Peppers under a plastic hoop tunnel (left), a variety of peppers, one day harvest from 16 plants (right)
First pick a spot that will receive full sun all day. Plant your peppers or tomatoes in a raised bed. One that is 3 to 4 ft wide and any length is best. You can reach all the plants from the side without having to walk on and compact the soil around the plants. Rich, well drained soil is best. One part sphagnum peat moss, one part well rotted manure to three parts soil works well. Mix in one cup of bone meal, one cup of blood meal. Mix this into the top 6 inches of soil mix. If this is done in the fall earthworms will work your soil and make it even better for your peppers in the spring. Plant them about 16-18 inches apart. Look for pepper plants at your garden shop that are about 6 inches tall. These larger plants will produce peppers sooner than smaller plants.
What Varieties Should I Plant?
There are so many varieties of peppers but the main categories are: Sweet (bell, banana and cherry types etc.) and Hot (bell, chile, cherry, jalapeño, etc.). Our favorite sweet varieties are Honeybelle Orange, Marconi (a sweet elongated pepper with a hint of smoky taste), and most sweet green bell peppers. Some of our favorite hots are Mexibell (a mildy hot bell pepper that are excellent stuffed and cooked), Big Chile Hybrid (a hot chile that grows to over 7 inches long), Mucho Nacho Jalapeño (a little bigger and hotter than the jalpeño) and Super Chile Hybrid (this petite cayenne is great dried, crushed and shaken on pizza).
When Do I Plant and How Do I Take Care of Them?
Peppers are tender plants and can not tolerate frost. They will only grow in warm soil so don't rush them to the garden. In Colorado Springs, usually the last week in May is safe. Some of us have used plastic tunnels and plant our peppers under these tunnels. Using 1/2 inch white PVC pipes in 10 foot lengths, we cover these pipes with 4 mil or 6 mil clear plastic. In the cool days of the planting we close off the tunnel completely with plastic. Be careful because a hot day with a closed tunnel can quickly damage your plants. After about two weeks the tunnels are opened more to the outside (see the picture below). Keep the plastic partially covering your peppers throughout the season (as shown below). You will have to check almost daily to make sure that the soil stays moist. Fertilize with fish emulsion (as per dilution instructions on the bottle) once in July and once in August. You should have an abundant harvest. Remember that many peppers will turn red if you let them ripen on the plant. However letting your peppers ripen too long signals to the plant to stop producing peppers and this could decrease your yield.