How to grow peppers
Sweet peppers are easy to grow and delicious in salads as well as cooked in stews and stir fries. There are so many more tasty and beautiful varieties available to grow your self it is well worth giving them a go.
Peppers are tender plants but will thrive in plenty of warmth and light. However, they need a long sunny season and although peppers can be grown outside once the summer gets going, growing peppers indoors, in the heat of a greenhouse, will always give you a better harvest. Peppers can be grown in pots or grow-bags and if you grow peppers outside make sure you give plants the warmest, sunniest spot you've got such as the base of a south facing, sheltered wall.
How to grow peppers
To flower, fruit and ripen peppers need a long growing season so the first tip on when to sow peppers is to start early. Maximise their growing season by sowing them in late winter or very early spring and you are all but guaranteed a bumper harvest. The earlier peppers germinate the more chance you have of getting a good crop. If you miss the boat, young pepper plants, especially grafted ones, are available from the garden centre in spring.
When considering how to grow peppers it is important to know that their seeds need a temperature of at least 20°C and good light levels to germinate, so start them off in a heated propagator, on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse. If you haven't got a propagator, clear plastic bags or cling film over seed trays works well too and will also help to keep up humidity. Sow seeds on the surface of moist multipurpose compost in seed trays with modular cells to reduce plant stress when potting plants on, and cover them with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite. Keep the compost moist, as peppers don't like to dry out, but do not over water.
When seedlings have two true leaves pot them on into individual 9cm pots. Keep their compost moist and grow plants on until roots appear through the base of their pots and then pot plants on into their final containers or grow bags. Another good tip on how to grow peppers is to stake plants now to prevent them toppling over later when they are laden with fruit. When considering how to grow peppers outside, wait until at least mid May and then harden them off over a period of 7-10 days before planting them out. As soon as plants begin to flower start giving them a weekly high potash liquid feed, such as tomato fertilizer, to maximize flavour.
When to harvest peppers
A guide to when to harvest peppers is that they are ready when they are green, and glossy - if planted early this should be from late July onwards. Another tip on when to harvest peppers is that they can be picked when they are green or left on the plant to ripen further to red or yellow, depending on variety. Red, yellow and orange peppers are sweeter but yield will be reduced, as plants will not be able to produce so many peppers.