Friday, May 3, 2013

Growing Peppers


Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Gardening
Supplies:
  • Area with fertile soil
  • Trowel
  • Pepper Plant Starters
  • Water
  • Garden Trellis (optional)
If you are interested in entering the world of gardening, I would highly recommend starting with pepper plants. When I was around 10 years old, I remember wanting to start my own garden, and my parents wisely directed me to start with growing green peppers. They are incredibly easy to care for; they have few pest and disease problems; and each plant yields a fairly high number of peppers. There are so many different types of peppers to grow: green, banana, cayenne, jalapeno, red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.! Take these steps below and apply them to any type of pepper plant you would like to grow. 

Planting


Depending on where you live, you will plant peppers at different times. In milder to warmer climates, you can plant in early- to mid-May. In Michigan, where I grew up, I wouldn't dream of planting before Memorial Day Weekend. 

If you are feeling ambitious, you can certainly start your pepper plants from seed. You need to start them indoors about six or eight weeks before planting them outside. So, the window for this season to start them from seed has passed, but there's always next year! I haven't had great success starting plants from seed, and honestly, it's a little easier just to buy the small plants from a local garden center. 

Once you have your plants, prepare the garden plot. I use raised beds (mainly because the soil, or should I say clay, in North Carolina isn't the best) so that I can add rich soil, fertilizer, and compost to the area. Peppers are great in pots or anywhere else you have a couple square feet of soil. Simply weed the area and loosen the soil up a bit. 

I like to plant either early in the day before the sun is beating overhead or in the evening once the sun is starting to go down. We've had some great rainy, misty days this week, and those are also great days to plant. Using your trowel, plant each pepper plant approximately 18" to 24" apart. Be sure to water after planting, and continue watering each day (either early in the morning or late in the day so the sun doesn't scorch your wet plants) if you aren't getting much rain. 

As you can see in the picture below, I put mulch around the plants. This helps keep the weeds down. I used mulch that we have from some trees chipped from our yard -- simple and cheap. I also use trellises to help guide the plant as it grows. The plants don't get too terribly big or tall, but sometimes they can topple over once they grow larger. So, I use the trellis as a precaution. You certainly don't need to use it. 

Growing


Within six weeks of planting the pepper plants, you will start seeing white buds that will eventually blossom into peppers.


Depending on whether or not you want to garden "organically" or not will determine if you want to spray any pesticides on the plant. 

You may need to prune the plant as it grows to help it produce more peppers. I'll write another post about this later in the season. 

Harvesting


Depending on your climate, you will yield crops for a couple months. For instance, I start picking peppers beginning in late-June, and I still have peppers coming in through early September. Again, properly pruning the plants will encourage more peppers to grow. 


Here are a few of the pepper plants I grew last year: 

Bell Peppers: As you can see, the pepper plants really fill out. 

Green Peppers

Banana Peppers: Any of the non-bell pepper plants I grow tend to yield a crazy amount of peppers - like dozens upon dozens. So, I generally only plant one or two of each type of non-bell pepper plants, because what do you do with all those banana peppers? If you're into pickling, you can certainly do that, but normally, I just slice and freeze them for use in dishes throughout the year. 

Banana Peppers

Jalapenos: As with banana peppers, this pepper plant yields, as my husband would say, "a mess" of jalapenos. My favorite thing to do with peppers is stuff 'em with cream cheese, wrap 'em in bacon, and throw 'em on the grill. Delicious! 


Jalapenos


Stay tuned for a future blog this summer 
about how to make Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Salsa using your garden's produce...