Peppers are a great crop to grow yourself. When done right, they can be very productive. And with them being reasonably expensive, it’s one plant you might actually profit on!
But they can be tricky to grow, particularly if you want outstanding harvests.
So here is my step-by-step guide to growing peppers to help you maximise pepper yields.
There are a lot of peppers out there, both sweet and hot. I’m growing about ten different varieties this year.
I like to experiment with varieties because I don’t want to miss out! I keep thinking maybe this one will be even more productive, so on I go.
One thing to remember is that they are tender plants and require a long growing season.
For this reason, I start them early indoors under grow lights. That way by the time the weather has warmed up enough to plant them outside I already have well-established plants.
Peppers can be tricky beasts to germinate. I have found this to be particularly true for the really spicy varieties.
A propagator is the best way to start these seeds, as they require a lot of humidity and a constant temperature.
That doesn’t mean you must rush out and buy one, though. I have had a lot of success with my milk bottle propagator this year.
I always start my pepper seeds by leaving them on the surface of the soil and not covering. You can see this in the photo above.
Just press them down, so they make good contact with the soil but are not covered.
Growing Outdoors or In?
You can grow peppers outdoors in many areas, but in the UK, they do better under glass.
This is your decision, though, and you can have success growing them outdoors, even in the UK. If you decide to grow outdoors, you will need to harden your young plants off.
This is a simple process and means you gradually move them outside over a couple of weeks.
This helps them acclimatise to the cooler conditions.
If you are in the USA, you will have much more success growing these heat-loving plants outdoors. In the UK, our summers are often a little cool for pepper plants.
Removing The Growing Tip
The first pruning method is to pinch out the growing tip. This is done to promote bushier rather than vertical growth.
Some people swear by this, and others say not to do it. I recommend you try it out on some plants and not others and find out what works for you.
You do it when the plant is still very young, just a bit above a seedling size. Pinch out the growing tip back to a set of leaves.
Like tomatoes, removing the suckers from your pepper plants can be a good idea.
Suckers are the growth shoot from the main stem just above a leaf node.
If you allow these to remain on the plant, the pepper will put more effort into developing foliage than fruit.
Again like tomatoes, it can be better to leave the suckers sometimes. On tomatoes, you do this with cherry varieties as the bushier growth leads to more fruit.
You leave the suckers on smaller chilli plants that produce lots of little fruit but prune them on ones that provide larger fruit. So your bell peppers, for example, should have the suckers removed regularly.
You can feed peppers with a nitrogen-heavy feed at first, then move to one with more phosphorus in it as they begin to flower.
Tomato feed can work well with pepper plants and is what I use.
You can start doing this from when the plants are quite young, around 8-10″ and keep going with a weekly feed until they are finished producing.
This can help increase your pepper yields. I use a paintbrush and dab it from flower to flower.
This is essential for indoor plants and very helpful for greenhouse-grown ones.
It may be that they will be pollinated naturally, but a little help can go a long way. The peppers’ flowers contain male and female parts, so this is an easy job.
Peppers produce many flowers, and if each is pollinated, that means more peppers for you!
Cut pepper plants off when they have changed colour, which means they have fully ripened.
You can cut them while green and let them ripen off the plant, but they never seem as lovely when harvested this way.
I use my long nose fruit pickers to harvest peppers. Find them in my store below.