Hot chili peppers add a spicy kick to your recipes. Used in many Mexican and Asian dishes, there are a large variety of chili types to choose from. Some are only mildly hot, allowing you to use them liberally in your food. Others have so much heat that a small amount goes a long way. Like other peppers, chilies are a warm-season vegetable that does not tolerate cool weather. Properly caring for your chili peppers throughout summer ensures they grow healthy and flavorful.
Plant chilies outside after all danger of frost has passed and when nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Chilies thrive in daytime temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F.
Plant the peppers in a well-drained garden bed that receives full sunlight. Till a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost into the bed prior to planting to provide additional drainage and to improve the organic makeup of the soil.
Water the plants once a week, providing 1 to 2 inches of water at each irrigation. Water twice a week during hot, dry periods if the soil is drying out more quickly. Peppers require moist soil at all times to thrive.
Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch, such as bark or straw, over the garden bed to help retain soil moisture. Mulching also prevents weed growth between the plants.
Fertilize the peppers once they begin forming flowers. Apply a 5-10-10 analysis fertilizer to the bed in the amount recommended on the fertilizer label. Work the fertilizer into the soil between the rows and at least 6 inches away from the base of the plants. This prevents the fertilizer from burning the pepper roots.
Harvest the peppers when they reach the full desired color and when the skin of the fruit begins to wrinkle slightly around the stem. Break off each stem ¼ inch up from where it connects to the chili pepper. Frequent harvesting encourages further fruit set.