Where to Grow Peppers
Peppers are strictly warm weather plants, and require at least 2 1/2 months maturing once started seedlings have been set outdoors. They will not produce where evenings are cool, and are very tender to frost and light freezes. In cooler climates, use black plastic mulch and row covers to keep the peppers warm.
Soil for Growing Peppers
A sandy, well-drained loam is best, with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Add a well-balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or a favorite organic blend and work in well. A nitrogen rich fertilizer should be avoided. It will promote foliage growth, but not peppers production.
Similar to eggplant; peppers need constant soil moisture once growing begins. Hill up soil around the base of the stems gradually to give the stems added support when bearing the fruit. Use small stakes if necessary to keep plants heavy with fruit upright. Keep weeds away with shallow cultivation, or use mulches. Feed the plants again when flowers fade and fruits are forming. If the temperature rises above 95F, sprinkle plants with water in the afternoon to help prevent blossom drop.
When to Harvest Peppers
Peppers should be ready to harvest in approximately 70-80 days of ideal growing conditions. Sweet peppers are picked green, not fully ripe. They will feel firm and crisp when ready, and should not be pulled from the plant but cut with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Peppers will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks after picking before they start to shrivel. If left on the plant, peppers turn ripe red and the flesh is sweeter and contains more vitamins. If frost threatens, pull the plant and hang it in a cool place to allow peppers to ripen. Hot peppers should ripen fully on the vine to attain their bright red color and full flavor, and then hang to dry.
Margined blister beetles may appear in large quantities in warmer climates. These beetles are large with black and gray stripes and devour pepper foliage. Hand picks them, and wear gloves to prevent skin irritation.
Pepper weevils can also be a serious problem in warm climates. Make sure to clean up fallen fruits daily to interrupt their life cycle. Adult pepper weevils can be trapped with sticky traps.
The following diseases can affect peppers in warmer climates. These viruses are transmitted by thrips and aphids. They cause leaves to become thick and crinkled or narrow and stringy. The best defense is to select resistant varieties.
- Tobacco Etch Virus (TEV)
- Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CVM)
- Potato Virus Y (PVY)