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HARVESTING HOT PEPPERS

The first peppers should be ready to pick just 10-12 weeks after transplanting. Harvesting the fruit as it matures encourages the plant to continue producing. Jalapenos are mature when they become a deep, dark green. Most other hot peppers should be picked after a color change from green. Your hot pepper plants should continue to produce until the first frost in the fall although production slows as the weather cools.

Hot peppers are mainly used in sauces and flavoring. However, peppers have countless other uses:

  • They are good raw or cooked.
  • Eat them as a snack, on sandwiches, to decorate food, or add them to salads, casseroles and pizza.
  • Stuff peppers with seasoned bread crumbs, cheese or meat, and bake.
  • Pickle them in vinegar with other crisp vegetables.
  • Dry peppers in a dehydrator for seasonings.
  • Freeze for future use.
  • Share with your friends and neighbors

Store peppers in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator or in other covered containers. Use them within 7-10 days after harvesting.

Wayne Blonn, Smith Co. Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


HOT PEPPERS IN YOUR GARDEN

Hot peppers have been gaining in popularity in Texas as well as in most parts of the country. They are easy to grow in Texas and there is a wide variety of choices from the mild Poblano Chili to the medium hot Jalapenos and fiery hot Habaneros. Aside from the great taste, there are a number of unique ornamental hot pepper varieties.

The time to plant hot peppers outdoors in East Texas is fast approaching; they can be put in the ground a week or two after the last frost. Peppers require full sun, with at least 6 hours and more per day. You can obtain your plants either from seed, pre-started indoors 6-8 weeks earlier or from a nursery. Follow good gardening practice when preparing your soil, planting, watering and fertilizing. When fertilizing, take care that it doesn't contain too much nitrogen; this will cause the plants to form a lot of foliage at the expense of the fruits. Also, keep in mind that while peppers are self-pollinated, they will also cross pollinate. If you plant fiery hot peppers close to your mild peppers, and you save and plant the seed, next year you may be surprised with a very hot "mild" pepper. Cross pollination does not affect the current crop.

For fruit production, the ideal temperature is in the 70 to 85F range with overnight temperatures above 60F. The first hot peppers will be ready to pick within 10 to 12 weeks after transplanting. Harvesting the mature fruit encourages the plant to continue producing. Your hot pepper plants should continue to produce until the first frost in the fall. When you begin harvesting your hot peppers, remember to wear gloves if your skin is sensitive. Oh, and do not to rub your eyes.

Wayne Blonn, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


GROWING HOT PEPPERS IN CONTAINERS

Growing hot peppers in containers offer an alternative to planting in the garden. Most hot peppers are perennials grown in tropical climates but can be grown all year long in containers. There are added requirements using containers, but benefits can outweigh these issues.

More and more people are growing plants in containers. It is perfect for gardeners living in apartments, for those who have small yards and for those who live in cool regions where the number of growing days are limited. Container grown plants can also create interest on a patio.

Growing plants in containers have other advantages over planting in the ground:

  • Avoids problems with soil borne diseases, nematodes or poor soil.
  • Capture optimal light by moving the container.
  • Plants can be moved to sheltered areas during harsh weather conditions or indoors to protect them from freezing weather.
  • Pepper enthusiasts grow peppers in pots so they can have fresh peppers all year long.
  • Containers need more attention to their water needs. They cannot send their roots deeper into the soil, so don't let them dry out. Water stress causes blossoms to drop and growing to stop. On the other hand, more plants die from over-watering than any other reason in container gardening. Using drip irrigation systems and watering 5 to 10 minutes everyday should provide a solution here.
  • Hot peppers planted in containers need more fertilizer than if planted in the garden.

Container plantings can be started indoors from seed and moved outside using the same time frame as when you plant in the ground. It is best to use 5 gallon containers so the peppers do not get root-bound. So select your favorite hot pepper and let's get started.

Wayne Blonn, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


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