Growing Peppers

Michelle RobertsGardening, Planting Tips


I have fond memories of visiting Santa Fe and seeing the huge cylindrical drums of roasted chili peppers as they turned  over an open flame. Red chili peppers were hanging nearby.  It was fascinating to see how peppers are used in different cultures around the globe.I love growing hot peppers every year and I usually wind up growing a whole lot more than I will ever eat.

PepperAfter seeing the huge drums of roasting peppers, I keep trying to roast them myself to the point where that outer skin comes off easily. The learning curve has been great!  I’m still not very good at it. Maybe I need to build a drum.  The one thing I can tell you is this, don’t ever work with peppers without gloves!

Fascinating Facts About Chiles:

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  • They’ve been around for over 5000 years.
  • Originated in the Americas.
  • Were once used as currency (perhaps we should go back to that).
  • Aztec warriors drank chili flavored hot chocolate to calm  their nerves before battle.
  • Salsas made from chili peppers surpassed ketchup as America’s condiment of choice in 1999.
  • Ounce for ounce chili peppers have more vitamin C than citrus fruit.
  • Provides 100% RDA of vitamin A.
  • Helps burn calories by raising the metabolism.
  • A nutrient dense superfood.
  • Gives you the same “feel good” high as exercising does.
  • Contains capsicain which relieves the pain of shingles, back pain, muscle pain, nerve pain, joints, arthritis, bursitis, sprains, strains, kills prostrate cancer cells, and inhibits leukemic cancer cells.
  • Improves digestion and destroys bad bacteria.
[/ul] [spacer height=”10″ mobile_hide=”true”] Wow!  After reading all that, who wouldn’t want to make the red hot chili pepper part of their everyday diet? Peppers are the jewels of the vegetable garden.  They come in many colors from purple and golden yellow to deep red and green.  Some are mild and even sweet like the large green bell pepper, or hot as . . . you can imagine like the fiery habanero (that we will not plant again). There are thousands of varieties of chili peppers alone!  Not to mention all the other varieties of peppers. They grow in small compact bushes or can grow as tall as 9 feet.

Growing them in pots on the patio is a good idea for apartment dwellers that want to enjoy the beauty, flavor, and nutritional benefits of peppers.  Because peppers are from Central America, they have enjoyed a long almost never ending growing season.  Growing them in more northern regions is a bit of a challenge.  They are extremely sensitive to cold weather, so it is best not to set them out in the garden until 2 weeks after the last day of frost.

If you set them out too early and then it gets cold again, they can drop their blossoms resulting in a plant that does not produce well. When considering growing peppers, it is not a good idea to try and direct seed peppers in the garden because there just aren’t enough warm days before the danger of frost returns.

Peppers are best planted as seedlings or young plants. If germinating your own peppers, start   6 – 8 weeks in advance.  Peppers take longer than most vegetables to germinate and it seems forever before they peak their seed heads above the soil. Peppers need well drained soil that is high in organic matter. Load the bed with compost and a form of calcium supplement. Gypsum will work if you have high alkaline soils. Azomite also provides all the calcium needs and more.

I like to plant peppers a little closer than is commonly recommended.  Often in the heat of the summer the fruit gets sun scald.  Planting them closer allows the fruit a little more shade from surrounding leaves.  I plant them about a foot apart, but recommendations are for 18″ to 24″.  Rows should be 15″ apart.

Using a tomato cage to keep pepper plants upright is a good idea, especially if you live in a windy area. Mulching around the base of the plant also helps keep the soil moisture more even.

In the hottest part of the summer the larger fruiting plants may shed their blossoms.  As the weather cools a bit, the plant will again begin to set. By growing a variety of peppers you are assured to have some the whole season long.
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