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Growing Peppers is Fun, Easy and Addicting

By Steve Aegerter,Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Become a fan of growing and enjoying peppers, it’s as easy as ringing a bell.

Peppers are fast becoming one of the most popular of all vegetables to grow, second only to tomatoes, why? Why not, there are hundreds of varieties available to the home gardener, especially if you grow them from seed. They come in all shapes and colors, and range from the sweetest to downright fiery. One final attribute, most are prolific producers.

Often, gardeners get addicted to growing peppers by chance. They buy a variety at the local nursery for fun and to experiment. It turned out to be such a success, next year they plant three. Because of the limited varieties offered at garden shops, they’re now buying seed and starting their own. With hundreds of varieties and all easy to grow it’s easy to become a real fan of peppers. Soon they have a dozen different cultivars thriving in their garden.

Peppers enjoy an well-amended soil that contains plenty of organic matter, supplemented with a balanced fertilizer or better yet, one with slightly higher nitrogen and phosphorous levels. Place in an area that will receive the most sun and plant 18 inches apart with rows 3 feet apart. Support with small tomato cages or a similar device to keep plants from splitting or falling over due to a heavy
crop.

Early spring is NOT the time to put your peppers in the garden. Wait until nighttime temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees, which is late May to early June. To have a bountiful harvest, protect from wind and do not allow plants to be shocked by cold temperatures. If you’ve already set the plants out and you hear a discouraging forecast, protect with hot caps or other successful season extenders. For earlier planting, preheat the soil with plastic mulch, which will offer weed reduction and moisture control later in the season. Then use walls-o-water to protect against wind and low temperatures.

Peppers are relatively pest free which makes them a favorite among many gardeners. Perhaps you may want to protect the stem from cutworms by using a paper collar or a 6-inch plastic pot with the bottom cut out. Using the pot method will also allow protection from the wind for small seedlings.

When harvesting, using gloves, use a sharp knife or pruners to avoid damaging the plant. One word of caution, don’t rub your eyes while working with the fruit, oils will get on your hands and will definitely irritate the eyes. All peppers will turn red when ripe, but flavor is not influenced by maturity. Pick the fruit, no matter the color, when it achieves the size you need or want. Besides eating them fresh, try pickling, drying or marinating, you’re only limited by your imagination. For added interest, try an ornamental or two in your perennial bed. So add spice to your lives, try growing peppers.

A guide to pepper variety choices:

Variety

Color

Size

How hot?

Habanero

Orange

3/4" dia.

50X hotter than Jalapeno

Serrano

Red 2" taper very, very hot
Big Thai Red 4-8" taper very hot
Cayenne Red 4-8" taper very hot

Red Chili 

Red 1-3" taper hot
Cherry Red 1 1/2" dia hot
Hungarian Wax Yellow 5-7" taper fairly hot
Jalapeno Green 2-4" taper fairly hot
Anahaeim  Green 7-8" taper mild hot
Robustinni Yellow 3-4" taper mild
Paprika  Red 2-4" taper mild
Mole’ Brown 2-5" taper sweet
Cherrytime Red 1-2" dia sweet
Bell Many 4X4" lobed sweet

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010