Peppers are incredibly easy to grow, which makes them a good choice for beginner gardeners and seasoned gardeners alike. You can grow them in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers on your patio. I even have some growing in my dining room in a hydroponic system. If you were inspired to start or expand your vegetable garden after last month’s column, now might be the time to consider adding peppers to your garden plan.
Now is the perfect time to plant peppers, which can be grown as perennials in this area. This means that if you are not growing them in containers that you can move around, make sure you pick a spot where they can stay and provide you with fresh peppers for years to come. To make sure your pepper plants will be happy, choose a spot that receives at least six hours of sun per day.
Once you have picked a sunny spot for your peppers, the next step is choosing which varieties to grow. Do you prefer sweet peppers like bell peppers, cherry peppers, or banana peppers? Or do you prefer hot peppers like habaneros, jalapeños, or serranos? You may want to grow a combination of sweet peppers and hot peppers to better suit your tastes. It might sound fun to grow a super-hot variety – like Carolina reapers or ghost peppers – but I don’t recommend these for folks new to growing peppers, since you need to adhere to safety protocols when growing some peppers that fall high on the Scoville scale.
Peppers can be easily grown from seeds or seedlings. Seedlings are always a good idea for beginner gardeners, since you get a head start on growth and can find varieties that you know will thrive in your area by purchasing them from a local garden center.
If you are starting from seeds right now, you can plant them directly in your garden. If you live in an area that freezes, you will need to wait until after the last frost in future years. Alternatively, you can start the seeds indoors, and then transplant them to your garden in late spring.
To plant your peppers, mix compost into the soil and space the plants about 18 inches apart. I like to support my peppers with stakes or tomato cages, but this is not absolutely necessary. After planting, keep the soil moist while your plants get established. Once established, you should be able to give your plants one good watering per week in most cases. Peppers grown in containers will need more frequent watering, and you will need to provide your plants with supplemental watering during the hotter weeks of summer.
You can help your peppers thrive by adding a few inches of mulch around each plant. This will help with soil moisture retention and blocking weeds that will compete with your peppers for water and nutrients.
When it is time to harvest, use garden or kitchen shears to cut the peppers from the plant. You can then store them in the refrigerator for about a week, or you can freeze chopped peppers for a few months.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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