of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
The most popular peppers in vegetable gardens are
sweet bell peppers, banana peppers and pungent Hungarian wax
peppers. Peppers are normally harvested in the immature green
stage for use in relishes, salads, stuffings and for flavor
in many cooked dishes.
As peppers are of tropical origin, plants thrive best
when temperatures are warm. Peppers are very sensitive to cold,
and planting should be delayed until all danger of frost is
past in the spring. Ideal temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees
F during the day, and 60 to 70 degrees F at night. Extremely
high temperatures (90 degrees F or above) during flowering
often results in blossom drop. Fruit that set when temperatures
average above 80 degrees F may be small and poorly shaped due
to heat injury to the blossoms. Temperatures below 60 degrees
F at night will also result in blossom drop.
A shortage of water at bloom time can also result
in blossom drop or failure to set fruit. Pepper plants usually
set satisfactory crops when temperatures are between 65 and
80 degrees F and the soil is well-supplied with moisture. Avoid
soggy, water-logged soil when growing peppers.
Pepper plants grow best in warm, well-drained soils
of moderate fertility and good tilth. The plants are not particularly
sensitive to soil acidity, but best results are obtained in
the 6.0 to 6.8 pH range. Adjust soil fertility as indicated
by soil test results. Fertilizers
of a 1-2-2 ratio, such as 5-10-10 or 8-16-16, are often used
for growing peppers.
Peppers are usually grown by using transplants rather
than by direct seeding. Select stocky, sturdy plants that have
3-5 sets of true leaves. Avoid plants that already have flowers
Space plants 18 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart
or more, depending on the type of cultivation used. Water plants
thoroughly after transplanting.
After the plants are well established, apply a mulch
to conserve soil moisture, prevent soil compaction and help
suppress weed growth. Once fruits have begun to set, an additional
sidedressing of fertilizer will help promote greater plant
productivity. Use a 12-12-12 analysis fertilizer or other high
nitrogen fertilizer at the rate recommended on the package.
Control weeds by hand-pulling or shallow cultivation
to avoid injury to the plant roots. The incidence of disease
can be reduced with proper spacing, by watering early in the
day so leaves dry quickly and with the use of soaker hoses.
Aphids should be controlled
as they may carry viral diseases that can affect peppers. European
corn borers may make small holes near the stem of the pepper
and cause internal rot of the fruit.
Bell peppers are usually picked once they have reached
full size and are firm, but are still green and immature. They
will be sweeter and higher in vitamin content, however, if
allowed to ripen on the plant. Other peppers are usually harvested
at full maturity.
Care should be taken when breaking the peppers from
the plants, as the branches are often brittle. Hand clippers
or pruners can be used to cut peppers from the plant to avoid
excessive stem breakage. The number of peppers per plant varies
with the variety. Bell pepper plants may produce six to eight
or more fruit per plant.
In general, peppers have short storage life of only
one to two weeks. Cool, moist conditions (45 to 50 degrees
F) and 85 to 90 percent relative humidity are the ideal storage
conditions for peppers.
Adapted from Marianne
Riofrio, Ohio State University Extension, 2000
are poisonous! Read and follow all safety precautions on labels.
Handle carefully and store in original containers out of reach
of children, pets or livestock. Dispose of empty containers
immediately, in a safe manner and place. Pesticides should never
be stored with foods or in areas where people eat.
When trade names are used for identification, no product endorsement
is implied, nor is discrimination intended against similar materials.
Be sure that the pesticide you intend to use is registered for
the state of use.
The user of this information assumes all risk for personal injury
or property damage.
information, call the URI CE Gardening and Food Safety Hotline
at 1-800-448-1011 or (401)874-2929 from outside Rhode Island;
Monday-Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm.
of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provides equal program