Pepper plants (Capsicum), warm season annuals, are garden vegetables that can be eaten both raw or cooked. Pepper varieties include the common bell peppers, salad types like sweet banana peppers and variously pungent hot peppers. Before growing peppers in cool regions, check the estimated time to maturity of the variety to be sure your summer conditions will accommodate the plant until it's fully developed.
Pepper plants require warm soil and nights 55 degrees F and above. Start plants from seed indoors, six to eight weeks before planting outside, or purchase quality transplants from a garden center or nursery. Use mulch to aid in temperature regulation of the soil after setting plants in the garden.
Space plants according to plant or seed packet instructions, which will vary according to the species and variety of pepper you're growing. In general, space peppers 18 to 24 inches apart, in rows 2 to 2 1/2 feet apart.
Soil, Water and Fertilizer
Peppers need full sun and well-drained, nutrient rich soil. Water peppers well, especially during hot, dry summers. Adequate soil moisture is essential for producing quality peppers. Apply 5-10-5 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer according to package instructions after the first peppers begin development.
Tobacco mosaic disease is avoided by growing disease-resistant pepper varieties and people who smoke should wash their hands before handling peppers, according to University of Illinois Extension. Aphids, tiny white, flying bugs with piercing, sucking mouthparts, leave “honeydew” on lower leaves and fruit and may be controlled with pyrethrum-based insecticides. Add bone meal or powdered eggshells at the rate of 1 lb. per 20 row feet to combat blossom-end rot, a sign of calcium deficiency (or that the peppers are not watered enough).
Harvest peppers at any stage during development. Some bell pepper varieties stay on the plant until they ripen into colors of red, yellow, brown or orange. Use the peppers fresh, or dice and freeze for later. Always use caution when handling hot pepper varieties. Hot peppers can be very irritating to the skin, nose and eyes when preparing for recipes.