Growing Peppers

Growing Peppers, compared to many other food plants, is a relatively easy process.

Peppers are of the genus Capsicum. It’s a very diverse plant, and there are many varieties; from the very mild sweet peppers, and bell peppers, to the fiery hot Jalapeño and Habanero peppers.

They come in pretty much all colours, shapes and sizes, and are a superb natural healthy food high in vitamin C. The hotter they get the more Vitamin C they contain.

They are good looking plants and will look great on any patio, bringing a lot of colour and greenery. Growing peppers is also a great way of creating inexpensive gifts to give to others. These often pretty plants will cheer up any living space and provide a prolonged and abundant crop.

Grow from seed
Growing peppers is usually done from seed.

Use good quality compost, and get seeds from a reputable source. Do not be tempted to save the seeds from supermarket-purchased peppers as you will usually never get a good plant – see my article on gardening seeds for more information about this.

The seeds can be sown from early February to mid March using a propagator. Add compost and pre-dampen the soil before sowing.

Add a couple of seeds to each hole and sprinkle over a few millimetres of good quality potting soil. Pat down lightly.

If both seedlings germinate, snip off the weaker seedling once they have reached an inch or two in height.

Whilst propagating, do not let the temperature drop below 20 degrees C.

Germination will usually take up to three weeks.

When large enough to handle, transplant the young plants into pots. Larger pots will produce larger, slower-growing plants but with higher yields. Smaller pots will produce smaller plants and yields, but will provide an earlier crop. They can handle the cold a bit better than some plants, but will thrive in warmer temperatures. 80 Degrees is a optimum heat, with full sun or partial shade.

Water is important especially in the early growing stages where they will consume a lot. Keeping the soil moist provides ideal growing conditions and can help to prevent inferior fruits, especially when growing hot peppers, just make sure the soil is well drained and do not allow the roots to sit in water.

Training & Caring
The growing peppers will usually require vertical support and training. When the first flower appears, it is a good idea to remove it, this will encourage more to appear. Also, you can train the plant by pruning the tops to encourage side-stems. Use a Cane to support it as it grows.

Spray the leaves with water regularly to discourage mites and to encourage the fruits to set.

Peppers are heavy feeders and will need to be supplemented with nutrients. Feed regularly with an organic liquid fertilizer during the growing season.

You can pick peppers once they have reached a suitable size, however, the longer you leave them, the more flavour they will produce. They will usually change colour too, depending on which version you are growing. Green peppers will usually turn to yellow, red or orange. Some versions will even turn brown or purple. Cut them from the plant using secateurs or scissors. Cut then to include the stalk, and do not wash them until you are going to eat them.

There are several ways to preserve peppers including freezing, drying, canning and pickling. Freezing is by far the most popular and simplest method. To freeze, a good method is to cut the pepper into slices or quarters, and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes, then freeze down in either freezer bags or containers. They should remain good for use for about 12 – 18 months frozen. Don’t forget to label and date your container.

To dry them, you have several methods. To use an oven, remove the stems and slice them in halves or strips. Lay them on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven (120Deg F – or 48Deg C) with the door slightly open to create an air flow. Turn them occasionally, and remove once no moisture is apparent.

To dry them naturally, wash them, but keep them whole. Tie them in bunches with string and hang them up somewhere warm and dry – a conservatory or greenhouse is ideal. They are ready when the peppers no longer contain any moisture. This may take a while to achieve naturally.