Pepper plants are relatively simple to grow in your home garden. They do well in containers or in the ground. You have a lot of options when it comes to pepper varieties. You can choose between sweet bell peppers or a range of hot peppers. Depending on the conditions and the type of plant, you can get a surprisingly high yield from a single pepper plant.
There are three main varieties of peppers. Bell peppers are sweet and commonly used in salads or other recipes. The types of bell peppers come in a range of colors and sizes, from yellow to purple and from baby sized to large. While most types of bell pepper start out green, then mature to yellow, orange or red, Purple Bell and Purple Beauty start out purple and darken to almost black as they mature.
Hot peppers include jalapenos, cayenne peppers and a wide variety of others. You may get a very high yield from a single pepper plant, especially if you live in a hot climate or an area with a long summer. Frying peppers, such as banana peppers, are a third variety of pepper plants.
You can start peppers from seeds about eight weeks before the last frost. You can also transplant seedlings if you prefer. Pepper plants dislike cool weather, so wait until the temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night before setting the plants outdoors. Night time departures usually warm up enough about two weeks after the final frost. You can harden the seedlings off before then by letting them sit outdoors for a few hours each day.
If you plant in ground, give each pepper at least a foot of space on all sides. You can plant different varieties of pepper all in a row. If you use containers, select containers that are at least 12 inches deep to give the roots plenty of space.
Pepper plants need moisture to thrive. Water regularly, especially in the heat of summer, to prevent the soil from drying out. A dry spell can cause the fruit blossoms to drop. Blossom end rot, a condition that occurs when there is a lack of water and calcium, can form on the bottom of some fruits if the pepper isn't watered enough.
Add a side dressing of fertilizer to keep the plants healthy after they've set out the first batch of fruit. Dig a bit of compost into the soil. You can also spritz the fruit blooms with Epsom salt dissolved in water to give them a boost of magnesium, which will help prevent fruit drop.
Most pepper varieties take around 70 days to reach maturity. You can harvest peppers before they mature, but the taste will be different. Green bell peppers are simply immature bell peppers. They are slightly more bitter than mature fruits. You can also harvest hot peppers early, before they turn red or another color. For example, poblanos harvested when still green are mild enough to eat, while mature poblanos are typically dried. You can dry the harvested hot peppers by setting in a warm, dry place. Sweet peppers freeze well.