Pepper plants (Capsicum annuum) produce bell-shaped fruits that are green when immature and red when ripe. Most require 75 to 80 days to harvest. A well-managed acre of peppers can yield 350 to 400 30-lb. cartons over a season, according to the University of Oklahoma’s extension agents. University of Georgia horticulturalists note growing pepper production worldwide, possibly linked to the fruit’s high nutritional value. Whether you are a commercial grower or a home gardener, getting the highest production out of your pepper plants occurs when you provide them with optimal conditions.
Select a southern exposure that hasn’t been used for peppers, tomatoes, eggplants or potatoes the previous two seasons.
Add lime and a pre-planting fertilizer or worm compost to the soil. Cover with soaker hoses and black plastic mulch to warm the soil, reduce weeds and disease and obtain an earlier harvest.
Plant 5- to 6-week old seedlings in well-drained, sandy loam soil, once the nighttime soil temperature warms above 60 degrees F, ideally tilled so the peppers’ root systems do not bump up against compacted soil. Stake or cage the peppers for support.
Add a cup of starter solution to each transplanted green pepper plant to reduce transplant shock and promote early growth. Mix 5 oz. of 15-30-15 fertilizer per 5 gallons of water.
Water the growing plants moderately to maintain uniform soil moisture for best growth and fruit setting. This avoids flower shedding and small fruits. Take care not to over-water, which may promote fungi, mold and related diseases.
Harvest fruits when green and larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter and in length, or if you prefer, later when they turn red.
Snap fruits off by hand, taking care not to snap the brittle branches creating flowers for additional peppers.
Harvest at regular intervals to maintain production, at approximately every 10 to 15 days, the University of California Cooperative Extension recommends.