The pepper plant is a warm-season vegetable that requires hot temperatures and adequate water to produce fruit. The plant is native to the warm tropical areas of Central American and South America, where it has been grown since prehistoric times. Peppers are available in a wide variety of types, from sweet to spicy hot. The plants must be started from seed in late winter to be large enough to plant in spring once the soil begins to warm up.
Sow pepper seeds indoors approximately 8 to 10 weeks prior to the predicted last frost in spring. Plant the seeds in a sterile seed-starting soil at a depth of a quarter-inch. Place the planted seeds on germination heat pads to raise the soil temperature and increase the germination time.
Prepare the planting area by tilling a mixture of organic compost, dried manure and vegetable fertilizer to a depth of 10 inches. Moisten the soil with water prior to planting the seedlings.
Plant the pepper seedlings outdoors in spring after there is no longer a risk of frost. Space the seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart in rows that are set 24 to 30 inches apart.
Apply mulch around the pepper plants to reduce weed growth and retain moisture in the soil. Some mulch options are laying a black plastic covering over the soil or spreading grass clippings around the plants.
Fertilize with a high phosphorous and potassium fertilizer once the peppers begin to develop. Do not apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen, as this will create a bushy plant with decreased peppers.
Water the pepper plant regularly to keep the soil moist. Do not allow the plants to dry out, as this will cause the plants to drop the small peppers or not produce any peppers.
Harvest peppers once they become mature and easily break off the branch. Cutting the peppers from the plant will reduce plant damage. Green peppers are mature once they reach 3 to 4 inches in length. Hot peppers are mature once they become bright red in color.