Chili peppers require little space and if given full sun, protection from the wind, and three or more months of warm weather, yield a satisfying crop. Cold spells and inconsistent soil moisture stall the growth of the plants. Many of the same diseases and pests affecting tomatoes also attack the chili. A short row of chilies still should provide enough spice for the summer and even some dried chilies for winter stews. Hundreds of varieties offer many different flavors and degrees of heat.
Broadcast 10-10-10 fertilizer over the garden space intended for chili peppers and till thoroughly. West Virginia University recommends 40 lbs. of 10-10-10 per 1,000 square feet--that works out to 1 1/4 lbs. for a six-plant bed 3-by-10 1/2 feet. Six plants provide enough fresh chilies for the average family.
Start pepper plants indoors in short-season areas. Plant two or three seeds in each peat pot in a seed-starting tray. Water thoroughly and place the cover on the tray. Set the tray in a warm room near a south window.
Set the tray on a south-facing window sill when plants emerge. Remove the cover when first leaves fully develop.
Thin to one plant per pot when the second set of leaves appears. Water enough to keep the pots moist but not saturated, since overwatering encourages damping-off fungus.
Transplant chili peppers to the garden when all danger of frost passes and nighttime temperatures stay above 55 F. Set peppers in the garden row with the top of the peat pot an inch below the garden surface. Plant 18 inches apart with 3 feet between row centers.
Water after planting with a starter fertilizer solution of 1/4 cup 10-10-10 fertilizer completely dissolved in 1 gallon of water.
Control weed growth in small plantings by cultivating. Avoid digging deeply near the plants--an inch-deep hoeing removes weeds without harming the roots of the peppers.