Peppers are generally classified as sweet or hot, with the most common sweet peppers being large, blocky bell or mango varieties. Hot peppers vary in shape and size as well as degree of hotness. Peppers can be eaten either when the fruit is full sized but immature or when it changes to its mature color. A variety of colors from green to red, yellow, orange, purple, white, and brown (dull purple) are available
Common names: Red Peppers (some of which never actually turn red) come in literally hundreds of varieties, many with their own common names. Some of the more common are:
Bell or Sweet – large, sweet, bell or box-shaped. – Cayenne – named for an island off the NE coast of South America. Used to make hot red pepper.- Cherry – red, yellow or purple in color, ½-1 inch diameter, very pungent.- Chili – from Chile, used for ground hot pepper.- Cone – conical shaped, standing erect on the plant, sweet and pungent types.- Habanero – from Havana, Cuba. One of the hottest pepper in the world. – Hungarian Wax – “medium” hot, developed in Europe. Jalapeno – a hot pepper named for a city in the state of Vera Cruz, Mexico. – Pimento – the sweetest of all! When dried and the seeds removed, known as paprika.- Tabasco – a “hot” specialty from the southern United States, named for a state in Mexico.
As peppers are of tropical origin, plants thrive best when temperatures are warm. Being sensitive to the cold, planting should be delayed until the danger of frost is past in the spring. Ideal temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees F during the day and 60 to 70 degrees F at night.
Extremely high temperatures (90 degrees F or above) during flowering often results in blossom drop. Fruit that set when temperatures average above 80 degrees F may be small and poorly shaped due to heat injury to the blossoms. Temperatures below 60 degrees F at night will also result in blossom drop.
A shortage of water at bloom time can also result in blossom drop or failure to set fruit. Usually, the plants set satisfactory crops when temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F and the soil are well-supplied with moisture. Avoid a soggy, water-logged soil condition when growing peppers.
When to plant
Peppers are usually set as transplants in the garden and should be planted 1-2 weeks after setting tomatoes. Peppers exposed to cold temperatures early in the season will often drop their fruit, resulting in a large unproductive plant. Set transplants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, or 14 to 18 inches apart in all directions in beds
Peppers thrive in well-drained fertile soil. Water is required in dry periods. Even, consistent watering is preferred as peppers can develop blossom end rot, a brown leathery patch at the base of the fruit. Peppers require a slightly more fertile spot than tomatoes, but gardeners should avoid over-fertilization.
Peppers develop a shallow root system and may need watering once or twice a week depending on soil type and rainfall. Peppers need about one inch of water per week. Peppers especially need water during flowering and fruit set to prevent shedding of flowers and small fruits. Water stress may also cause a physiological disease called blossom end rot.
Shallow cultivation (one to two inches deep) is best used when weeds are small. If roots are accidental injured, stunted growth and flower drop can occur. Mulching and hand pulling weeds are other methods to keep peppers weed free. Four inches of straw mulch around plants and will prevent weed growth and conserve water. Black plastic mulch is especially beneficial for peppers because it warms the soil in addition to providing weed control.
Fruits may be harvested at any size desired. Green bell varieties, however, are usually picked when they are fully grown and mature—3 to 4 inches long, firm and green. When the fruits are mature, they break easily from the plant. Less damage is done to the plants Store peppers for up to a week in a refrigerator
Cucumber mosaic virus – Disease causes ringspots and oak-leaf patterns on fruit. Rogue plants. Remove and destroy entire infested plant. Control aphids that spread the virus. Eliminate perennial weed sources such as milkweed, marshcress and yellow rocket and avoid planting next to susceptible ornamentals. Blossom end rot – Water during drought or mulch to keep moisture level constant. Grow in soil high in organic matter.
Problem: All growth, no peppers.
Cause: Unfavorable weather – prolonged cloudy weather, too high or low temperatures.
Problem: Plenty of flowers, tiny deformed peppers, large plants.
Cause: Lack of fertilizer, side dress after plants are set.
Problem: Fruit drop.
Cause: Unfavorable weather when flowers are setting.