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Homegrown- Peppers


by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO- While most of us country bumpkins grew up with one kind of pepper – green bell – sweet frying peppers and hot peppers have developed quite a fan base.  Peppers will grow in just about any sunny spot that has good soil, so give them a try.  It’s not too late to transplant peppers, and maybe with all the hail we’ve had, it’s good you waited.  If you haven’t purchased plants yet, make sure the ones you buy are not root bound.  Also choose plants that do not have dried edges, a sign that they got too dry.  Drying out really stunts a pepper plant and results in a lower yield.  You’ll have greater success if you can find a few of these short-season varieties: Early Mountain Wonder, Gypsy, Sweet Chocolate, Early Jalapeno, Hungarian Hot Wax, Thai Hot, Hot Siberian, Early Niagara Giant, Early Red Sweet, Yankee Bell, Carmen, Paprika Supreme and Red Knight.  Just like tomatoes, you can bury the pepper stem up to the first leaves.  The stem will grow roots and will result in a more robust plant. 

    The key to growing peppers is regular watering.  While pepper plants like it hot, they don’t like it dry.  Add compost to your soil and mulch around your plants to hold in moisture.  Peppers should be planted about two feet apart.  For the best production of fruits, use a fertilizer with more phosphorous and potassium and less nitrogen.  Nitrogen will give you a big bushy plant but not such a great harvest.  Compost and fish food emulsion are good fertilizers for peppers.

    Some growers recommend picking off the very first blossoms on pepper plants to get a better yield later.  Pick peppers as they reach the size you prefer.  Continuously harvesting the peppers encourages more blooms and more fruit.  The longer you leave hot peppers on the plant, the hotter they get.  

    For next year’s planning, check out all the “high altitude” seeds available from Seeds Trust in Cornville, AZ: