Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grow Your Best Peppers Yet!

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.

Your Site
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!


  1. I am growing peppers for the first time and I am excited. They were transplants and are doing good. I scored two truck loads of organic compost from a local farm that is comprised of cow, horse and chicken manure for $10. I want to start a vermicompost soon.

  2. Good read!! Im in the same boat as you. I have a good sized garden but about 70% of it is peppers. I just wanted to add one thing... I came across an article that basically said 30% shade cloth over peppers can almost double your yield and even extend your season. The test was done in Georgia, but I think it has some more good info for you.