Growing peppers has been getting a bit of attention for a long time as more growers try to kick up the heat and blow each other’s taste buds off. For the home gardener, peppers are a great addition to any space because they are so easy to grow. The best news, it’s officially time to start planting your pepper seeds indoors.
Peppers are divided into two categories — sweet and heat (also called bell and hot peppers). Today’s peppers also come with a spice measurement called the Scoville scale. This number lets you know how much physical damage you are going to do by eating the pepper.
For example, a bell pepper has a Scoville number of zero, the jalapeno comes somewhere between 2,500 and 10,000. The newest varieties of reapers like the Carolina reaper pepper have a Scoville measurement of 2,200,000. People who have eaten these peppers say the burn is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. (I’ll take their word on it.)
When growing peppers at home, start eight to10 weeks before the last frost. Peppers can handle being transplanted and most varieties stay pretty compact, so you can grow them inside easily.
Baby peppers like warm feet so many home growers will set the planting tray on top of a heating blanket set at low. Once the pepper has developed several leaves, lowering the room temperature to 15C while keeping the heating blanket on will help encourage more fruit from the plant.
When transplanting, it is very important to plant your pepper in the ground at the same height as it was in the pot. This is the one requirement your pepper has. Otherwise, put it in a hot and sunny spot and let it grow. Avoid adding too much fertilizer to your plant. Over-feeding causes your plant to grow lots of leaves ... and not a lot of anything else.
Unripe peppers are green. You want to harvest yours when they begin to change colours. Make sure to use snips to remove the fruit from the plant to encourage more fruit to grow in the same spot.
Flag your hot peppers. Many gardeners have handled hot peppers with bare hands and then rubbed their eyes (or scratched their face ... speaking from experience). Getting any of the chili oil on your skin is very painful. In fact, expert hot pepper gardeners will wear rubber gloves when doing gardening around their pepper plants.
My favourite tip about peppers — when your pepper plants are about to flower, spray them with Epsom salts. (one tablespoon to one litre of water) This shot of magnesium will encourage more fruit growth.
Carson Arthur is an international landscape designer and media personality with a focus on environmentally friendly design and low maintenance outdoor rooms.