This is a fantastic crop for you to grow at home. Both pepper types produce bright peppers that give the windowsill or containers an exotic touch. And the flavoursome sweet or hot peppers make a great ingredient for kitchen recipes.
Just a bit of TLC at the intial stages of growing, and you’ll be rewarded with colourful and numerous peppers.
Peppers vary from being very sweet to being incredibly hot, with lots of variants in between:
Sweet Peppers – Different varieties of sweet pepper grow to reach different sizes, look out for those labelled ‘dwarf’ or ‘compact’ plants, which are bushy and grow to around 25cm tall. Non dwarf varieties can grow to between 60 and 100cm tall. The fruit of sweet peppers vary in shape, size and colour from variety to variety, shapes include conical, square and bonnet-shaped, and colours include green, yellow, orange, purple and white.
Chilli Peppers – Available in dwarf form as well as tall and a range of different flavours and hotness, there’s plenty to choose from and all are quite unique. Chilli peppers are easier to store than sweet peppers. Often, the plants provide too many chillies to eat in a season, which is why it's useful to be able to store them for use at a later date. Some varieties are suitable for drying, such as Cayenne, and others can be preserved in oil, pickled or frozen. If you're going to freeze them, be aware that they go very soggy once they've defrosted so it's best to use them chopped up in recipes.
Sowing chilli and pepper seeds in pots in March for an outdoor crop, or mid-February for an indoor crop. Sow two seeds per pot, and remove the weaker seedling about a month later, as they grow.
Before planting outside in June, be sure to harden off, by placing the plant outdoors by day, and bringing in in the evening on cool nights. While raising seedlings indoors, (or if growing peppers to maturity indoors) keep the plants well misted to keep the pest red spider mite at bay. Misting to raise humidity levels also encourages fruit set. You may need to re-pot peppers several times before they go into their final position, as they’re fast growers once they get started. They’re happy growing in pots or containers and there are plenty of types available to choose from, including dwarf types such as Basket of Fire, which can be grown on a windowsill if you don’t have a greenhouse.
Planting Peppers and Chillies
Plant in June outdoors either in containers or in the ground with protection such as cloches or horticultural fleece until well into summer. If growing more than one plant in open ground, space at 45cm (1 ½ ft) apart.
Feeding Peppers and Chillies
Provide both sweet and chilli peppers with a soil added with general purpose fertiliser. At fruiting provide a potassium-rich feed such as tomato feed with each watering.
Watering Peppers and Chillies
Regular misting is advised to keep red spider mite at bay, especially when growing under glass. Keep crops well watered but be mindful not to have the soil sodden
Grow peppers and chillies in a sunny and sheltered site if outdoors, and be sure not to expose plants, especially when young, to cold conditions or drafts. When raising seedlings indoors, ensure an ambient temperature of 15-20C (60-70F).
Caring for growing crops
Don’t be tempted to pinch out tips as plants naturally branch out unaided. Only pinch out tips as a last resort if the plant is growing spindly or is reluctant to branch. To keep your plant growing in a bushy shape and to encourage the growth of more fruit, cut off the growing tip of the stem (just above a branching point) once it reaches about 35cm tall. The growing tips can also be pinched out of the branching stems as well to encourage even more fruit. If the plants become heavily laden with fruit the branches may require a little bit of support from a small cane or stake. For best results, feed with Bio-Gro Black Gold or Tomato Plant feed, once every two weeks, once the plants are established. This will encourage the plants to produce as many chillies or peppers as possible. Keep chilli and pepper plants moist, but try not to over water - they don’t like to sit in water for long periods of time. They enjoy high humidity, which can be achieved by watering the floor of the greenhouse or leaving trays of water next to the plants. Where the plants are grown under cover, keep them well ventilated. If possible, spray or mist the foliage with water every day.
Harvesting and Storing Peppers and Chillies
Chillies and peppers grown from seed: July - October
Chillies and peppers grown from plants: July – September
Harvest chilli and sweet peppers when they are still slightly immature. This will encourage further fruiting. Pick green sweet pepper when they are smooth and glossy. Peppers may take up to two weeks to mature, and longer if it’s a dull summer.
Health Benefits of Chillies and Peppers
Peppers a packed full of vitamins A, C and K which support the immune system and cells. They’re full of antioxidants too. Chillies contain capsaicin which could reduce cholesterol and also help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
Pests and Diseases of Peppers - Red spider mite, Aphid, Whitefly