Even if you don’t have a green thumb, peppers are one of the easiest vegetable plants to grow. They thrive in hot weather and if you plant them now, you can enjoy many varieties from the spicy to sweet, all summer long. Peppers are loaded with antioxidants, including capsaicin, and can even help stop immature fat cells from growing into full-blown fat cells, which means these red hot treats are great for your waistline, too. Aside from burning fat, peppers help control cholesterol levels, keep arthritis in check with high levels of Vitamin C, and lower the risk of breast cancer.
Depending on the variety, peppers are also full of B vitamins that can help lower the risk of death by stroke, and increase hair and nail health while boosting energy. Peppers really are so versatile and easy to get started with minimal energy.
Growing Different Peppers
Peppers grow best in a soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.0, although they can tolerate slightly alkaline conditions near 7.5. Mix a 3- to 5-inch layer of compost into each planting hole or pot.
Organic matter helps the soil retain moisture, and moist soil is crucial for good pepper production. It should be cool, and moist, not saturated. This is why good drainage will give you the best pepper crop.
Pepper plants will begin to flower about 6 weeks after planting, and those little flowers will turn into peppers. Big bell peppers and sweet roasting peppers may take a little longer, but are well worth the wait. They will often flower on cooler nights, or do slightly better in partial shade. There are hundreds of varieties, and they all have their preferences, but with good organic soil, some sun, and ample water, you’ll successfully grow a boatload of peppers.
Here are 3 varieties you can easily start growing today, even if you are a beginner:
- 1. Chile Peppers – Chili peppers, particularly Capsicum Annuum’s, are a great choice for beginner pepper growers because of their shorter growing time. Your seeds will need heat, moisture and oxygen. Seeds don’t even need sun to start to germinate, but they do need warm soil. You can even plant your pepper seeds in a cardboard box with a few drainage holes in the bottom, filled with good, organic and composted soil. Don’t plant them too deep, though, because this requires the little seeds to work harder to burst through their casing and into the sunlight, which they will need as soon as surfacing.The seeds will take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to germinate. Once they are surfacing, place the container near a window, and allow the baby pepper plants to grow to at least three inches before transplanting them. Place them in either a garden that has been prepped with organic soil that will hold water or into containers. They will need at least 24 inches between each plant in order to allow the mature plant space to spread out. The chileman.org website is very helpful for first time pepper growers.
- 2. Habanero Peppers – One of the hottest pepper varieties available is the habanero, and they get their spicy hot from super hot weather. The sunnier and hotter, the better. They like strong morning sun and soil that is slightly acidic. So if you live in a drought-prone climate, with tons of sun, you’ll do great growing this 5-alarm pepper.Don’t over-water the soil for habanero plants; only water the soil when it feels dry to the touch, all the way down to several inches below the surface.It is a perennial plant, too, so once you grow it one year, it will come back each year, and give you more peppers. It takes about 75-90 days to generate peppers from seed, so start yours today, and you can even pick them into cooler weather. Just harvest the peppers often, since the best peppers will grow in the height of the hot season. When these hot peppers are bright orange, pick away.
- 3. Banana peppers – This pepper plant gets it name from appearance. The peppers look like miniature yellow-hued bananas when they first start out and then turn orange, and finally a deep red. There are both sweet and hot varieties. Banana peppers are high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and C.This and other pepper plants will grow well in any sunny, well-drained spot. You can even grow them in containers on your patio if you live in an urban area.They do tend to grow up, so they benefit from staking. This means your plant can grow tall without falling over and you’ll get more peppers from each plant you attempt growing. Start your seeds indoors to make sure they are ready to transplant in time. If your soil is low in magnesium you can add a little epsom salt and your peppers will grow better.
You will also want to plant your banana peppers slightly away from other peppers to prohibit cross-pollination. Once your seedlings have grown from indoor seeds, plant them at least 22 – 24 inches apart from each other to give the mature plants space to grow.
These 3 varieties are wonderful to start with, and once you know you can grow peppers with acumen, try one of the many more diverse types, like the Carolina Reaper that has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the hottest pepper, to the Trinidad Scorpion which has a pointed end resembling that of the scorpion’s stinger. You can also check out the ‘Big List of Peppers’, here.