Have you ever stopped and thought about all of the different ways you can use peppers?
Well, if not, let me fill you in a for a second. You can grow them to make your own seasonings, they are great substitutes for chips in nachos, you can stuff them, you can sauté them, they make great cowboy candy, or they go great raw in many dishes.
So if this sounds like something that would be of use to you, then you should consider growing them in your garden.
However, if you aren’t sure how to do that, I want to give you all of the information that should help you get started on this new gardening venture.
Here is how you grow peppers in your garden:
Pepper Plant Info
- Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
- Soil: Clay, loam, sandy, PH between 6.0 to 7.0, well-drained, rich in organic matter
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Start Indoors: 28 to 35 days before the last frost date
- Start Indoors (in fall): 115 to 148 days before the first frost date
- Hardening Off: 7 to 10 days before transplanting
- Transplant Outdoors: 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost date, at soil temperature above 60 degrees fahrenheit
- Spacing: 12 to 24 inches between plants and 18 to 36 inches between rows
- Depth: ¼ inch seed depth
- Best Companions: Carrot, basil, eggplant, onion, tomato, parsley
- Worst Companions: Fennel, kohlrabi
- Watering: Medium to heavy, 1 to 2 inches per week
- Fertilizing: Apply liquid fertilizer at planting and every 2 weeks thereafter
- Common Problems: Anthracnose, cercospora leaf spot, damping-off, fusarium wilt, gray leaf spot, powdery mildew, southern blight, verticillium wilt, bacterial canker, bacterial spot, bacterial wilt, blossom-end rot, magnesium deficiency, nitrogen deficiency, mosaic, tomato spotted wilt, phytophthora blight, aphids, beet armyworm, Colorado potato beetle, leafminers, flea beetles, leafrollers, pepper weevil, thrips, tomato fruit worm, spider mites,
- Harvest: 60 to 90 days after seed starting
The Most Common Type of Peppers to Plant
When you decide to grow peppers, you could easily become overwhelmed at all of the options that are available to you. However, they can be summed up into three main categories: bell peppers, banana peppers, and hot peppers.
Here are the differences:
1. Bell Peppers
These are commonly used for cooking. They are great additions to salads, great for stuffing with meat, and they are also great for sautéing with other vegetables.
The most common types of bell peppers are red, orange, yellow, and green. They each pack a different variety of nutrients do to the color differences.
However, they also come in larger varieties and miniature varieties as well.
2. Banana Peppers
Banana peppers are possibly my favorite form of peppers. I love them to add to salads. You can change their flavor if you decide to preserve them.
They can be hot or sweet when canned properly. Usually, they have a mild pepper flavor when picked straight from the plant.
3. Hot Peppers
There are many different varieties of hot peppers. You must use caution when handling hot peppers, though. When picking them always be sure to wash your hands before touching any part of your face.
Some of the varieties pack so much heat that they can literally burn your face and eyes if they are touched with contaminated hands.
So please keep that in mind when picking your variety of hot peppers. The most common variety of hot peppers are habanero, jalapeno, ghost pepper, or red chili peppers. These can be used to add spice to any dish or even dried and used as a seasoning.
How to Plant & Grow Peppers
Planting peppers is actually an easy process. They don’t require a ton of care either. For that reason, I love planting them year after year.
You’ll begin by waiting until after the last spring frost before planting your selected pepper plants. You can purchase pepper plants or grow them from seed yourself. That choice is yours to make.
Once you are ready to plant, you’ll need to decide where you want to plant them. Peppers can go grow in a regular garden bed, a raised garden bed, or in containers. I’ve actually grown them in all three and have had equal success.
So where you plant them will mainly have to do with how many peppers you want. I will plant a lot of bell peppers in my garden because I use them a lot for cooking.
Then I’ll plant my hotter peppers in raised garden beds. I do this because you need to keep peppers away from your tomato plants. The reason is because of cross pollination. This can cause your tomato plants to taste less than desirable, and I certainly didn’t want a super spicy tomato.
However, when I pick a special type of pepper (for instance, yellow bell peppers) I may not use as many of them so I’ll plant a couple of plants in containers. So you’ll just need to decide how many peppers you’d like of each variety, then you’ll know where to actually plant them.
After you decide where you are going to place your pepper plants, you’ll need to be sure to plant them in well drained soil about 18-24 inches apart. Be sure to plant with compost and fertilizer.
Then you’ll need to fertilize the plants every few weeks. You’ll want to mulch around the base of the plant. This will keep the soil moist and also protect the stem of the plant from potential disease from the soil.
However, the biggest part of planting peppers is to make sure they get as much sunlight as possible. They will need a minimum of 6-8 hours. Basically, they love heat.
So the more heat and sunlight, the greater your pepper harvest should be.
Finally, when your peppers are ready to harvest, be sure to pick all of them before the first fall frost. I usually just pluck mine from the plant, though some recommend actually cutting the pepper from the plant so you don’t risk damaging the plant. I leave that option up to you.
Common Problems for Pepper Plants
Pepper plants attract a lot of different bugs and ailments. Being well versed in both should help you to head off any problems.
Here are the diseases and bugs you need to be on the look out for:
1. Cut Worms
These little creatures go after baby pepper plants. You will walk into your garden and see a once healthy plant lopped over on its side with its stem cut. It may appear that someone has come into your garden and cut your plants stem with scissors.
Solution: You can use pesticides whether it be organic or non-organic. Also avoid planting fall cover crops.
Aphids are little pests that gather at the bottom of your pepper plants. They cause discoloration in the leaves and secrete a sticky substance known as honey dew which then turns to mold on your plants.
Solution: You can deter these pests by introducing lady bugs into your garden. You will also want to avoid bring plants such as fennel, mint, or even dandelions around your pepper plants as they attract aphids.
However, you can plant items like mums, cosmos and zinnias in your garden to deter aphids.
3. Flea Beetles
These little pests attack younger plants. You will know you have them if you begin to seen tiny holes in the leaves of the plants where the beetles are feeding on it.
Solution: Mulch the bed heavily, you can use your household vacuum and vacuum your pepper plants, weed your garden thoroughly, thoroughly clean up your garden at the end of the grow season, and rotate crops.
4. Horn Worms
These worms go after the leaves on your plants too. The upside to having these pests is that you can see them easily. Therefore, you can remove them by hand.
Solution: You can hand pick these horn worms to remove them from your plants, or you can introduce other bugs like lady bugs so that they will rid you of the worms.
5. White Flies
These bugs are dangerous to your pepper crop. The reason is that they not only feed on your plants causing discoloration and death to your plant, but they also carry plant viruses that can also kill your plants.
Solution: Introducing bugs that feed on these flies is the best way to eradicate them from your garden. Bugs like lady bugs, pirate bugs, green lacewings, and big-eyed bugs will help to remove white flies from your pepper plants.
6. Southern Blight
Blight happens in really moist climates. It causes the stem and other parts of the plant to become discolored and to ultimately rot.
Solution: It is hard to prevent southern blight. All you can do is try to isolate new types of plants in your garden by growing them in separate beds. Also, you can destroy any diseased plants as well.
7. Powdery Mildew
This disease was also mentioned as a threat to your grape harvest as well. It is a fungal disease that literally looks like a powder that takes over your plant. It comes with warm and humid conditions.
Solution: You will want to plant peppers in full sun to not give the fungus a great environment to grow in. Also, you’ll want to water your pepper plants from below and make sure the plant has plenty of room for circulation of air. You can also use fungicides to treat the disease.
8. Ripe Rot
This happens when your ripe peppers are left on the plant in a warm and humid condition.
Solution: Be sure to harvest your peppers when ripe and store them properly until ready to use.
9. Blossom End Rot
This happens when the bottom side of your peppers rot. It happens when the plant is short on either calcium or water.
Solution: Be sure to give your plants plenty of calcium. We usually add a tablespoon of powdered milk at the base of each plant when we are planting it. Plus, you’ll need to make sure that you water your pepper plants regularly.
This happens when your pepper plants get too much sunlight. The peppers will become dry and discolored. If this happens, then your plants are getting more than 8 hours of sunlight.
Solution: Move the container your peppers are planted in or do something to provide covering or shade for your plant.
11. Bacterial Leaf Spot
This is a bacterial infection. You’ll know you have it when your plants leaves become spotty and discolored. Ultimately the spots will enlarge and cause the leaves to droop.
Solution: Once you see the signs of the bacterial leaf spot it is too late. The only precautionary steps you can take is to rotate plants so that they are not planted in the same location for at least 5 years.
This is a virus. Your pepper plants will be discolored.
Solution: Be sure to rotate your crops and keep the plants free of debris. Also, try to plant pepper varieties that are disease resistant.
Best and Worst Companion for Peppers
Planting certain items together can produce great benefits for both plants and ultimately give you a better crop. These are the best companion plants for peppers:
- French marigolds
Plants also have certain plants that should not be planted together because they attract the same pests or have other ill effects on one another. These are the worst companion plants for peppers:
- Walnut Trees
- Brussel Sprouts
Harvesting and Storing Peppers
The time period as to when a pepper can be harvested depends upon the variety of the pepper. You will know it is time to harvest your peppers when the pepper has reached full size and has reached its full brightness in color.
Then you will need to harvest it. The bell peppers, banana peppers, and hot peppers can usually be plucked from the plant.
However, some sweet pepper varieties are more delicate and will need to be snipped with scissors or pruning shears from the plant.
Here is another great resource to help you with safety tips and other ways to preserve your peppers for longer periods of time.
However, you can also preserve the actual pepper plant itself. You’ll need to bring it indoors before the first frost hits and keep it in a warm area under lights. People have been known to keep the same pepper plants for years with this method.
Best Pepper Recipes to Utilize Your Fresh Pepper
1. One Pot Lazy Stuffed Peppers
I love stuffed peppers but if you’ve ever made them, the stuffing process can be rather annoying. I never seem to find peppers that want to stand up and cooperate while I’m trying to stuff them.
Well, this recipe takes all of that struggle out of the equation. Instead it is a one pot meal that gives you the same great taste of stuffed peppers without all of the extra work.
2. Feta Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
Are you a cheese lover? If so, then you are probably going to love this recipe. It would make a tasty snack, a light lunch or dinner, or even a great appetizer.
So if you are someone that loves the taste of both cheese and peppers, then you might want to check out this delicious recipe.
3- Ingredient Mini Stuffed Peppers
I love goat cheese. It has an amazing and different taste. Not to mention, I raise dairy goats so I have the resources to make goat cheese very inexpensively.
So when I found out this recipe only called for mini bell peppers, goat cheese, and honey I quickly realized I could make it for free because I produce all of those items on my property. Naturally, my ears (and taste buds) perked right up. Whether you produce all of the ingredients or not, you might want to give this recipe a try.
4. Bell Pepper Egg In a Hole
My husband and I have recently switched to eating more whole foods. We are feeling better but have had to cut back on our bread intake quite a bit.
Well, having an egg in a hole was always a favorite quick breakfast or dinner item of mine. When I discovered this recipe I was delighted. So if you are wanting something healthy and tasty then consider this recipe.
5. Christmas in July Pepper Jam
If you love pepper jam then you might want to check out this delicious recipe. I’m personally a fan of less traditional types of jam.
Also, they make great DIY gifts that are easy and inexpensive. Yet, they are also enjoyable and personal which so many people prefer in a gift.
Well, there is your crash course in growing peppers.
Also, hopefully you’ll find out which peppers you love the most and what recipes you enjoy too.
However, I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. What is your favorite pepper variety? What recipes based around peppers do you already enjoy? If you are experienced in growing peppers, do you have any tips for those that may be new at growing them.