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Growing Chili Peppers

Updated on March 9, 2010

Growing Chili Peppers

There are many benefits to growing hot chili peppers, which come in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes and flavors. Chili peppers are attractive additions to any garden, as well as being wonderful for containers. Most chili peppers start out green, ripening to brilliant shades of yellow, orange or red amid a cool green foliage, adding a splash of color in any spot that needs livening up. The assortment of shapes and sizes offer an interesting visual contrast to otherwise dull backgrounds. Flavors range from mildly hot to red alarm to satisfy varying tastes. Satisfaction can be obtained growing chili peppers by providing two things that chili peppers need to live: warmth and proper nutrition.

Warmth

Chili peppers are cold sensitive. Seeds should be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. To warm the soil, mulch the area to be planted with black plastic one week before you are ready to transplant. Planting area should be well drained, with full sun. Wait at least two or three weeks after the last frost before putting seedlings outdoors. To transplant, punch a holes through the plastic with a trowel so that plants can be set ten to fifteen inches apart. Once planted, seedlings can be protected from wind and cold temperatures with hot caps or other light weight cover. (A milk container with the bottom cut off works well.) Covers can be removed once night temperatures remain above 65 degrees Farenhieght. Keep well watered to prevent blossom-end rot.

Proper Nutrition

Too much nitrogen can cause thick, lush foliage with a small harvest. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer can be used when plants are young to promote strong, healthy foliage, but as plants mature, switch to a potassium-rich or more balanced fertilizer (Weil). An application of fish emulsion or compost tea two or three times a year will help to increase your yield. Magnesium is a particularly important nutrient for chili peppers. In magnesium deficient soil, apply one teaspoon of Epsom salts around the base of each plant to correct the deficiency. Container plants should receive half of the regular amount of fertilizer, twice as often (Chili Pepper Gardening).

Helpful Hints

  • Keep soil consistently moist, but not soaking wet.
  • Peppers become hotter as they ripen. For mild peppers, harvest while green, just as they become large enough to use. For hot peppers, allow them to mature another fifteen to twenty days.
  • Cardboard or foil collars will protect seedlings from cutworms.
  • Do not plant chili peppers near corn to reduce earworm damage.
  • Plant hot peppers away from sweet peppers, as they will cross-pollinate.
  • Do not plant where peppers or other members of the nightshade family have been planted in the past two years, as they are susceptible to the same diseases.
  • Place a 2 ½ foot stake in the ground beside each plant when they reach about one foot in height. Fasten plants to stakes with yarn or string to give these upright plants the support that they need.
  • Wearing surgical gloves is a good idea when handling seeds, as they contain the oil that makes peppers hot. After handling seeds, do not touch your eyes before removing gloves and washing hands with soap and water.

References

Chili Pepper Gardening. http://webwonks.org/Hobbies/Peppers/Gardening.html#growing_plants

Weil, Andrew, M.D. Chili Pepper: Pain and Pleasure? Weil: Your Trusted Health Advisor. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02798/chili-pepper.html

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