Interested in adding more variety to your garden? Here’s how to grow and harvest peppers at home.
If you’re like us, you love the crisp crunch of biting into a perfectly ripe sweet pepper—and the burn of a hot chile pepper too.
Since they’re just so yummy—but can get a bit pricey when buying them from the supermarket—we decided to commission the advice of Niki Jabbour, author of “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener,” to walk us through some pointers on how to grow peppers at home.
Related Reading: 5 Tips on Starting a Vegetable Garden for Beginners
What Time of Year Should You Plant Peppers?
If you are thinking about planting peppers, it’s important to take into account which time of year they thrive.
“Peppers are heat-loving vegetables that should be transplanted into the garden or containers once the last frost date has passed in late spring,” Jabbour says.
She adds: “Keep newly planted seedlings well watered the first few weeks to encourage a dense root system.”
What Kind of Conditions Do Pepper Plants Thrive in?
If you want your pepper plants to really thrive, you need to ensure they’re growing in the most optimal environment.
For one, you want to “look for a spot that offers eight to ten hours of full sun each day,” Jabbour says. Exposing your plants to plenty of sunlight daily will help them to flourish, she explains.
Also, “if you’re in a cooler climate, you can try growing peppers in pots on a sunny deck, patio, or in a greenhouse,” Jabbour adds.
Finally, Jabbour says to be sure and “keep an eye out for pests like slugs” and flea beetles so that your peppers don’t end up getting eaten by unwanted garden guests. See a comprehensive guide to pepper pests for more.
Related Reading: 6 Natural Ways to Fight Garden Pests
How Do You Care for Peppers?
To grow bountiful pepper plants, your primary priority should be to keep them generously hydrated throughout the growing season.
“I water peppers two to three times a week in summer when the weather is hot and dry,” Jabbour says. As a pro tip, Jabbour points out that “potted crops need more water as the soil dries out quicker.”
As for garden-grown peppers, they “can be mulched with straw to hold soil moisture and reduce the need to water,” Jabbour says.
If you’re someone who likes to give your plants a bit of extra love, you can also use “a liquid organic vegetable fertilizer, which can be applied every two to three weeks to promote healthy growth.”
How Do You Know When Peppers Are Ready to Be Harvested?
As for when to harvest them, it really depends on the pepper type.
For example, “sweet peppers can be harvested when they are green or when they reach their mature color—red, yellow, orange, even purple! This takes two to three months, depending on the pepper,” Jabbour explains. (A green bell pepper is simply a less mature form and has a grassier, slightly more bitter flavor than a sweet bell pepper that’s been on the vine long enough to turn a brighter color.)
As for hot peppers, they “also need two to three months of garden time to yield a bumper crop of spicy fruits,” Jabbour adds.
If you aren’t sure when to harvest your peppers, you can typically find “specific information on maturity written on the seed packet or plant label,” she says.
How to Prepare Peppers Once Harvested
Ripe peppers are a versatile vegetable that can be implemented in endless dishes and meal types.
For example, if you’re a big fan of stuffed peppers, try our Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Ground Chicken (just as good with any other color), or go for our Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Black Beans and Cheese.
A banana pepper crop can be pickled to last longer. Habanero peppers are perfect blended into a jerk marinade, hot sauce, or salsa. Jalapeño peppers can be used in their common green form or left to turn red and then smoked for homemade chipotle peppers.
You’ll find more recipes in the guide below.
Header image courtesy of Wesley Martinez Da Costa / EyeEm / Getty Images