Growing Peppers on Cape Cod

Growing Peppers on Cape Cod

10 Tips for Successful Peppers In the Garden

The first seeds to be started indoors are often peppers. Pepper seeds take longer to germinate, depending on the soil and room temperatures, and the plants also require a longer growing season to produce. Here are 10 tips for growing peppers on Cape Cod.

  1. At Hyannis Country Garden we sell pepper seeds and plants. We typically carry the following varieties in six packs from mid-May into June: California Wonder, Cayanne, Habanero, Hot Hungarian Wax, Yellow Bell, Red Bell, Jalapeño , Banana, Red Cherry Hot, Lady Bell and Cubanelle. Often we will have single pots of these or other varieties as they become available from the growers. We usually have the largest selection of pepper plants from the third week in May through the middle of June.
If you only need a couple of pepper plants for growing on your deck or patio, purchasing plants in May is a sensible way to go.

2. If there are special varieties of peppers you want to grow, or if you want a large number of plants inexpensively, it’s best to grow them from seed and now it the time to start them. Pepper seeds typically take 10 to 25 days to germinate. The warmer the room and the soil, the faster the seeds will sprout. For those who are starting seeds in cooler rooms, a seed-starting heat mat is a good investment. These can be used now for peppers, and later in March for starting tomatoes and eggplant. Grow pepper plants in a very sunny window or underneath grow lights.

Heat mats keep pots at the right temperature to stimulate germination. They are made to get wet as well.

3. Pick the type of pepper you want to grow. Some peppers are sweet and others spicy. The seed package will tell you what flavor profile each type of pepper has, and how long it will take to go from seed germination to harvest.

Botanical Interest has several varieties of pepper seeds, from small and hot to large and sweet.

4. On Cape Cod pepper plants are usually planted outside when the night temperatures are reliably above 50° F. This typically is in the third or fourth week of May. If you’ve started plants from seed, or purchased them earlier, they can be hardened off by moving them into full sun gradually, over a period of ten days to two weeks. If the nights are still cold, move the pots back indoors or into a garage for overnight.

The backs of the seed packets explain how deeply to plant pepper seeds when you start them. On Cape Cod pepper seeds are best started early, indoors, since they can take up to 25 days to germinate and the plants tend to grow slowly.

5. Grow peppers in the garden or in pots. When growing in containers, use a good quality potting soil such as Espoma or Coast of Maine organic soils. The pH of those potting mixes is already perfect for growing vegetables. When growing peppers in your garden, have a pH test done by the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension. Peppers grow best in soils with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, but never assume you know what your soil’s acidity or alkalinity is.

Peppers grow well in slightly acidic to neutral soils. Have a pH test done so you know for sure if any adjustments are needed.

6. Plant peppers in full sun. Aim for a location that is in the sun from 9 AM to 5 PM or longer. If that much sun isn’t available on your property, find places with sun all afternoon, when sunlight is the strongest.

7. When you put new, small pepper plants in the garden, make a small shield out of a strip of paper that goes down into the soil about a half inch, and up around the stem. This protects tender plants from cutworm larvae, which live under the soil and can cut a plant off at ground level.

A strip of paper is all that’s needed for cut worm protection. Once the pepper plant is larger and the stem is strong, this is no longer needed, so don’t worry if it decomposes in the coming weeks.

8. Plan on staking your pepper plants. Peppers are heavy, and the plants can tip over, especially in fall wind storms. You can use single wooden stakes (use a stake, not a skinny bamboo pole), a tripod made of bamboo, a small “tomato cage”, or bamboo hoops. Tie tomato plants to the stakes with soft material ties or twine.

Pepper plants can be tied to stakes as they grow to support heavy fruit. The smaller “tomato cages” can also be used for holding pepper plants.

9 In cool, rainy periods pepper plants can get septoria leaf spot. Usually this is a cosmetic problem on the foliage and doesn’t affect the fruit, but if you want to protect newly emerging leaves, spray with an organic fungicide.

On Cape Cod we often see leaf spot on pepper plants. Usually this doesn’t affect the fruit, but if your plants are especially infected and leaves start to yellow, you can spray with an organic fungicide. Come into the store on West Main Street and we’ll help you find the right product for spraying on your plants. Note: most fungicides should not be applied on hot, sunny days.

10. Watch for ripening fruit and pick them promptly. Peppers left on the plants too long, especially in the fall as the weather cools, can rot quickly.

Did you get a bumper crop of peppers this summer? Peppers can be cut and frozen raw, roasted and frozen, dried, or made into a paste with olive oil, and then frozen in small amounts.

On Sunday, February 26th, 2023 at 1 PM we will have a free, in-store class on growing vegetables in small spaces. Because space is limited we ask those who want to attend to register here.

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