Growing peppers in pots is an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all gardeners, whether you have a large garden or a small balcony. It’s not only practical, but it also allows you to enjoy fresh and flavourful peppers right on your doorstep.
One of the main advantages of growing peppers in containers is their flexibility. I can easily move the pots around depending on the sunlight and weather conditions.
I’ve found that, with proper care and attention, peppers can thrive in containers and produce an abundant harvest, much like they would when planted in a traditional garden bed.
Types of Peppers
In this section, I will provide some insight into the different types of peppers you can grow in pots. These peppers are categorised into two main groups: sweet and chilli.
Bell peppers are a popular and easy-to-grow variety of sweet peppers. These peppers are rich in vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked in various dishes. To grow bell peppers in pots, choose a container at least 30cm in diameter with proper drainage holes and fill it with an organically rich potting mix.
I would not recommend growing bell peppers, though, as there are much more productive peppers you can grow that are more suited to pots.
I personally like Sweet Lemon and Aju Dulce. These produce smaller peppers but produce lots of them and are much more suited for growing in containers than large bell peppers. If you want to grow bell peppers, why not try mini bells.
Spicy peppers tend to be much smaller and are often bushier plants, so they are well suited to growing in pots. Remember that the hotter the pepper the hotter temperature they tend to require to reach full spiciness!
In summary, sweet and chilli peppers can successfully grow in pots, making it easy to enjoy these delicious and nutritious vegetables in your container garden. Remember to choose the right type of pepper for your taste, provide proper pot size and soil, and ensure your plants have ample sunlight and water for healthy growth.
Choosing a Container
When it comes to growing peppers in pots, selecting the right container is essential for a successful harvest.
Peppers require a decent amount of space for their roots to spread out and grow. As a general rule, I choose pots that are at least 30cm in diameter with plenty of drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
I will grow one plant per pot in something this size.
When selecting a material for containers, consider the advantages and disadvantages of different types of pots. Here are some options to consider:
- Plastic: Lightweight, affordable, and good at retaining moisture, making them perfect for first-time gardeners.
- Ceramic: Aesthetic and durable, providing excellent insulation for the roots, but could be heavier and more expensive.
- Clay or terracotta: Porous, allowing for increased air circulation in the soil, yet can dry out quickly and might require more frequent watering.
- Fabric pots: Offer superior aeration and drainage, prevent root circling, and are easy to store, but can heat up in direct sunlight and require more attentive watering.
Depending on your preferences and budget, choose a material that best suits your gardening style and requirements for growing peppers in pots.
Selecting the Right Compost
When it comes to growing peppers in pots, choosing high-quality compost is essential. I like to use my tried and tested compost mix for containers.
I get my wheelbarrow and mix in some shop bought compost, 6x chicken manure and then finally some vermiculite to increase water retention.
This mix is perfect for growing pretty much anything, except acid-loving plants, in containers.
Anything productive growing in a pot tends to need a little extra feed. This is simply because they have a limited amount of nutrition due to being in a pot, which can be used up more quickly.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when fertilising your potted peppers:
- Start with a dilute liquid fertiliser as soon as your plants have established a robust root system. This will ensure they receive the vital nutrients they need for continuous growth.
- Apply the fertiliser every 4-6 weeks throughout the growing season, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and frequency.
- Always water your plants well before and after fertilising to prevent nutrient burn and ensure even distribution of the fertiliser throughout the root zone.
The best fertiliser to use is tomato fertiliser. This will promote the growth of more fruit over more leaves. If you use a nitrogen-heavy feed, you can end up with a very leafy plant with few peppers.
Here in the UK, we need to start peppers indoors, as it is too cold to start them outdoors or in an unheated greenhouse. I like to start early and often sow in February, but you can also sow in March, April, or possibly early May.
I often use my milk bottle propagator for peppers and get very good germination rates. I use multi-purpose compost and scatter the seeds on the surface. Give them a little push to ensure they make good contact with the compost but that they are not buried.
Pop the milk bottle on a sunny windowsill with the lid shut or use grow lights if you have them.
Once the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, it’s time for me to transplant them into pots. I often pot them on into a small pot before they get moved into their final container.
Gently remove the seedlings from thepropagator, taking care not to damage their roots, and plant them in the pots at the same depth as they were.
Care and Maintenance
In my experience, growing peppers in pots require more attention to watering than planting them in the ground. Peppers like moist soil but don’t do well in waterlogged pots.
First, ensure that your pots have proper drainage holes at the bottom. If necessary, drill extra holes in plastic or metal containers using a large bit to improve drainage.
If you are unsure as to whether your peppers need watering, then gently prod the soil with your finger and see if it is damp under the surface. If it is, then you can leave the watering for now.
Pinching peppers is a hotly debated topic, and actually, one that I will be testing this year (so sign up for my newsletter for the results when they come!). Some people say it does nothing, while others swear it massively increases the harvest.
In my personal experience, it works really well with smaller fruiting peppers. And this is mainly what you will be growing in pots.
When your seedlings are 10-15cm tall, you simply snip out the top, as shown in the photo below.
This feels harsh but it will focus the plants growth sideways rather than up. This creates a bushier pepper plant that, in theory, carries more peppers.
Flowering and Pollination
Flowering is a crucial stage in the life cycle of a pepper plant, as it leads to the production of fruit. As the plant grows, it will eventually start to produce flowers, which usually emerge from leaf axils.
Pepper plants are self-pollinating, meaning the pollen doesn’t need to be moved from one flower to another for successful pollination. It does need to be agitated in order to move from one part of the flower to another.
For outdoor peppers, this is often done by the wind or by pollinating insects. If you are growing indoors then this is less likely to happen naturally.
To encourage successful pollination, you can gently shake your potted plants to help dislodge pollen and facilitate self-pollination.
If you have the time and you really want to encourage pollination then you can go round with a paint brush and gently brush each flower.
It’s finally time to harvest your peppers, let’s dive into the process!
Knowing When to Harvest
First things first, how do I know when my peppers are ready to harvest? To ensure that the peppers have reached their full flavour and size, I always look out for a few signs:
- Colour change: Most peppers change colour as they ripen. Keep an eye on their progress, and if you see the colour deepening, it’s a good indication that they’re ready.
- Firmness: I gently squeeze the peppers to test their firmness. Ripe peppers will feel firm but slightly pliable to the touch.
- Size: The size of the pepper can also indicate if it’s ready for harvest. I refer to the seed package to know the expected size of mature peppers and compare it with the ones in my pots.
One top tip here is to harvest your first peppers when they are still a little underripe, this will encourage your plant to produce more peppers, meaning a bigger harvest for you!
With your peppers harvested, you are ready to enjoy the fruits of your labour in delicious dishes and spicy meals!