Are you a hot pepper fanatic? Then chili peppers belong in your garden! If you want the best harvest ever, we’ve got some tips to ensure your plants are as healthy and strong as possible.
Chilis bring the heat to your culinary dishes, and they’re a fantastic option for new gardeners. These plants tend to produce well even if you don’t pay much attention to them.
However, proper attention and care will lead to harvests beyond what you could imagine. Ready for the best chili pepper harvest ever? Here are the tips that took my garden to the next level.
14 Tips to Get Your Best Chili Pepper Harvest
Chili pepper plants like jalapenos, habaneros, anaheim, and cayenne are capable of producing large harvests, so use these tips to end up with the best one ever. If you can’t eat them all, pickle, dry, or pack them in oil so you can enjoy them for months to come.
1. Start The Seeds Inside and Keep Them Warm
Chilis take time to grow, and it’s best to start the seeds inside 8-12 weeks before the final frost date in your area. Most of these plants are slow growers. Even the jalapeno, which matures in 75 days, still takes quite a while compared to other veggies.
One of the best ways to ensure your seeds sprout is to keep them warm, around 80-85°F. The soil should stay moist as well, but never let the soil become saturated or soggy.
2. Don’t Plant Them Outside Too Early
Chili pepper plants are not frost-friendly, so planting them outside too early isn’t a good idea. They should never go outside until the risk of frost is entirely gone.
That means you might have to wait beyond your last frost date because those dates are only guidelines. Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and frosts and cold temperatures happen after those dates regularly.
Hot peppers grow best when the temperatures are between 70-95°F. Make sure the soil temperature is at least 65°F before planting. If you do put your plants out and a surprise frost comes along, be sure to cover your plants.
3. Sun, Sun, and More Sun
If you have to get your best chili pepper harvest ever, then you have to make sure your plants receive all the sunlight possible. They need a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight, but with these plants, the more, the better.
Chili peppers love the sun and the heat; maybe it’s because they’re a hot pepper! The plants produce best when they’re warm all day long.
4. Load Up The Compost!
Chili peppers love rich soil, so I suggest mixing in mushroom compost or organic compost before planting. Fertile, rich soil is the best for peppers, and your harvest will thank you.
Adding compost to your soil does something else quite important – helps with drainage. You need the soil to drain properly to avoid root rot.
5. Keep The Soil Slightly Acidic
Pepper plants grow best when they have slightly acidic soil. The best pH range is between 6.0-6.8. Before you amend the pH range of your soil, make sure you test the soil beforehand. You might risk messing up the soil if you don’t check before you go adjusting things!
6. Don’t Space the Plants Too Closely
Spacing your chili pepper plants too closely will decrease their harvest and increase the risk of diseases. These plants prefer a spacing between 18-36 inches, and the rows need to be spaced two to three feet apart.
Why is spacing so important?
Several reasons, but two are the most important to know.
- When you space plants too closely together, you decrease the airflow around the plants. Decreased airflow combined with moisture and humidity is a recipe for fungal infections. Pepper plants are prone to a number of diseases, so proper spacing greatly decreases this problem.
- Plant spaced too close together compete for nutrients and water. The more nutrients and water your plants have, the better chili pepper harvest you get. More competition is not always a good thing.
7. Put Companion Plants Near
Take advantage of the companion plants that help chili peppers. Aromatic herbs, like basil, are great options because they repel pests like thrips and aphids. You also can plant calendulas nearby because they attract pollinators and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies.
Other options for companion plants for chili peppers include:
8. Keep The Soil Moist
When growing chili peppers, the soil needs to stay constantly moist but not soaking wet. Soggy, saturated soil will risk rotting your plants, causing them to die. These plants love moisture as much as they love sunlight.
9. Keep the Weeds Down
Remember how closely-planted peppers increase competition for the nutrients in the soil?
The same goes for weeds!
Weeds take up nutrients in the soil that your pepper plants need more food to grow. One of the best ways to reduce weeds in your garden is to spread a thick layer of mulch around your plants. Not only does mulch kill off weeds, but it also keeps the soil temperatures and moisture even.
10. Don’t Forget to Fertilize Your Chili Peppers
Pepper plants need to be fertilized. Tomato fertilizers work well for chili peppers; they have similar nutritional needs. If you can’t find tomato fertilizer at your local garden store, try a 5-10-10 fertilizer.
Typically, it’s best to work these into the soil before planting, using three pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of soil.
Throughout the growing season, fish emulsion and seaweed or kelp fertilizer are excellent options to give your plants the boosts they need to grow and thrive.
Pepper plants need to be fertilized two to three times.
- When planting
- When flowering
- When peppers appear
11. Prevent Blossom End Rot
Peppers, like tomatoes, are prone to blossom end rot, which is caused by calcium deficiency. It’s a common misconception that you can just add calcium to the soil to fix it. But most soil contains enough calcium for plants, though you should test your soil to be sure.
The problem is that your pepper plants can’t access the calcium in the soil. This can happen for a number of reasons. If the plant isn’t getting enough water, too much water, or inconsistent water, it can cause this disorder. Or, if the roots are damaged by aggressive weeding or tilling, the plant won’t get the calcium it needs.
Overfertilization with nitrogen can also contribute to the problem.
Test your soil and make sure that your peppers get consistent moisture, but not too much. Take care when weeding or tilling, and don’t over-fertilize with nitrogen.
12. Pinch the Early Flowers
The first buds usually appear on your pepper plants early on, but if you want to increase your chili pepper harvest, you have to remove these buds. All you have to do is pinch or cut them off the plant.
Continue to remove the buds until the plants are six inches tall. Doing this might seem counter-intuitive because you’re removing buds that turn into peppers, but it creates a bushier plant that will create a bigger chili pepper harvest. You’ll always have stronger, healthier plants.
13. Watch for Pests and Diseases
Pepper plants are prone to different pests and diseases, so if you want a decent chili pepper harvest, make sure you keep an eye out for these problems.
Big diseases that chili peppers suffer from are bacterial spot, powdery mildew, and rotting. Your plants might also end up with aphids or spiders.
14. Keep Picking the Peppers
Chili peppers are typically ready to harvest in July or early August. The more peppers you harvest, the more peppers the plants produce.
For most types of chilis, if you harvest the chilies when they’re young, they have a milder flavor. If you harvest the peppers when they are mature the flavor is spicier and stronger.