Growing Peppers in the
Backyard Garden

Growing peppers in the backyard is a great way to insure plenty of these nutritious vegetables for cooking and making salsa.

The price of produce has risen over the last few years and the cost of peppers has made it very economical to grow your own pepper plants.

Peppers are native to tropical areas and grow on woody perennial shrubs that reach 6 to 8 feet tall. In cooler climates peppers grow as tender annuals and are 2 to 3 feet tall.

Peppers may be harvested while green in the immature stage or later when they turn red, yellow and orange depending on the variety.

Peppers range from mild sweet to hot and spicy. The hot varieties are hot when they are green and become hotter as they ripen and change to red, yellow or orange.

The vitamin C content of peppers increases to almost double when the peppers change color in the mature stage.

The nutrients in 149 gms(1 cup)of green peppers contain the following:

    30 Calories
    Vitamin A 551 IU
    Vitamin B1.25 mg
    Vitamin B2.125 mg
    Vitamin C 120 mg
    Phosphorus 30 mg
    Calcium 15 mg
    Iron .5 mg
    Total Omega-3 fatty acids 11.9 mg Total Omega-6 fatty acids 80.5 mg Protien 1 gm

Growing peppers need the same climate as tomatoes. Peppers can tolerated more cold than tomatoes but grow best at temperatures around 80 degrees F. To set fruit, peppers do best between 65 to 80 degrees F.

Varieties for Growing Peppers

Sweet Pepper Varieties:

    California Wonder Bell pepper 75 days to maturity. Fruit grows 4 by 4½ inches with thick flesh that is mild and sweet.

    Golden California Wonder Bell pepper 70 days to maturity. Same as the wonder bell pepper.

    Hungarian Sweet Bannana Pepper 68 days to maturity light yellow fruit, maturing to golden to orange to red. This pepper is used for pickling.

    Purple Beauty bell pepper 70 days this is a purple pepper with fruit 4 x3 inches. This pepper will add a nice color contrast to your salads and salsa.

Hot chili pepper varieties:

    Anaheim Pepper 80 days to maturity with long tapered peppers that reach 6 to 8 inches long. Green, turning to red at maturity. This pepper is a mildly hot pepper that can be used fresh, frozen or dried.

    Ancho (Poblano) 75 days to maturity with 4 inch long fruit tapered to a blunt end. Has dark green skin that turns deep red at maturity. Slightly hot with a sweet taste. Use fresh, Stuffed or roasted. This variety has been very popular for the last few years. You see it used in a lot of cooking shows.

    Cayenne, Long Red 70 days to maturity this is a hot pepper with great flavor. Use for pickling, canning or drying.

    Jalapeño Pepper 72 days maturity with dark green, tapered fruit 3 inches long. Turns red when mature. The red jalapeno peppers are sweeter but still hot. Good for pickling, in fresh in salsas and making poppers.

These varieties are reliable and produce very well. They are open pollinated so you can save the seeds from year to year. You can purchase them at Victory seed.

I like to buy my pepper seeds from online companies so I can have them early in the winter to get the plants started for spring planting.

Soil Preparation and Planting Growing Peppers

Start pepper seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before last frost in the northern parts of the country. In the southern parts of the country you can start seeds in a protected seed bed outside.

Peppers are temperamental and can take 8 to 21 days to germinate. Pepper seeds will not germinate at 50 degrees F or lower. I have found if the temperatures are too low the seeds will rot in the cool soil.

I usually buy my pepper plants from my local nursery, but lately I have had a hard time finding the varieties of peppers I want so learning to start your own pepper plants can be worth while.

Starting Pepper Seeds;

  1. Pepper plants do best if grown uninterrupted in pots or trays. Plant seeds in a sterile potting mix in pots or planting trays. I like to use small 5 to 7 oz plastic cups. Make sure the bottom of the pot or cup has drain holes.
  2. Soak pepper seeds for 2 to 3 hours in warm water. Plant 3 to 4 seeds ¼ inch deep in moist potting soil.
  3. Place pots in a warm sunny window or under grow lights. Keep day/night temperatures between 86 to 59 degrees F. for best seed germination.
  4. When plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, trim out the extra peppers plants leaving the strongest plant.

Soil Preparation

Growing peppers produce better in well drained rich soil with plenty of humus (organic matter). Light sandy soils in the northern parts of the country grow good bell peppers. Hot pepper varieties like heaver soils.

I have grown peppers in all types of soil and have found rich soils grow larger plants with more fruit. Continuing to build your soils fertility will increase your vegetable production.

Work your soil in the spring when the soil has dried out. Add composted organic matter or well rotted manure. Till in a good 10-10-10 vegetable fertilizer at this time.

Your growing peppers are ready to plant outside when the night time temperatures are around 55 degrees F. Planting the peppers to early before temperatures have warmed up will slow and stunt your pepper plants.

Peppers can be planted in single rows 12 to 18 inches apart or wide rows staggered 12 inches apart. Make paths between rows between 12 to 18 inches, or enough to walk between.

Plant the peppers deeper than they are in their growing pots. Bring soil level up to an inch or two from the bottom leaves. If you have cut worm problems in your area, put a paper collar on the plants stems at this time to protect your plants.

Plant your hot chili peppers and sweet peppers plants at different locations in the garden to keep them from cross pollinating.

Care and Harvesting Growing Peppers

Pepper plants need plenty of water in the early growing stages. If rain is spotty irrigate at least 2 times a week with a nice deep watering. Depending on your soil you may need to do this more often in the hot summer months.

After the soil has warmed you can apply a mulch of straw or grass clippings around the pepper plants to help keep weeds down and moisture in.

Green peppers are ready to harvest when the green fruit is firm to the touch and heavy. The walls of the pepper will thicken and become meatier as it matures. If you want red peppers, leave the fruit on the plant until they turn a nice deep red.

I like to pick some green peppers and leave a few on the plant to turn red later in the summer.

Try our family's favorite Stuffed Pepper Recipe

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