By Sommer Cartier, for Let’s Talk Plants! May 2023.
Pick a Peck of Peppers
When it comes to growing peppers in San Diego, there are several strategies that you can utilize to ensure that you have a pleasant growing season while maximizing your pepper harvest. Below are some tips and tricks to get you started.
Choose the right pepper varieties:
When it comes to growing peppers in San Diego, it's important to consider the climate and growing conditions. Most peppers prefer warm weather and plenty of sunshine, making our climate the perfect location for growing these plants. Some good options for San Diego gardens include bell peppers, jalapenos, Poblanos, Serranos, Anaheim peppers, and cayenne peppers.
It's also important to choose the right type of pepper for your needs. If you’re looking for a sweet pepper, bell peppers or Italian sweet peppers are a good choice. If you prefer a little heat, consider growing Anaheim or Poblano peppers. If you’re someone who likes a lot of heat, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero, or Ghost peppers are good options.
Provide lots of sunlight:
Peppers love sunlight and will do best if planted in a location that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. If you can’t find in-the-ground space that meets this need, peppers will also grow well in 2 gallons or larger pots placed on a sunny patio or balcony. Just make sure to use nutrient rich potting soil and a container with plenty of drainage.
Use well-draining soil:
Peppers need a steady supply of air, nutrients and water and therefore do best in well-drained, ph-neutral, sandy loam soil or quality potting mix. Without proper drainage, the roots of pepper plants can sit in water and become waterlogged. Waterlogged roots, or “wet feet” are highly susceptible to a host of fungal diseases that can either kill the plant or prevent it from producing fruit.
Water consistently and deeply:
Peppers prefer consistent moisture and should be watered regularly and deeply, especially during hot and dry periods. Avoid over-watering by allowing the top couple inches of soil to dry out between waterings. To help conserve moisture, place mulch in the form of wood chips, straw or leaves around the base of the plant. This will help promote healthy root growth while also suppressing weeds.
Peppers need fertilizer, however, they don't especially enjoy getting it in large doses. When starting your plants, mix a healthy amount of compost into the soil. Once the plants begin to bloom, side-dress the plants with rich organic fertilizer, following the directions provided on the back of the box. Avoid over-fertilization, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth with reduced fruit production.
Follow integrative pest management techniques:
Peppers are generally easy to grow, especially if you practice IPM techniques to keep them healthy and strong. Keep the ground clear of weeds and decomposing debris that competes for nutrients and harbor pests. Make sure you provide plenty of space between plants to allow for adequate airflow. When watering your plants, concentrate on the soil at the base of the plants and avoid getting the leaves wet. Leaves that are made wet in the sun can develop slight burn marks. Leaves that are kept wet overnight are more susceptible to leaf-mold and fungal diseases.
Keep an eye out for common pepper pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites, and promptly address any infestations. Use organic insecticides as needed, following instructions carefully. Also, keep an eye out for diseases such as powdery mildew or bacterial spot and take appropriate measures to prevent their spread.
Harvest peppers when ripe:
Peppers are ready for harvest when they reach their desired size and color. Most peppers can be harvested when they are green, but allowing them to ripen to their final color will result in sweeter and more flavorful peppers.
With these simple tips and tricks, you should be well on your way to a successful pepper growing season!