How To Grow Organic Peppers?
- Whether you’re growing sweet peppers (also referred to as bell peppers) or if you’re growing hot peppers, the growing instructions are essentially the same for either type of pepper
- If you’re growing your peppers from seed, you’ll have far more variety choices than if you purchase pepper starts from a garden center
WHEN TO PLANT
- When planting peppers in Northern climates its a very good idea to get an early start
- We typically plant our peppers indoors under grow lights around 2 months before our last frost; this produces better results due to the longer growing season for your peppers
WHERE TO PLANT
- It’s the best practice to grow your peppers in an area with full sun
- Shade or partial shade will hurt your plants’ productivity as well as the flavor of your peppers
PREPARING THE SOIL
- Add plenty of compost to your soil
- Manure may also be necessary, but be careful not to create excessive nitrogen. Peppers are sensitive and the resulting factor will be outstanding foliage with less-than-outstanding pepper production
SEEDS AND GERMINATION
- Both sweet peppers (often referred to as bell peppers) and hot peppers follow the same rules of care
- If you want your seeds to germinate optimally, soil temperatures should be in the 75F-85°F (optimum 85°F)
- If you’ve purchased seeds, they’ll usually last for up to two years if stored in a cool, dry location
GETTING STARTED INDOORS (and transplanting)
- Soak pepper seeds before planting to accelerate germination
- Place seeds in a glass a few hours or until seeds sink to the bottom
- Some recommend planting your seeds in individual peat pots to avoid disturbing the roots later
- We have had success planting in flats and transplanting one time to larger pots
- Transplant only one time indoors due to the sensitivity of the root system
- Plant three seeds per pot (or cell)
- Once two true leaves have developed, observe which plant is strongest. Clip the other two at ground level
- If you are growing your peppers in a sunny window be sure they have access to enough lighting and warmth. These plants need a very minimum of 10 hours of light (artificial or natural) daily for proper growth. 14-16 hours is recommended.
- Once the third true leaf develops, peppers can handle night temperatures as low as 55°F but you do not want the soil temperture to drop below 60°F
- A two week “hardening off” period (taking your plants outside during the daytime) will keep your plants from any climatic shock upon being transplanted to your garden
- The slightly lower temperatures will increase flower and fruit production.
PLANTING & GROWING (Planting seeds directly into the garden)
- Pepper plants can be transplanted to the garden when night temperatures dip no lower than 55°F and plants are 4-6” in height (around 2-3 weeks after frost)
- In cooler climates, pre-warm soil with a plastic cover and mulch to maintain warmth and moisture
- If possible, transplant peppers to garden on a cloudy day or provide temporary shade to prevent scorching
- Space plants close together, (12″ to 15” apart– hot peppers need less space than sweet peppers)
- Peppers like to “hold hands” with their foliage touching; this helps support the plants and prevents sun scald
- Weeds growing close to plants should be pulled by hand
- Finally, peppers respond well to periodical watering with compost tea, as well as a bi-weekly application of organic foliar spray
- Growing peppers need moist conditions for germination as well as throughout the growing season
- Watering should be consistent and even; allowing the soil to dry out can change the flavor of your peppers
COMPANION PLANTING / ROTATION
- Keep peppers from growing where tomatoes and eggplant have previously grown
- Tomatoes and eggplant are members of the nightshade family and are prone to the same diseases as peppers
WHEN TO HARVEST
- As soon as your peppers are ready to use and before they are ripe, pick a few. This will signal the plant to produce more fruit
- Pick individual peppers as they ripen throughout the season
- At On The Green Farms, we prefer to store our harvested peppers by either freezing or drying
- To freeze, simply wash the peppers, cut up into desired pieces or slices, removing the inner core and seeds. Place in Zip-loc bags and store in the freezer
- To dry, follow the same instructions for washing and cutting
- Pieces should not touch each other on dehydrator drying racks
- Be certain the meaty pieces are dry all the way through
- Drying usually takes 24 hours
COMMON PESTS AND PROBLEMS
- To protect from cutworms, place a cardboard collar around the base of each stem and push it at least 1” into the ground
- “Hand-picking” is a good option for pest like the pepper weevil
- Pepper weevils feasts on the blossoms causing deformed and discolored fruit
- Adult pepper maggots feed on the insides of the fruit causing the pepper to rot and drop off
- A floating row cover will minimize insect populations
- Serious infestations call for more drastic measures and can be controlled with Pyrethrins, a natural organic compound derived from the Chrysanthemum which acts as a lethal internal poison to most insects
- Planting your peppers in a different location each planting cycle is your best defense against most pepper problems
I wonder if you can help me. I started my baby garden of peppers in february and as soon as they grow a bit I noticed their growing slow down and they seem to be for last 2-3 weeks the same size. I have put them already outside to get used to the tepmerature as I live on a greek island where the temperature are already high. Can I use “animal” fertilizer to help them strengten and grow little bit faster?
There are several issues that could be causing this so I will list the most likely ones to help you figure out what might be happening to your peppers.
1. It is best to plant your seeds in sterile (or at least washed in soapy hot water) containers. Your soil mix should also be sterile. This prevents any soil-borne diseases that might have been in the soil from your previously potted plants from passing on to your new seedlings.
2. Peppers demand moist (not soggy) soil. Some plants can handle being dried out a bit and it doesn’t seem to phase them but peppers must be kept moist. They are also heat loving plants which it sounds like you have plenty of heat but if there is a drastic temperature fluctuation from day to night, that could stunt them. Keeping the evening temperatures above 60°F is best, but not below 55°F; you do not want the soil temperature to drop below 60°F. Your plants will do best with 12-16 of light (either artificial or natural) daily.
3. Unless you planted your peppers in large pots for container planting, the peppers will likely need to be transplanted into larger pots before it is time to transplant them to your garden. If there is not adequate room in the container for the roots to spread out and develop, the plant can become ‘root-bound’ which will stunt the plant. If you see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot or the soil is needing more frequent watering, it is likely your plants need to be upgraded to a larger container.
4. Your plants need food. Commercial potting soil does not contain a food source for your plants. When a seed is in the germination phase, it lives off the food contained inside the seed (the cotyledons) but once the first true leaves appear (the first set of what looks like leaves are not really leaves, it is the cotyledons sprouting) your plant needs an outside source of nourishment. When my plants are indoors under artificial lighting, I prefer to use liquid organic fish emulsion. Using a liquid form eliminates any need to disturb the soil. Young seedlings are fragile and can be easily be broken or damaged by trying to mix fertilizer into their soil. As far as manure, you must be careful. High nitrogen can cause peppers to produce a lot of foliage but not much peppers. A weaker solution of manure tea would be fine.
Since you are putting your plants outside in the sun, I highly recommend Organic Garden Miracle™. This will help to strengthen your plants cellular structure and boost immunity. If you also apply fish emulsion or manure tea, Organic Garden Miracle™ will help your plants to better utilize the nutrients and get your plants growing the way you want them to, healthy, strong, and productive. I just posted an article yesterday that explains this and can help you to get a healthy pepper crop this year!
I know that when planting tomatoes i should pick the blooms to encourage root growth. Is i a good idea to cut the first blooms after planting a pepper plant?
If I get them started from seed on time, I pinch off the first blooms of my peppers to encourage more blooms. BUT, if you have a late start on planting and/or your growing season is colder or shorter than normal, you may want to keep those first blooms. One year we had an unusually cool summer and I regretted pinching the first blooms off because the second set never had enough time to develop into full size fruit.