Growing Tips: Peppers (Outdoor)

Quick Reference:

Pepper plants grown in the garden must be started indoor 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Plant seed 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep spaced 3/4 to 1 inch apart. Seed will not germinate when the soil temperature is below 55 degrees F. Optimum soil temperature is 75 to 80 degrees F. At that temperature seed will germinate in 7 to 14 days, but at lower temperatures can take up to 30 days. Plant spacing in the garden, 12 to 18 inches.

When and Where to Plant:

Peppers are a warm weather plant and in Alaska peppers must be grown in the greenhouse, except in the interior of Alaska where some varieties can be grown outdoors with a soil warming technique. Pepper seeds must be started in a warm environment, soil temperature is critical to germination, the optimum germination temperature is between 70 to 90 degrees F. Start seed 6-8 weeks before the last frost and the time to move plants to a greenhouse or garden. Fill seed containers that have drainage holes with a well drained, sterilized soil. Plant seed, lightly cover with fine soil and firm soil over seed. Water only lightly. Peppers are one of the only vegetables that germinate in low moisture soil. DO NOT over water seed container. Bottom heat will assist in germination. When seedlings begin emerging move container to full sunlight, peppers do not respond well to artificial light. Once the seedlings are up the soil should be kept uniformly moist. When seedlings get their second set of leaves, 1 to 1 ½ inches tall, transplant to individual plastic pots holding them by their leaves not their stems. When the seedlings are 4 to 5 inches tall transplant them to larger pots or the garden. A few pepper varieties will tolerate cool nights.

Care: Keep soil uniformly moist and fertilize with a liquid solution every two weeks. When plants are grown in a greenhouse tap the stems when blossoms are fully open to assure pollination. Pepper plants are susceptible to aphids, control before infestation becomes severe.

Harvest:

Carefully cut or snap fruits from plants with a short piece of stem attached.