I love growing peppers; they are definitely one of my favourite crops to grow. They look gorgeous while growing and are so flexible in the kitchen; I grow more every year. As I have gotten more and more into my peppers, I have picked up some valuable tips to really maximise your harvest, and I want to share those with you today.
Wait For Warmth!
This is a simple step, but one that all gardeners (myself included) find it hard to stick to. Don’t plant them out too early!
Peppers grow best when the nighttime temperatures stay above 12°C. If they are regularly exposed to nighttime temperatures below this, their growth can be hampered, even if they may look perfectly happy.
This means that, even now, it can still be way too cold in a greenhouse overnight for pepper plants. So keep them inside for now and keep potting them on. I know how tempting it is to get them out into the greenhouse, but it could be a mistake.
You probably want to wait until mid may before moving them outside, this may seem a bit overkill to some of you, but I have found it really helps to improve my harvests.
Also, when the time does come to move out peppers, ensure you harden them off if they are going outside.
Hardening off is a process that helps the seedlings adapt to outdoor conditions by gradually introducing them to sunlight and temperature changes. I usually do this by placing the seedlings outdoors for a few hours each day and increasing the duration over the course of a week or two. This way, my pepper plants can become more resistant to variable temperatures, ensuring a better harvest overall.
Grow Them Closer Together
The space in your greenhouse is definitely the most valuable space you have. So maximise that by growing your pepper plants closer together.
Peppers are not a plant that needs to be spaced well apart, but often the seed packet will tell you they do. In fact, some people report a lot of success by double planting their peppers two to a hole. This is something I will be trialling this year, so sign up for my newsletter for updates.
I plant my pepper seedlings about 15cm apart in a row. This close proximity enables them to benefit from the neighbouring plants for support. This is often referred to as holding hands, and I think it actually benefits peppers more than we think if they can lean on each other a little.
If growing outside, then this means they can act as a natural windbreak for one another. Closely grown pepper plants are much less prone to breaking or being damaged by strong winds. Wind protection is essential, as it helps to prevent the plants from becoming stressed, which would ultimately impact the size and quality of the harvest.
Feed Them Well
If you want a large crop of peppers, you need to feed them well, but not just anything, as some feeds can be detrimental to your harvest.
I like to start by adding some blood fish & bone to the planting hole. Just dig your hole, sprinkle some in and then plant your pepper on top. Because this is under the plant’s rootball, it is exactly where it needs to be and will soon be absorbed.
Then as the plant starts to flower, you want to use a tomato feed. This will promote the development of more peppers. Pepper plants are notorious for putting on lots of leafy green growth but little in the way of fruit if they are given too much nitrogen. This is why you want to use a feed with a high potassium-to-nitrogen ratio, which is what tomato feed has!
To Top or Not To Top
One technique that tends to raise questions is whether or not to top pepper plants. Topping refers to pruning the top growth of your pepper plants while young to encourage branching and potentially increase yields.
Firstly, topping pepper plants can help them develop a sturdier and bushier structure. By removing the main growing tip, the plant redirects its energy towards creating more branches and leaf growth. This can ultimately help support a larger harvest, as there will be more areas for peppers to grow.
However, some people say it makes no difference. I think it does make a difference and do top my peppers. It works better with smaller pepper-producing plants, which is what I advise you to grow in the UK. Again this is something I will be trailing this year, topping vs not topping. So sign up for my newsletter to follow along with that and many other trials!