Peppers are a warm season vegetable that goes back to 7500 BC in Latin America. Mexico is where the first self-pollinating varieties of peppers were grown. Peppers were grown for thousands of years in Central America and parts of South America. Peppers are from the Solanaceae family just like tomatoes and eggplants.
Types of Peppers
Peppers come in all types, colors, heat intensity, flavors and sizes. They range from the very hot spicy chili peppers that can blow my mind and, potentially your stomach. To large sweet peppers. What makes peppers hot is the chemicals called capsaicinoids. The higher the concentration of these chemicals, the hotter a pepper can be. Bell peppers or sweet peppers have a zero heat. New Mexico Green Chili has some heat, while the Jalapeño has a lot of heat. Then there is the habanero which are the hottest. The habanero’s are of a different species (Capsicum chinense) than the Tabasco (Capsicum frutescens). These two types are considered the hottest type of peppers.
Heat Units of Peppers
There are other pepper varieties recorded to be in the 1.5 to 2.2 million heat units. There are also special interest groups that train to eat these raw, and they eventually adapt to the high levels of capsaicin. Capsaicin is used in pepper spray which irritates the eyes and skin due to the strength of the capsaicin. Therefore, it is important to wear gloves when handling and cooking with them, as one can easily inadvertently touch one’s eyes. The capsaicin stays in the skin and fingertips and can cause excruciating pain.
Transplants or Direct Seeding
In the northern areas it’s best to start seedlings seven to ten weeks before the soil reaches 70° F. The seeds tend to germinate when the temperature reaches above 55° F. Once the seedlings are fully established, transplant them when the night temperature stays above 60° F. Lack of sunlight will produce leggy plants that will not do well, so don’t rush to get them out to early. When hit by cold temperatures, they can become stunted, and they may not be able to recover. If plants get stunted, they will not produce fruit. Once planted, it is good to mulch the plants with straw in order to maintain even moisture and keep weeds down. My blog on starting seedlings https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/how-to-start-seedlings/
When growing peppers you need full sun and well-drained soil. Peppers will tolerate poor soil fertility, but prefer good organic matter. You can harvest the fruits at any stage of development.
They don’t require a lot of room like other members of the family, such as tomatoes. You can grow peppers 12” – 20” within the row and 20” – 30” between the rows. The height and width of peppers range from 1 – 3 feet. It’s important not to over fertilize them. They do need to have even moisture to help prevent blossom end rot and for best development.
Click on YouTube video about potential problems when growing peppers. https://youtu.be/p2JtNmBlbWE
The days to harvest can range from short season varieties that are ready in fifty days to longer season varieties that take ninety days to harvest. To obtain full color or have them turn red, you will need an additional two to three weeks of warm weather for them to ripen. I recommend planting different varieties to stretch the season, and cover them at the end of the season to maintain the heat and protect them when the evenings get cooler. There are varieties that can be grown in containers and used as ornamentals or for eating. To learn more about peppers and many other vegetables purchase my book ‘Garden the Organic Way‘ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com
Insect and Diseases
When growing peppers there are a number of insects that can be attack them like aphids, which can be hosed off or sprayed with soapy water. If you see lady beetles and lacewings, do leave them alone as these will feast on the aphids. It is important to become familiar with all sort of insects in order to not destroy the good guys or the food they eat.
Tarnished plant bug can also attack them. They feed on all parts of the plant, causing deformity of the fruits. The adults are bronze or dark brown and will go through various life cycles. White sticky trap works well to catch them. Keeping weeds down also helps to keep insects away.
Blossom end rot – Keeping moisture constant will diminish blossom end rot from occurring, as the calcium will be readily available. If the summer gets hot and dry, it’s important to keep the plants well watered and to use mulch.
Cucumber mosaic virus – It will look like oak-leaf patterns on the fruit and the plant will look diseased and abnormal. If you find this, remove and destroy the whole plant and check for aphids, which are the culprits in spreading the disease. Make sure there are no ornamentals nearby that are infected or have an abundance of aphids on them. There are disease resistant varieties that are best to use when the conditions are hot and humid. It is best to keep a four-year rotation for this family in order to avoid diseases and prevent insects. You can also get ‘Garden the Organic Way‘ as an eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way