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Are you planting pepper seed this year? I am behind, but better late than never! It’s not too late, if you haven’t planted yours yet! I don’t really like hot peppers, so I don’t do a lot of them. If you like hot peppers, they really should have been planted by now for a larger yield. Usually February is when I get my sweet peppers planted, and I was busy last weekend planting pepper seed, so I got it done just in time!
Usually I only do a few, and the milder one’s at that, like Anaheim Chili’s and Jalapenos. These are what I will be growing this year:
Jalapenos: Spicy little peppers perfect for a little heat in your salsa or any dishes you like a little heat. We also like to make Cowboy Candy with them, which is a pickled jalapeno in a sweet sauce. So good!
Anaheim Chili’s: These are mildly hot, I don’t even think they are hot if picked when green, but let them turn red on the vine, and they are much hotter! I like these in all types of Mexican dishes.
Black Hungarian: I grew some of these for a customer who bought starts from me last year, but I didn’t keep any for myself. I plan to keep a couple this year! These are also mildly hot and are black in color.
Bangles Mix: These are great little peppers perfect for the lunch box or for snacking and come in red, orange or chocolate color.
Red Mini Bells: More sweet little snacking peppers, cause you can never have too many!
Oda Peppers: These are the most beautiful royal purple color. Worth growing for the sheer beauty of the color! Thin walled and yummy for snacking or salads.
Red Cheese: These are super thick walled pimento type and are great for stuffing or fresh eating.
Golden California Wonder: This is new for me this year. I’ve been looking for a yellow or orange sweet pepper, hopefully this one does well for me. Medium sized, matures from green to orange.
King of the North: This is a short season pepper and did amazing for me last year which is the first time I’ve grown it. Turns red when fully ripe. Very productive large fruits. The photo below, I took the first week of June last year.
California Wonder: I’ve grown this one for years, another large red sweet pepper, but it does not produce for me as well as the King of the North, so will use up what seed I have and only grow King of the North in the future.
Yolo Wonder: Same as above. I’ve grown this one for years, another large red pepper, but Kind of the North put this one to shame as well in the productivity department.
Purple Beauty: I grew this for the first time last year and it is another new favorite. Large purple fruits. Fairly productive as well. The photo below was also taken in the first week of June last year. Unlike red or yellow peppers, the purple peppers start out purple instead of green.
If you haven’t checked out my Seed Starting 101 Series: Essential Seed Starting Equipment post, it outlines what type of soil I use and all the other equipment I use in this process. When I am planting pepper seed, I use the fat end of a chop stick to indent the soil about a quarter inch. If I feel confident that my seed is still good, I will put two seeds in. If the seed is older or you got it in a swap, and you don’t know how old it is, you might do better to put 3 or 4 seeds in. Then lightly bury the seed and press it down so the seed is in contact with the soil all around. Then I give each one a good soaking spray with a spray bottle. You want all the soil above and below the seed to be damp, for the seed to germinate. You might also want to check out my Seed Starting 101: Winter Sowing article, that explains how to use milk jugs as mini greenhouses so you can start your seed outside in the dead of winter.
After you are done planting pepper seed, spray down the seeds well, place a plastic dome cover over your plant flat, or cover with saran wrap. You want to keep all the humidity inside until the seeds germinate. Place the flat on a heating mat, as peppers need very warm soil to germinate. Once the majority of the seeds have germinated, you can remove the plastic cover. Spray down again gently if it looks like the seed is drying out, or, water by adding water to the tray and letting the 6-packs absorb water from the bottom.
Once the seeds have germinated and you have removed the cover, you want to now move your heat mat and flat so that it is under some grow lights. Again, I cover that and all the equipment you might need in my Seed Starting 101 Series: Essential Seed Starting Equipment post. Now is also a good time to put a small fan on your seedlings. If you don’t have an oscillating fan, try to move the fan so it is aiming from different directions, a couple of times a day. The fan helps with air circulation, to prevent fungus and disease from developing in the warm moist environment. It also makes for much stronger plants as they will develop stronger stems. When the second set of true leaves develop, thin the plants down to just one plant for each cell. Keep the lights within an inch of the top of the plant. As the plants grow, move the light upward with the plant.
When the plants get large enough to either not fit under your lights, or just get to crowded in the tray, it is time to transplant them to a larger pot. I like to move them into Solo Cups at this time as they are a little deeper than most of the standard small 4″ pots available. Make sure you snip some drainage holes into the bottom of the cups though. If you plan to grow them in larger pots for the season, you could transplant them directly into those pots at this time, but I usually do not have space to do that yet since I usually keep around 3 dozen pepper plants going for the summer. So transplanting them to the Solo cups is kind of an intermediate phase for them. Usually by the end of March or early April, I then transplant again into the larger permanent 3 gallon pots that they will live in for the rest of the summer, and they get moved into my unheated greenhouse.
Last year I moved my peppers and tomatoes into my unheated greenhouse around April 1. The picture above was taken at the end of April, and I already had many blossoming. The greenhouse provides them with just enough extra warmth during the day, and cover from the cool nights, and they do well. I do keep watch on the weather, and would provide additional cover if we were to have an extremely cold spell at this point. We have such a cool short growing season here in the PNW, planting them in pots and keeping them in the greenhouse for the summer, has allowed me to have more productive harvests.
If you are planting the peppers straight into the ground, you must remember to gently harden them off before hand. And they do not do well if the temperature gets below 50 degrees. So until the temperatures get to that point, especially at night, you must keep them in a sheltered location or bring them in at night.
When you are doing the final planting of your pepper plants, whether it is in pots or in the ground, my secret tip is to add a little sulfur to the bottom of the hole. Peppers like it a bit acidic, and I learned this trick from Dick Raymond in his Joy of Gardening book . You can buy Sulphur for plants, and just put a pinch in, or even throw a few match stick heads in there. I also add a bit of crushed egg shell and a bit of Epsom salt for a bit of a magnesium boost. Stir this all together at the bottom of the hole with some soil, and then plant your pepper plant, and water well.
I like to spray my peppers and tomatoes once a month with a water solution containing 1 TBSN of Fish Emulsion fertilizer, and 1 TBSN of Epsom Salts, thru the growing season until most of the fruit has set. Other than that, water regularly and you should be all set for a bumper crop of peppers this summer!