Growing hot peppers has become a popular pastime as more people come to enjoy the fiery taste the fruit of these plants provide. Hot peppers are grown in most warm climate regions around the world and are popular in many exotic recipes.
Hot Peppers In Your Garden
Variety: Hot Peppers genus Capsicum; popular species include annuum, frutescens and chinense
Zones: 8 to 11, grown as an annual elsewhere
Soil Type: Average, well-drained soil
Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.0
Sunlight: Full sun
Availability: Sold as seeds or nursery grown starter plants. When buying plants look for healthy foliage-avoid yellowed or wilted plants.
When to plant: Seeds may be started indoors six to eight weeks before last frost. Live plants should not be placed outdoors until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees (F).
Seeds: Plant hot pepper seeds in individual peat pots that can be buried directly in the ground. Fill peat pots with potting soil and sow three or four seeds, ¼" under the soil. As seeds mature, thin to a single plant, saving the strongest grower.
Live plants: Position hot pepper plants to receive maximum sun. Peppers should be spaced 16" to 18" apart. Prepare soil by tilling and amending with compost. Dig a hole to match the size and shape of the plant's container. Slowly fill the hole with water and allow the water to drain. Place the plant in the hole and gently backfill with soil.
Watering: Hot peppers need about 1" of water per week. Watering should take place at the base of the plant and timed so as not to let the soil become dry.
Fertilizing: Fertilization should be light, with a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Feed once when plants are put in the ground and again when plants reach 12" high.
Harvesting: Hot peppers take between 80 and 120 days to reach maturity, depending on the type. Ripe peppers will be firm to the touch and have a glossy appearance. Remove ripe peppers by cutting them from the plant-pulling peppers from the plant can cause damage.
Anthracnose: Appears as round, sunken spots on peppers. Anthracnose can come from overripe peppers resting on wet soil. Remove the bottom foot of leaves from plants. Make sure to water at the base of the plant and don't wet the leaves.
Blossom End Rot: Brown or black spots at the blossom end of a pepper. Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the plant. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers and uneven watering.
Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck moisture from plants. Ladybugs are a great way to control aphids. Consider insecticidal soaps as an alternative to pesticides.
Saving Seeds: Seeds can be removed from the inside of ripe peppers. Use gloves and wash hands completely after handling. Rinse the seeds and allow them to dry completely. Store collected seeds in an airtight container and keep them in a cool, dry place.
During the dog days of summer, you may grumble about the heat and stay holed up inside with the air conditioning. Out in the garden, your peppers will be hard at work, enjoying every bit of sweltering summer weather. Peppers are among the most heat-loving of warm-season garden plants. They grow like gangbusters in organic gardens all across the Southern United States and, with a little planning and coaxing, can do the same up north.
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