Peppers are a great addition to any dish. Not only do they bring color to your dinner table, but their sweet or spicy flavors are sure to satisfy your cravings. In this article, we will be sharing everything related to growing and harvesting your own sweet peppers.
Varieties of Sweet Peppers
There are a plethora of varieties of sweet peppers. These include the classic like California Wonder which is everyone’s favorite go-to, Corno di Toro which is the classic Italian frying pepper, Jimmy Nardello which is especially good fried or dried, Lilac which has a unique purple color and has a sweet flavor, Lunchbox Pepper Mix which is great as a snack, and Goddess which is a Banana pepper with a sweet, mild flavor.
Determining the zone in your area would be good now because sweet peppers’ favorite zones are three to eight.
Pepper thrive in heat, so to optimize their growth, they would require as much sunlight as possible. It is recommended for them to at least get a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight.
They require well-drained, rich soils with a pH level of around 6.5. Do make sure to keep your soil packed with phosphorus and calcium as sweet peppers love that. You can increase these elements by adding bone meal or rock phosphate to your soil.
As sweet peppers have longer growing seasons than other plants, it is best to kickstart their progress indoors. It is also recommended to start 28 to 35 days before the last frost date or start them 115 to 148 days before the first frost date. Remember to keep the soil warm around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit as well by using a grow mat or heating pad.
When transplanting them, give the peppers a week to harden off and adjust to the external temperature. You can do so by using row covers and hoops with garden fabric. This is to better help them overcome the sharp changes in temperature between indoors and outdoors.
An optimal space would be to spread the plants 12 to 18 inches apart and two to three fit wide. As for square foot planting, plant one per square.
Peppers also thrive in containers if you have them, make sure they are at least 12 inches wide and 18 inches deep per plant. This is because peppers have abundant roots. Furthermore, this also makes it easier for you to improve soil conditions if and when you need to.
Caring for Peppers
The fertilization process for peppers should be done every few weeks. Here, you should also mulch around the base of the peppers so that it will keep the soil damp and prevent the stems from acquiring any potential diseases in the soil. However, try not to go overboard with the fertilizers because this would mean excessive nitrogen and cause foliage and less fruit production, which is what we want. A good organic fertilizer to utilize would be fish emulsions.
Peppers have a deep propensity for water and as such, require a voluminous amount of water as compared to other plants, from one inch to two inches of water per week. However, do take note to use drip tape or water directly at roots because overhead water can propagate diseases.
This is for the taller varieties like the classic California Wonder which needs to be staked. You can opt to tie them to stakes with soft fabric so as to not damage the stems or use a trellising system.
Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Pepper Plants
Peppers are subject to a multitude of pests and diseases and here, we will address how to deal with them.
They often cut the baby plants at the base making it seem like someone has cut your peppers with a pair of scissors. You can prevent these cutworms by putting a paper or cardboard tube around the plants.
These tiny worms can cause discoloration on the leaves and leave sticky substances that attract mold and fungus. You can rid your garden of these bugs by introducing ladybugs into your garden’s ecosystem.
Flea beetles tend to nibble on leaves. You can prevent this by transplanting these peppers under the garden fabric and use a thick layer of mulch to keep them off the younger plants until they become more independent
Hornworms also target leaves and you can rid them by also introducing ladybugs or parasitic wasps.
These bugs can cause death and even transmit viruses to your plants. To prevent them, simply introduce bugs that feed on them, like ladybugs.
The only way to prevent this is to grow the new plants in separate beds or destroy the infected ones to prevent a spread.
To solve this, simply let your plant be exposed to more sun and air making it an undesirable habitation for fungus.
This happens when you leave ripe peppers out for too long, so make sure to harvest them when they are ripe and store them properly.
Blossom End Rot
This happens when your peppers have insufficient calcium or water and start rotting at the underside. So make sure to water frequently and if need be, introduce a tablespoon of powdered milk at the base to increase calcium.
Peppers may love sunlight but too much also kills. If this happens, relocate your peppers to a shadier area or use a shade cloth to provide cover.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
The only way to prevent this is the frequent rotation of plants so that they are not in the same location for at least 5 years.
For this, also try rotation and clearing of debris.
This affects the base of the pepper and causes lesions. Crop rotation is another important move here. Either that or use raised beds to help with the draining of water.
Worst Companions for Peppers
To prevent more of the above problems from happening, avoid planting peppers beside fennel, apricot, walnut trees, beans, kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts because they attract the same pests and can be detrimental to one another.
Peppers are delicious and colorful to boot. We hope that this short guide has given you a good idea of how to plant sweet peppers and handle common pests and diseases.