I do very well here in New Jersey growing peppers. For the past two season, I have had peppers grow (and thrive) well into November, even after a couple of frosts also with no cover protection.
I grow a lot of sweet peppers and some hot peppers, but as a total, I
grow a boatload of peppers. Enough to share with the neighborhood my
wife tells everyone.
With that said, I wanted to share some of my tips on peppers, that I
believe has lead me to have such great pepper harvests. Of course I
can’t control the weather in the cooler months that would do peppers
harm, I do believe that by using these tips, I am able to have my
peppers grow very hardy, and that helps out a great deal.
As with any other fruit or vegetable plant, peppers are no different,
and that is, good peppers start with an excellent foundation. In this
case, the foundation for your peppers is the soil itself. Obviously
some might disagree and say “no, Mike, it starts with the seeds you
use”. While I do agree with that statement, that good peppers start
with seeds from a reputable company (or a friend), I am assuming that
you have already completed that step.
Before you plant your pepper transplants (or direct pepper seeds), make
sure to mix in plenty of compost. I like to do a mix of compost from my
compost pile, vermicompost from my worm bin, and seasoned livestock
manure (cow manure). I would like to add that I use so much
vermicompost that I added a worm tower this year to my yard and plan on adding another worm tower next season. They can be a bit pricey.
As a side note. If you started your peppers from seeds indoors, be sure
to harden them off, that is acclimate them to the outdoors before you
plant them in your garden bed.
Bring the Heat
Pepper plants love heat. Which bodes well for us here in New Jersey,
because around July to August, between the heat and humidity, it can
become unbearable for humans in the summer. If you live in a cooler
climate, you can always help increase the temperatures around the plant
using cold frames,
greenhouses and so on. You want to keep the temperatures for your
pepper plants above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 16 degrees Celsius).
Peppers are abundant producers when given plenty of space. You may
produce bigger or more quantities of peppers if you grow just a few,
spaced out wider. With that said, I have done well spacing them out
eight to ten inches, although one gardening friend of mine has his
spaced out further (more like 12 to 16 inches), and does great.
Keep your pepper area weed free. I like to use newspaper as a weed
barrier, then place some straw on top of that. I won’t go into all of
the benefits of using straw in the garden, but in this case it further
helps keeping the weeds at bay.
Be sure that your pepper plants receive plenty of water in the early
stages and then a maintenance watering of at least 1 to 2 inches of
water weekly. Water a little more often if your conditions are
extremely dry and/or hot.
The straw we used a couple of paragraphs up also help in retaining moisture in the garden.
To build a healthier, sturdier plant, pinch off the first few flowers in
the early going. You want your pepper plants to direct their energy
towards growing the pepper plant itself, not peppers just yet. This
will pay big dividends later in the season.
Harvest and Enjoy
Once your peppers reach their full maturity, gently pluck them from the
plant making sure you don't damage the plant itself. Some people like
to use scissors to cut the stem, me I will simply pull the pepper with
one hand while holding the branch that it is on with the other hand.
Whatever works for you!