Growing Sweet and Hot Chili Peppers in my Backyard
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More and more people like to grow their own fruits and vegetables in their garden either as a hobby or as a way to control what they eat. However, growing peppers in our backyard have some secrets and some common mistakes that we should avoid.
- Peppers are tropical plants and certainly love the heat. They need temperatures from 18 °C to 26 °C (64 °F to 79 °F) and plenty of sunlight (6-8 hours a day) to thrive. They cannot tolerate frost and begin to have problems when daytime temperatures remain below 18 ° C (64 °F). At temperatures below 15 °C (59 °F), the plant reduces its growth rate and stops growing completely at temperatures close to 10 °C (50 °F). At temperatures below 6 °C (43 °F), the plant begins to expel its flowers. The same results are observed at temperatures above 35 ° C (95 °F). In most cases, pepper seedlings are transplanted outdoors during the second half of spring, so that we can harvest our first pepper about two months later.
- There are hundreds of pepper varieties to choose from. Their flavors range from extra spicy to sweet, and their shape varies from oval, banana, cherry, and many more.
- If you plan to start growing peppers from seeds, you need to be careful. Make sure you always wear good gloves when touching the seeds. The seeds of some spicy varieties can damage your skin and then your eyes if you touch them. Moreover, be sure to buy certified seeds from a legitimate seller. Otherwise, the germination rate of the seeds will probably be very low and you will waste your time. Keep in mind that pepper seeds have a low tolerance to cold. You can plant them in an indoor seedbed, keeping the soil temperature at 20-28 °C (68 – 82 °F). Peat can also be used as a substrate for optimal aeration. Temperatures below 10-12 °C (50 – 54 °F) will deteriorate germination. Make sure you keep the seeds moist until they germinate. The seeds will germinate about 8-12 days later and the estimated time from seeding to transplanting is 40-60 days, but there may be significant deviations from these limits.
- Alternatively, if you don’t want to waste time with seeds, you can buy pepper seedlings from a legitimate seller and transplant them directly to their final positions. Please note that transplanting pepper seedlings will probably not be successful at temperatures below 18 °C (64 °F). Make sure you do not plant your pepper seedlings in areas where you had previously planted other Solanaceae (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.) so as to avoid soil depletion and soil-borne diseases.
- Soil preparation is very important when growing peppers. The soil must be a very fluffy and fertile mixture, so as to welcome the sensitive roots of the young seedlings and provide all the nutrients. You can also mix the soil of your garden with compost and river sand. Your soil pH may need correction. The optimum pH is between 6 and 6.8. In addition, many backyard growers put chopped eggshells inside the planting hole, in order to provide adequate calcium levels to the plant.
- One important step (especially in areas with low soil temperatures during the planting season) is the linear plastic coverage. Many producers cover the series with black plastic film. They use this technique in order to maintain the root zone temperature at optimum levels (above 21 °C or 70 °C), as well as to prevent weed growth.
- Make sure you do not plant the seedlings too close together. Proper distances ensure good ventilation and sunlight penetration, thus reducing the risk of various diseases. Most backyard pepper growers leave 50 cm (20 inches) distance between each plant in a row. They also leave a distance of at least 80 -100 cm (30-39 inches) between rows.
- During planting, the soil ball is placed a little deeper than the soil surface, as this will allow the plant to develop a richer root system from the beginning. Immediately after transplanting, we lightly compress the soil and then irrigate.
- Pruning is sometimes important when it comes to pepper growing. However, not all peppers varieties need pruning. In a few words, when it comes to pruning, amateur pepper growers keep 2-4 shoots on each plant for the first stages of its growth, so as to create a proper shape. Later, they remove one of those two shoots. In general, pruning facilitates proper aeration and protects the plant from moisture-favored infections. Moreover, we can control the fruit to vegetation ratio.
- In most cases, pruned pepper plants need staking. The simplest technique is to place a plastic or bamboo stake near each plant and tie the stem lightly. This technique helps the plant’s stem remain in a vertical position. At the same time, it prevents the foliage of the stems as well as the fruits from touching the soil. Τhus, it protects the plant as a whole from soil pests and diseases. Moreover, staking helps the producer harvest the fruits easily and improves the aeration and overall health of the plant.
- Irrigation is very important if we want to harvest well-shaped peppers. Remember, every 100 grams of average pepper fruit contain about 90 grams of water. In general, for about 15 days after transplanting, several growers are cautious and supply very small amounts of water in order to help the plant develop a better and larger root system. During the growing season, when the pepper plant grows its first blossoms, several growers supply twice as much water as during the previous stage. Then, at the fruit filling stage, the amount of water provided reaches the maximum levels. Finally, at the fruit ripening stage, water intake decreases and gradually becomes zero shortly before harvest.
- In a backyard, the average pepper plant growing in an average soil will definitely be benefited from the addition of compost. Composting is an environmentally friendly process with excellent results in plant nutrition in the backyard, offering significant savings as well. It is a process through which organic residues such as leaves, thin branches, peels and other food residues (eg. eggshells) are transformed through various processes and with the help of soil microorganisms into a nutrient-rich substance called compost. Proper use and addition of compost will prevent soil erosion. It can also suppress soil pathogens. Caution is needed as not all home-grown food waste is suitable for composting. The process is quite simple. You need a compost bin or silo, a shredder, soil, and organic waste. The shredder is quite important, as to speed up the fermentation process the materials intended for the composting bin must be small enough.
- Peppers mature and can be harvested 55-90 days after transplanting. During harvest, it is best to use scissors and cut about 5 cm (2 inches) above the fruit. Just pulling the pepper will cause damage to the plant and possibly to the fruit. You can harvest up to 2-3 times a week some healthy, well-shaped peppers. On average, a healthy pepper plant will produce 4 to 8 large-sized peppers, but in small fruit varieties, a single plant can produce even 100 small peppers.
3.) Growing Sweet and Hot Chili Peppers in my Backyard