Great tips on growing peppers to maturity
This is more-or-less what I do. You should adjust exact dates based on your particular microclimate and willingness to fuss over your plants. Some years everything goes a lot faster. Some years, slower.
- Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last spring frost date.
- The temperature must be at least 70 degrees F for seed germination, so keep them in a warm area for the best and fastest results.
- Start pepper seeds three to a pot, and thin out the weakest seedling. Let the remaining two pepper plants spend their entire lives together as one plant. The leaves of two plants help protect peppers against sunscald, and the yield is often twice as good as two segregated plants.
- Begin to harden off plants about 10 days before transplanting.
- A week before transplanting, introduce fertilizer or aged compost in your garden soil.
- After the danger of frost has passed, transplant seedlings outdoors, 18 to 24 inches apart (but keep paired plants close to touching.)
- Put two or three match sticks in the hole with each plant, along with about a teaspoon of fertilizer. They give the plants a bit of sulfur, which they like.
- Water one to two inches per week, but remember peppers are extremely heat sensitive. If you live in a warm or desert climate, watering everyday may be necessary.
- If necessary, support plants with cages or stakes to prevent bending. Try commercially available cone-shaped wire tomato cages. They may not be ideal for tomatoes, but they are just the thing for peppers.
- Harvest as soon as peppers reach desired size.
- The longer bell peppers stay on the plant, the more sweet they become and the greater their Vitamin C content.
- Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut peppers clean off the plant for the least damage.