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What is the best kind of soil to use for pepper plants?

We like to use a mixture of mainly good loose compost, top soil, with also some cow manure and mushroom compost.  Some even add sand because it loosens it up quite a bit.  You can also add Perlite to aerate the soil, keeping it loose and well drained – It’s better for container growing.  Also Peat Moss is a good medium to add aeration to the soil.


How do you start pepper seedlings?

A lot of people like the paper towel method which is placing the seeds between a wet folded paper towel and into a Ziploc bag.  We tried this a several times and had good success but we also experienced molding on the seeds.  We’ve had the best luck just staring them directly in solo cups about 1/8 to ¼ inch deep.  Also we are big fan of the double cup method.  This when you cut or drill holes in one cup and place inside another cup.  Then you feed the nutrients from the bottom.  You still keep the upper half of the soil moist as you don’t want it to totally dry out.


Topping Pepper Plants – How do you do it? Should I do it? What are the advantages?:

Topping is basically pruning the plant so that it grows additional off-shoots below your cut, so that it forms a bushier fuller plant in the hopes of increasing its fruit production. 

How do you do this?…Wait till the plant is about 8 inches or 4 or more sets of leaves and cut down to about 6 inches. 

Should you do this?  We recommend it if you have enough time before planning outside.  So if you have at least a month before transplant – yes. If any less than that it’s probably not worth the time it sets you back.  Some people argue that a plant is going to eventually have the same amount of fruit production.


When is it safe to transplant seedlings from inside to outside?

Rule of thumb is wait until the last frost.  Go on the weather history for your area and look up the last record freeze and that can be a good indicator you are safe.  Then look at the 10 day forecast to judge if you are safe or need to wait a couple more days.  It’s always better to wait a couple extra days if the weather looks iffy.  Don’t risk your hard work to try and gain a couple extra days. 


What is hardening off and how is it done?

Plants have been in a controlled environment all nice and cozy and perfect for the last couple months.  So, you have to take the time to do this or your plants will get sun scalded in about an hour of being placed outside and you could lose the entire plant.  The idea is to introduce them to the elements gradually. 

Place them outside for 30 min to 45 min.  The sign to look for is wait till the leave just start wilting/ drooping a little and then bring them in and wait for them to perk back up….probably 30-60 min.  I like to repeat this a couple times a day to speed up the process.  Each time you can increase the amount of time in the sun and elements until after about a week they can take a full 6-8 hours.  Then they are ready to go in pots or in the ground.


How much room do I need to space out my pepper plants?

Ideally if you have the room, I would space them 4 ft.  You can get away with as close as 2 feet but you are going to have a wall of peppers at the end of the season.  If it’s just a row or two that would still work fine because you can get on either side.

Pots are a great option because you can constantly move and adjust them around depending on the plants.  Root Pots are a great option and have really gained popularity recently.  Some have handles on them which makes them really easy to move around.


What is the best way to rid Aphids?

We like to use a concentrated insecticidal soap mix.  It costs about $20 for 16 oz.  Spray all over the plant especially the undersides of the leaves where the pests like to hide.  Use one hand to spray and the other hand to just move the leaves around so you are sure to get every area of each plant.  Usually they will die within about 30 minutes.  After about 1 hour, wash off or mist the plants with water because the lighting and/or sun can cause damage to the plants with that soap film on the plant.  Some recommend Dawn or other Dish soap – but we found it’s just not as effective and when we used it indoors it really seems to stunt the growth of our plants.         

Other ways to kill aphids: Some people also swear by using Neem Oil but we just didn’t have good experiences compared to Soap spray.

Some love to use ladybugs. We tried it once but was leery because you release 3000 of them and yeah they get on the plants right away but go out the next day and try to find them – 75% of them are gone and your $15 flew away.  We even released them in an enclosed greenhouse and after a week hardly any could be found.


What other uses for Neem Oil are there – what is it and what are the advantages of it?

Neem oil is an organic pesticide.  It’s made from the seeds of the Neem Tree.  We prefer using Fertilome Triple Action Neem Oil

Neem Oil works good to battle – Aphids, Mites, White Fly’s, Snails, Nematodes, Mealybugs, Cabbage Worms, Gnats, Moths, and repels plant eaters with its bitter taste.  It is also effective preventing Fungal Diseases such as: Black Spot, Anthracnose, Rust and Mildew.  Also battles Viruses harmful to plants.    

Advantages of Neem Oil:  Nontoxic (as long as not sprayed directly on beneficial insects), Organic and Biodegradable.

Note that it is best to use neem early in the morning or late at night as the sun can cause the leaves to be damaged.  We like to apply when it’s forecast to rain a couple hours afterward to wash away off the leaves. 


How often do you water peppers?

When watering in the garden it just depends on how much sun they are getting.   All our garden areas are on automatic timers.  We have them set to water first thing in the morning before 8am and again in the late afternoon when the sun is at its hottest.  On really hot days of 90+ degrees we monitor the plants and might even water another time depending on how much rain has been received recently.  Also depending on rainfall we might turn off the timers to save on water that is not needed. 


Why are the leaves on my pepper plants turning yellow?

  • Magnesium or Sulfur Deficiency.  – apply a balanced fertilizer.
  • Lack of Nitrogen.
  • Lack of Water
  • Excessive Watering.
  • Disease such as bacterial leaf spot, blight (you will see some brown spotting when some of these diseases are present.)
  • Pests such as aphids and white fly's.


Why do all the flowers on my pepper plant keep dropping?
  • Too much water – make sure to just keep it just wet enough – watch the plant to tell you when to water.
  • Day time temp to high >95.
  • Night time temp to low < 65 or too high>85.
  • Root bound plants –too small of a pot.
  • Low Light Levels – if plants are inside they need lots of light. If outside make sure they are not in the shade all day.
  • Low humidity levels.
  • Too much nitrogen fertilizer – Nitrogen helps in growth stage not the flowering and blooming stage.
  • Poor air circulation.
  • Lack of pollinating insects (indoor plants) – if not pollinated in time flowers eventually will just die and fall off.


Why are my pepper plant leaves all deformed, curled and bubbly looking?

Most likely reason is a calcium deficiency.  Peppers are notorious for this.  It also could be too cool outside. If it is under 65 degrees the plant will have trouble delivering calcium to the plant due to the cool weather.


Why are the leaves on my pepper plant small, thin and wrinkled with a lot of curled deformations and the main stem on the leaves are zigzagged?

You most likely have mites.  You will not be able to see very well as they are extremely tiny. Mite infestations cause the leaves to shrivel and not grow properly.

We use Fertilome Triple Action Neem Oil and spray all over especially on the underside where the mites hide. You will need to treat your plants at least 3 times about every 5 days. The 1st treatment kills the adults.  The second treats the new ones that have hatched since and the 3rd treatment gets rid of any remaining.  Within 3 weeks your plants should produce new leaves perfectly.  All the leaves that were previously damaged will stay shriveled which is not a problem.  Just make sure all new growth is normal or continue to make applications until the pests are eradicated.

Note that if you have any affected plants that are in the flowering stage that it’s a great deal harder to rid them because the mites like to hide in between the calyx and flower and the spray can’t get to them as easy to kill them.


Why are my unripe peppers turning dark purple to almost black?

You probably will notice that this coloration is only on one side of the peppers or upward facing.  It’s nothing to worry about as it is just a sunburn from over exposure to the sun.  When the pepper ripens it should go away and look normal.  If pepper plants are getting more than 8 hours of sun a day more than likely you will see some sunburn on the peppers.


How can I store my peppers longer?

They should last a little longer when refrigerating them and will last anywhere from 2-3 weeks.  You can also freeze them and they will last until the next year or longer.  They will however be a little soggy when thawed but this does not affect the taste or hotness at all.  You can still cook with them the same way.


How do you over-winter pepper plants?

The idea of over wintering is to cut them back to take up the least amount of space and keep them alive so when spring time comes around you have a head start in getting them outside to produce quicker.  We like to cut back pretty heavily so we can fit as many as we can in the greenhouse.  You don’t want to cut all the leaves off because you need some so it can still photosynthesize. 


How long can pepper plants live?

Peppers are basically perennials and will live a very long time if cared for and it stays above freezing.  We have several that are going on year three and they are doing pretty well.  Some people claim they have pepper plants 8+ years old.


What is the best way to handle and de-seed super-hot peppers and what precautions do you take?

You can pick hot peppers with bare hands as long as the insides/membranes are not exposed.  If you do get some of the membranes on your hands Dawn soap works well.  Just lather up awhile then keep running under the water several minutes.  For deseeding we like to use the Blue Nitrile gloves which are latex free.  They seem to work better that normal Latex gloves.  The capsinoids in the pepper oil eventually gets through latex gloves.  Still be sure to wash your hands well afterward and be sure not to rub your eyes for a while anyway.


What do you do with the Super-Hot peppers.
  • Make pepper oil extract.
  • Cook with them:….Chilli, Pepper Jelly, Hot Sauce, Salsa.
  • Dehydrate them and make into powders or flakes. – make sure in a garage or outdoors so the vapors don’t kill everyone.
  • Freeze them to use later.
  • Smoke them.
  • Deseed and grown more peppers the next year.
  • Pickle them or make spicy pickles or other spicy pickled stuff.


Please email us if you have any other questions that were not answered.