Advice for Starting/Growing Peppers?

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
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My top three suggestions:
1. Soak the seeds for 8 hours or so (chamomile tea has been suggested) to soften the seed coat. otherwise once they germinate that hard coat can make it really difficult for the seed leaves to emerge.
2. I like to add a bit of dry organic fertilizer to the seed starting mix, because those seedlings are going to be in there a long time
3. Keep them warm until they sprout using a seedlings heat mat (if possible) and a humidity dome until they pop; then get them under lights as soon as possible.
 

Zeedman

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Different peppers can require different treatment. Whether hot or sweet, it is more a question of species.

Almost all sweet peppers, and most hot peppers (including pepperoncini, jalapeno, serrano, and most 'chili' peppers) are C. annuum. Those peppers are generally the fastest growing, and the most light demanding. I start those about 8 weeks prior to the planned transplant date. Much beyond that, and they will begin to get stunted & start flowering unless potted up.

Tobasco, Habanero & all of the super-hots are C. frutescens or C. chinense peppers. Those are more slow growing, often slow to germinate, and can be much more temperamental. Warm soil is critical to get good germination, and even then it can take 30 days or more. Provided that you have a space with adequate lighting, those should be started at least 3 months early... and over-wintering in large pots is not a bad strategy. For best results, these should be planned for the warmest spot in your garden, or potted.

C. baccatum peppers are not commonly grown commercially, but there are quite a few in seed saving circles. Ají amarillo, Bishop's crown, Brazilian starfish, and Lemon drop are some of those... and to my knowledge, ALL of them are hot. The only one I grow is Aji Cristal (moderately hot) which I start at nearly the same time as C. annuum peppers, although it does grow a little more slowly & could be started 2-3 weeks earlier. Reportedly some C. baccatum peppers are daylength sensitive, but I have not experienced this.

All peppers require warm soil for the best & fastest germination, either a warm location, or a heat mat. 80 degrees F. (27 C.) is a good target temp. Older pepper seed can have delayed or staggered germination - and the Habanero & super-hots can be challenging even with new seed.

It has been my observation that peppers thrive in light shade - especially the C. chinense and C. baccatum peppers, which are more tolerant of low light (as in artificial lighting) than C. annuum. If growing without support, most C. annuum peppers seem to thrive on close spacing, no more than 18-24" (45-60 cm) apart. I generally plant them in rows 12" apart, 24" apart in each row & staggered from row to row. This helps the plants to support each other, and helps to preserve soil moisture.

OK, when I posted, the format changed. so editing:
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If caging (the only good use IMO for those small wire-hoop "tomato" cages), I go 24" apart each way for C. annuum, and 30-36" (~75-90 cm) apart each way for the C. chinense varieties, which tend to be larger. Some of the non-annuum hot peppers can get very tall (4-5') and might require taller support to prevent their long branches from breaking under load.

Light fertilization helps, but too much N can result in excessive foliage at the expense of a delayed yield. I've actually had some really good pepper yields from short, stunted plants. For sweet peppers, keep the soil moist; but to get the most heat from hot peppers, allow them to dry out a little before harvest. Peppers harvested during hot weather will be more potent than the same peppers picked later, when temps have cooled. I've used that concept to harvest a medium-hot pepper (Pizza) just before frost, when it has maximum crunch & becomes almost completely sweet.
 
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heirloomgal

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So much good info in here, not much that I can add except maybe cut, cut and cut again. I'm not sure how long your season is @meadow but mine is on average end of May to mid/early Oct. So I start sweet peppers at 10-12 weeks and keep them cut back. I've had good harvests (for bells) with that method. I do bump up pot sizes as I go along.
 

meadow

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Thank you everyone!! So much good info. All of my peppers are C. annuum, so it sounds way too early to start them just yet. I'll have to read again in the morning (tiring day), but just had to say how grateful I am for all of your help! :)

Thanks bunches! :hugs
now bed... :th
 

ducks4you

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Different peppers can require different treatment. Whether hot or sweet, it is more a question of species.
...
All peppers require warm soil for the best & fastest germination, either a warm location, or a heat mat. 80 degrees F. (27 C.) is a good target temp. Older pepper seed can have delayed or staggered germination - and the Habanero & super-hots can be challenging even with new seed.

It has been my observation that peppers thrive in light shade - especially the C. chinense and C. baccatum peppers, which are more tolerant of low light (as in artificial lighting) than C. annuum. If growing without support, most C. annuum peppers seem to thrive on close spacing, no more than 18-24" (45-60 cm) apart. I generally plant them in rows 12" apart, 24" apart in each row & staggered from row to row. This helps the plants to support each other, and helps to preserve soil moisture.

OK, when I posted, the format changed. so editing:
X____X____X____X
___X____X____X
X____X____X____X

If caging (the only good use IMO for those small wire-hoop "tomato" cages), I go 24" apart each way for C. annuum, and 30-36" (~75-90 cm) apart each way for the C. chinense varieties, which tend to be larger. Some of the non-annuum hot peppers can get very tall (4-5') and might require taller support to prevent their long branches from breaking under load.

Light fertilization helps, but too much N can result in excessive foliage at the expense of a delayed yield. I've actually had some really good pepper yields from short, stunted plants. For sweet peppers, keep the soil moist; but to get the most heat from hot peppers, allow them to dry out a little before harvest. Peppers harvested during hot weather will be more potent than the same peppers picked later, when temps have cooled. I've used that concept to harvest a medium-hot pepper (Pizza) just before frost, when it has maximum crunch & becomes almost completely sweet.
VERY informative!
I always plant close and always stagger the rows, but I don't know how I understood this. Must be a gift.
As soon as I realized that those short tomato cages really work only for peppers, they are dedicated to my peppers now, and occassionally other plants, like to mark last year where a lone daffodil is growing, though I forgot to move it out last year, as well as the purple tulips I promised to move and plant in DD's yard end of the season, too.
We have been having warm spells, so it might happen this month.
 

meadow

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What size containers are y'all using?

How do you know when it is time to move them up in size?

Sizes I have on hand: soil blockers (itty bitty and 2" size), Kirkland Big Red Cups (my go-to 'pots' for pretty much everything), Jiffy Strip 8 (2") ,and an assortment of sizes from Bootstrap Farmer (the largest being their 5" pot).

@heirloomgal It sounds like our seasons are about the same length. We rarely have hot days. Is that the case for you too? I plan to set these out in a low tunnel, so that may help them get off to a good start.
 

digitS'

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Every time I read about peppers, I'm reminded that they are perennial plants. Despite the name annuum - they are descended from what is described by botanists as a Central American "shrub" that can grow 12 months out of the year. They produce a crop the first year.

As perennials, peppers seem to have strong willpower. ;) They want what they want. They can struggle through difficult times but that doesn't mean that they will be very productive. Of course, it is the production of peppers that make them of value to the gardener.

Peppers generate so much interest ;). I was looking at a source for seed for Capsicum annuum glabriusculum (ancestor to Capsicum annuum garden peppers) and learned that the Monticello gardens sell seed for historic varieties. Do any of our heirloom gardeners have experience with this seed source?

Steve
 

heirloomgal

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What size containers are y'all using?

How do you know when it is time to move them up in size?

Sizes I have on hand: soil blockers (itty bitty and 2" size), Kirkland Big Red Cups (my go-to 'pots' for pretty much everything), Jiffy Strip 8 (2") ,and an assortment of sizes from Bootstrap Farmer (the largest being their 5" pot).

@heirloomgal It sounds like our seasons are about the same length. We rarely have hot days. Is that the case for you too? I plan to set these out in a low tunnel, so that may help them get off to a good start.
I think they are too @meadow, though I think your temperatures are more moderated by ocean proximity. Summers vary here, but usually hover from the low 20's C/68F to low 30'sC/86F though there are more days in the 20's than the low 30's. And our season length can very considerably too, which is why I tend to start even sweet peppers quite early and pinch them. The forced branching will help compensate for the shortness of the season, so I can gather more peppers even though I can't give the plants as much time as they might need to do that in a longer season zone. They sometimes flower, but I just pinch the flowers and they're fine. I think a tunnel will be very helpful for you; in my experience peppers are more in need of trapped heat than endless sunlight. Even sweet peppers tend to grow better for me with a little bit of shade.

It's wierd but you can just tell as your peppers grow when they need a bigger pot, root circling will start to happen too. I start in pots about the size of the Kirkland cups, (though not that deep) and usually go up to a yogurt container. That said, I don't find the plants like those too much, they seem prefer the straight sides that don't taper at the base for some reason. The bigger perennial type pots from a place like Home Depot or Lowes are better to bump up with if you have them. The bigger my plants are by the time I put them out, the more peppers I'll get without fail.
 
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