Sweet peppers are extremely versatile. For a quick and easy side, they can be cut into strips and served with vegetable dip. As a main course, they can be stuffed with meat and rice, then baked. Chopped peppers are particularly handy. They can be used for everything from a pizza topping to a stir-fry ingredient.
Hot peppers can be put to a number of uses, as well. They can add character to a sandwich, or they can be used to make homemade salsa and hot sauce.
- Full sun.
- Warm (but not excessively dry) weather.
- Balanced soil.
- Soil pH between 5.8 and 6.8.
- Start seeds indoors about seven weeks before the last spring frost date. March is probably best in Kansas.
- Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch of potting mix.
- Keep seeds very warm (75°F to 95°F) until germination. Some gardeners use heating mats or strands of Christmas lights to provide a source of bottom heat.
- Harden the seedlings off around the time of the last spring frost (April for Kansas).
- Do not attempt to transplant peppers until all danger of cold snaps is past.
- Transplant about two weeks after the last spring frost. In Kansas, this will be sometime in May—earlier farther south, later farther north.
- Set the plants out 18 to 24 inches apart.
- Shape the soil around the plant into a small bowl to collect moisture, and apply a light mulch.
- Set a support cage over each pepper to guard it from wind damage later on.
- Keep the plants well watered until thoroughly established.
Peppers need plenty of moisture to stay healthy. Keep them thickly mulched, and be generous with the water. Dull leaves and a bitter taste are signs that your peppers are getting too thirsty.
Pests and Diseases
- Blister beetle.
- Flea beetle.
- Bacterial leaf spot.
- Blossom end rot.
- Cucumber mosaic virus.
- Phytophthora blight.
- Tobacco mosaic virus.
Sweet peppers can be harvested at any stage of growth. If you have planted a red, orange, or yellow variety, let them mature, by all means, but don’t hesitate to pull the green peppers if necessary to save them from frost or to help out an overloaded plant in dry weather. Hot peppers vary widely. Check the seed packet for directions on when to harvest your particular variety.
Be gentle when picking peppers. The plants can sometimes become brittle and lose their branches if you pull a little too hard. A safer harvesting method is to cut the peppers from the plant, leaving at least an inch of stem on each pepper.
Peppers of all kinds will keep for two or three weeks in the refrigerator, but they do lose their quality. For long-term storage, chop them and store them in airtight bags in the freezer. They keep extremely well this way.
Hot peppers can also be dried. Simply pull the whole plant and hang upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place, just as you would herbs. Individual peppers can be dried in the sun or in a food dehydrator.
- Isolate pepper varieties by 500 feet or cover plants in a screened cage.
- While the flowers are blooming, gently shake them each morning to help distribute pollen.
- As peppers mature, harvest them normally.
- Carefully cut out the core. You can eat the rest of the pepper. (Remember to handle hot peppers with care.)
- Place the cores in the blender and process at low speed until the seeds come loose.
- Place the seeds and cores in a large bowl and fill with water.
- Carefully pour off any flesh, debris, and immature seeds that float to the top.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the seeds are clean.
- Spread seeds out to dry away from direct sunlight. They are ready when they break if folded in half.
- Clean the seeds one last time by screening or by pouring them from bucket to bucket in a breeze or in front of a fan.
- Store seeds in a cool, dry, dark place. They should keep for two or three years.
A number of articles and factsheets on various pepper diseases.
Storing and Preserving Peppers
A brief video from K-State covering many ideas for enjoying the harvest, including freezing, drying, and canning.