Growing Pepper Plants in the Ground
Once there is no worry of frost, you can plant your pepper plants to your garden or chosen spot. The best time is 2-3 weeks after the last frost when the soil temperature is 60 degrees. If you are planting from a store-bought seedling try to plant them in the ground within 2 days of purchasing
Choose a location with full sunlight for at least six hours per day, as chili peppers LOVE the sun. Dig your hole twice the width of your pot and as deep as you can so that the soil level will be as close to the leaves as possible. Mix in some mushroom compost or other organic compost to make the soil fertile and moist.
Space the chili pepper plants 14 - 16 inches apart with about 2 -3 feet between rows. The plants will eventually grow to nearly 3 feet high under proper conditions. Use cages as needed when plants are at a height that they would lean. The cage will help support the plant when it gets heave from the growing peppers
Water! Keep the soil constantly moist, but not soaking wet. Chili peppers love water as much as they love sun. Water every other day or every third day. Include a good plant food product for fertilizing. Typically peppers don't need a fertilizer unless they are in pots, however, if you find your peppers are growing small, use fertilizer.
There are many reasons a plant may not grow optimally such as soil conditions, not enough sun or excessive heat. Fertilizer can be used in conjunction with proper watering to optimize the growth rate. A good rule of thumb for watering is 1"per week.
Keep your garden well weeded. You don't want nasty weeds stealing the water from your growing chili peppers.
You will want to mulch your pepper plants 3 weeks after putting them into the ground. Simply place some fresh compost around the base of the plant, mounding it up toward the stem. These fresh nutrients are a great natural fertilizer for the plant.
Growing your pepper plants in a pot.
First, you need a warm spot to grow your peppers in pots or containers, either inside or outside the home. The potted plants should be protected from the wind and receive at least 6 hours of sun. Any less and you'll hinder pepper production.
If you need support for your growing pepper plants, insert a stick near the main stem and tie the plant to the stick with a string.
Choose a pot or container that offers sufficient drainage. You don't want to waterlog your plants, as that is the main cause of disease and other issues with growing. A 5-gallon pot that is 12 inches deep is good for most single plants. Choose a larger pot or container if you live in a warmer climate to accommodate growth
Choose a good quality soil or potting mix for growing your pepper that allows for good drainage. Add compost or manure before planting if you'd like.
Keep the soil moist but do not overwater them. For pepper plants in pots or containers, do not let the soil dry out completely. When peppers start to grow, cut back on your watering schedule a bit, but again, do not let the soil dry out.
The ideal growing temperature for chili pepper plants is between 70-90 F (21-32 C).
Tomato fertilizers work well for chili pepper plants, as do compost and well-rotted manure. A good 5-10-10 fertilizer is usually sufficient for peppers. Work it into the soil before transplanting, about 3 pounds per 100 square feet. We use a solution of fish emulsion and seaweed.
Once the peppers begin to appear, fertilize one more time. You can also use manure or compost, which releases more slowly into the soil. Much, however, is affected by your soil, so you may want to consider a soil test if you are having issue
When the pepper plant is about six inches high, clipping the growing tip will result in a bushier plant. Remove any flowers that appear early, as the early flowers diminish the plants overall energy.
Stay vigilant with your pepper plants. Keep a constant eye out for common diseases like bacterial spot, mildew or rotting. Pests like aphids or spiders are common as well, so watch out for them.
Harvesting your peppers.
Are your peppers ripe and ready to pick? Knowing when they are ripe is key to enjoying a full harvest. There are so many different types of peppers, but you can still follow some general rules for knowing when it is time to pick your peppers.
Bell peppers are ready to pick when they are full size, about 3.5 to 4 inches and firm to the touch. However, if you planted a variety other than green, you should wait until the pepper has turned the expected color. Sweet bell pepper varieties include reds, yellows, purples, whites and even a chocolate brown color. Once they begin to change color, they do so quickly.
Pick them as soon as you can to encourage the pepper plants to keep producing.
Banana peppers are 6 to 8 inches long when fully developed and they will change in color from the pale yellow to darker yellow, then orange and finally red. They can be picked and eaten anytime once they've reached their mature size, however, many people prefer to let them turn red for better flavor. This is a good one to experiment with. Pick them at various stages to decide how they taste best.
Banana peppers can be either sweet or hot and they look pretty much the same. If you've forgotten which you planted take a look at how they are growing. Hot banana peppers grow up and sweet banana peppers grow down.
Cayenne peppers grow to about six inches long and just 1.25 inches in diameter. They have a very strong flavor, even when they're small.
Cherry peppers are so named because their shape and appearance when ripe resembles a tree cherry. They are a sweet mildish pepper that turns a bright red and is usually one to two inches in diameter when fully grown - about the size of a cherry tomato.
Habanero peppers typically turn orange or red when fully mature. They are 1 to 2.5 inches long and get hotter as they mature to their final orange or red color.
Jalapeno peppers can be picked as soon as they are a deep green about 3 inches long. Jalapenos are most crisp when they are green, but they are also very mild. While ripening, jalepenos go from green, to dark green and then start turning red. When fully mature they are red and have a sweet/hot flavor.
Poblano peppers are a larger pepper variety - about 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and very dark green until fully mature they turn reddish-brown in color and get sweeter.
Serrano peppers have thin walls and will ripen to red, orange, yellow or brown when ripe. They can be used green or fully ripe.
How To Harvest Your Chili Peppers
Use a knife or garden clippers to remove peppers from the plant to prevent any damage to the plant. You'll also want to consider protecting your hands when picking hot peppers. The oils can irritate sensitive skin and you'll also want to be sure to wash your hands before touching your face or your eyes so any residual pepper oil doesn't burn your eyes.
You'll also want to make sure to harvest peppers when the plants are dry to avoid inadvertently spreading disease. This is important to remember even if you can't see any signs of disease.
General Notes And Tips On Harvesting Chili Peppers
When peppers are done growing they will pull off the plant very easily. If they don't come off easily they are still growing. Sometimes tiny brown lines will form on the peppers. These are growth lines and indicate the pepper is done growing. If these lines are forming, pick the pepper regardless of it's size.
If for any reason a pepper is picked before it is ripe, you can place it on a south-facing windowsill until it is bright green and ripe.
The more peppers you pick the more will harvest so pick peppers often as soon as they are ripe to continue your harvest growing.
No matter what type of pepper, they do not like weather that is too cold. If there is fear of frost, you can cover it at night and uncover it in the morning. Weather.com has a garden area that tells you the risk of frost and the freeze risk. Do not go by frost risk, but instead go by freeze risk. If there is a chance of freezing, the plants will not survive.
We suggest picking every pepper prior to any freeze risk or prior to it getting around 35 degrees at night. If the temperature drops lower than this the plant will die and the peppers will shrivel and die.
Tomatoes are only slightly different. Most of the tomatoes can still be picked even after the plant has died. Then they can finish ripening on the window sill in the sun.
Store the peppers in a clear bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer for up to two weeks.
Infomation above is by Mike Hultquist of chilipeppermadness.com