germinate as well in soil temperatures much lower than 70 degrees. Using a heat mat or a warm spot such as on top the the refrigerator can help you keep the soil temperatures warm if you keep a cold house.
Once your seedlings are 3-4 inches tall and have at least one set of true leaves, you may need to pot them up into bigger pots. This is especially true if you started them in very small containers or in peat pellets.
Once the roots have grow sufficiently, start watering your seedling from the bottom instead of the top.
Do your pepper seedlings need fertilizing?
I personally have never fertilized my growing seedlings. I think a lot of this will depend on the type of soil you started your seeds in, how large of a container, and if you transplant your seedlings to larger pots at all before transplanting them into the garden.
Once your last frost date has arrived, it’s time to start hardening off your seedlings. I sometimes start this step earlier, if we have some calm, warm and sunny days I will carry my trays out to the back deck for a few hours.
This gives them a chance to get used to the beating sun and their stems can get used to the air movement and gentle breeze.
The closer and closer it gets to planting out in the garden, the longer I leave them outside. Letting them get used to full sun, wind, and rain.
If the nights are warm you can leave them out overnight as well. Just remember small pots will dry out much quicker outside in the sun, so if they get dry and wilted water them.
Once the weather has warmed and all threat of frost as passed, it’s time to transplant your pepper plants to the garden!
Tips to Growing the Best Peppers
So once your pepper plants are in the garden, here are some tips to keep your plants growing their best:
Peppers like it warm. They grow best in temperatures around 70-80 degrees in the day and 60-70 degrees at night. If you plant your peppers out before these average temperatures, they may appear to be stunted and not growing. Be patient, once the weather warms you plants will take off.
Peppers need full sun. Plant them in a sunny spot that gets at least 8-10 hours of sun per day and plan your garden so other plants don’t shade your peppers.
Peppers need good, rich soil with good drainage. Mix in organic matter or compost at planting time.
Water Peppers regularly. Don’t let your peppers dry out! They need 1- 2 inches of water per week. If you don’t get that much in rain, water your peppers deeply once a week. Use mulch to retain moisture and keep the weeds down.
Use companion planting to help your peppers grow better and stay healthier. If you only have room for one companion- plant basil. If you have more room check out my post on the Best Companion Plants for Peppers to learn more about what to plant, and what not to plant, with your peppers.
Don’t crowd your pepper plants. When growing peppers in the garden they need plenty of air circulation. This helps them grow better and prevents fungal infections and other diseases. 12-18 inches between each plant is good.
Use stakes to support your pepper plants. When they are full of ripening fruits, your plants can get weighed down, putting them at risk for breaking stems. Tie the main stem to a single stake to give them extra support. You can also use all of the ideas in my 5 Ways to Stake Tomatoes article for peppers as well.
Growing Peppers in Pots
Peppers can absolutely be grown in pots or large containers. They can be grown on a sunny deck or balcony if you live in an apartment or don’t have the room for a larger, in-ground garden.
When growing peppers in pots, be sure to choose a container that has good drainage, so that your plants don’t get waterlogged and get root rot.
5 gallon buckets with some drainage holes drilled into the base is a good, inexpensive planting container for a variety of crops.
Choose a soil that is lighter, which will also help with drainage
The main thing to remember when growing peppers in pots, is to keep them watered since their roots can’t reach down to find more water. Also be sure they are in the sunniest spot available.
Growing: Pests and Diseases
Blossom End Rot: Like tomatoes, peppers are susceptible to blossom end rot. Which causes the blossom end of your peppers to turn black.
Blossom end rot is usually caused by a calcium deficiency.
Here’s a good article on how to treat blossom end rot.
Anthracnose: Anthracnose is a fungal infection that can occur on many crops. It causes circular, or irregular, shaped lesions on the fruit that are gray to black in color.
Using disease free seeds and plants, as well as removing plant debris and using crop rotation can help control anthracnose.
Cutworms: Young peppers can be susceptible to cutworm attacks. These 1-2 inch worms will often sever the stems of young plants, often killing them. Occasionally I have had pepper plants grow back after being severed but not often. Making collars from toilet paper tubes can help keep them away from young stem.
You can also try using diatomaceous earth on the soil around the plants.
Using organic measures such as diatomaceous earth and companion planting, as well as following the planting advice above can help keep your plants healthier and able to fight off pests and disease.
When to Harvest Peppers
When you harvest your peppers will depend largely on the type you have planted. In general, sweet peppers take 60-90 days to mature. Hot peppers often require an even longer growing season, taking over 100 days to maturity.
Sometimes it can feel like peppers take forever to reach maturity. Your plants may seem to be covered with full-size green peppers for months while you wait for them to turn from green to yellow, red, or orange.
You should harvest your peppers when they are full size and have reached the color indicated on the seed packet or variety description. You can harvest peppers somewhat early and they will continue to ripen indoors. if you harvest peppers too soon they will be bitter- so don’t jump the gun!
To harvest, use scissors or a sharp knife to prevent damage to the plant and stems.
Check out my article on 9 Ways to Preserve Peppers to learn more about what do do with your peppers once you have harvested them .
© 2019, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.