Peppers, scientific name Capsicum annuum, are tender perennials that are usually grown as annuals.
They grow as compact erect bushes that are one to two feet tall; fruit follows formed from a single flower growing between the stem and the leaf.
There are numerous variants of pepper such as the yellow-Orange sweet bells, California Wonder pepper, and Heart Shaped Sweet Peppers.
Pepper Plant by Pizzodisevo.
Sweet peppers differ in color and shape, such as the short, round cherry pepper; the slender banana pepper; the multi-colored Italian frying pepper; the small bright-red, heart-shaped pimiento; and the blocky green to yellow to orange to red bell pepper.
Colourful Bell Peppers Photograph by Patrick Hoesly.
Peppers are best planted in temperatures that are around 18 to 27°C (65 to 80°F) and can easily be grown from transplants.
Choose a location that has full sunlight for best results (though peppers can tolerate partial shade). The soil should be rich in organic matter, well-drained and moisture-retentive. The soil pH should ideally be between 5.5 to 6.8, and the growing temperature should be at least 18°C (65°F) degrees.
Add aged compost into the planting beds two to three weeks before planting as this can help improve the soil.
Sow pepper seeds indoors seven to ten weeks in advance of your intended date for transplanting the seedlings into the garden (based upon your local climate).
Transplant the pepper seedlings two to three weeks after the last average frost in the spring when the temperature of the soil reaches at keast 65 degrees fahrenheit.
If growing bell peppers from seed in a controlled environment then the ideal daytime temperature is around 24°C (75°F), with a 17°C (62°F) night temperature.
Sow the pepper seeds 1 cm (1/2 inch) deep with a spacing 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) apart. The rows should be spaced 60 to 90 cm (24 to 36 inches) apart, thus giving sufficient space for the growing pepper plants. Sow three to four seeds in every spot and thin to the most successful seedlings.
If you started growing peppers indoors then they can be transplanted outdoors once they are four to six inches tall. The ideal companion plants for pepper include onions, radishes, garlic, beets and parsnips.
The planting bed should be kept evenly moist but not wet, especially when blossoms appear and the formation of the fruits start. Do not let the soil dry out as this can result to flower drop. In order to keep the moisture even, mulch the soil; this also helps with maintaining the soil temperature.
Add aged compost prior to planting and again during mid-season.
Keep the pepper growing beds free from weeds in order to prevent competition from other plants for available water, minerals and sunlight.
Cultivate around pepper plants with care as they are shallow-rooted.
Do not use fertilizers that are high in nitrogen; this can create large leafy plants with less fruit, or sometimes no fruits at all.
Peppers can be attacked by flea beetles, hornworms, cutworms, and aphids.
Cutworms can be discouraged from occurring by placing a collar around the transplant during the time of planting.
Aphids and flea beetles can be controlled by hosing them off the pepper plants, or by simply pinching out the infested foliage.
Peppers are highly susceptible to anthracnose, blossom end rot, rot, mildew, bacterial spot, and tobacco mosaic virus. Planting disease-resistant varieties is often the best way to overcome these problems.
Always keep the garden clean and free from weeds as many pests and diseases may shelter on these plants. Remove any infected plants as soon as possible in order to prevent them from spreading.
Most variants of peppers can be harvested from 60 to 95 days after planting.
Crops can be harvested once they ripen and have changed their colour. Although the colour changes it does not usually affect the taste.
Cut the growing peppers off the vine.
Store peppers in the refrigerator for two to three weeks, or in a cool, dry place for three to four weeks.
They can also be dried or pickled (whole, or in pieces) for storage.
Peppers can be eaten raw such as in salads, and can also be included in dishes. Others can be used for stuffing, roasting or on shish kabobs.