Planting Peppers in the Home Garden

Peppers belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade family (along with tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants). Peppers are easy to grow, don’t require a great deal of space in the garden, and produce good yields.

Types of Peppers

            Peppers can be divided into several different groups/types based on pungency, flavor, culinary use, fruit shape, and color. Commonly grown types include Anaheim (long, thin, tapered fruit; sweet to mild), ancho (long, blocky fruit; mild), bell (blocky, 3- or 4-lobed fruit; sweet), cayenne (thin, tapered fruit; very hot), cherry (small, round fruit; mild to hot), cubanelle (long, tapered fruit; sweet), habanero (small, tapered fruit; very hot), jalapeno (small, oblong fruit; hot), pimento (large, heart-shaped fruit; sweet), serrano (small, tapered fruit; hot), and Hungarian wax (oblong fruit; mild to hot). There are also ornamental peppers which are grown for their attractive fruit and foliage.

Suggested Cultivars

            Suggested bell pepper cultivars for home gardens in Iowa include ‘Alliance,’ ‘Aristotle,’ ‘Big Bertha,’ ‘California Wonder,’ ‘Early Sunsation,’ ‘Karisma,’ ‘King Arthur,’ ‘New Ace,’ ‘Red Knight,’and‘Vanguard.’  All of the aforementioned cultivars, with one exception, produce fruit that turn from green to red at maturity. The fruit of ‘Early Sunsation’ turn from green to yellow at maturity.

Planting

            Pepper plants perform best in well-drained soils in full sun. The planting site should receive at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.

            Peppers are a warm-season vegetable. Plant peppers in the garden after the danger of frost is past. In central Iowa, peppers can be planted in mid-May. Gardeners in southern Iowa can plant one week earlier, while those in northern counties should wait an extra week. The last practical date for planting peppers is approximately June 20.

            Space plants 18 inches apart within the row. Rows should be spaced 24 to 30 inches apart. After planting, fertilize pepper plants with a starter fertilizer solution. A starter fertilizer solution can be prepared by following directions on a water-soluble fertilizer or by dissolving two tablespoons of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in one gallon of water. Give each plant 1 to 2 cups of the solution.

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