Growing peppers in The North

Peppers, both bell and hot/chili, are one of the slower plants to plant in colder region because they love heat and seeds take along time to get to transplant size. Since they only fruit when the temperature is above 55F (12C), and we only have a good 30 days of that it makes growing them here that much more difficult.

So they get started early indoors, transplant well after the risk of frost and love heat.

I struggled with peppers for years, they would always grow strong until about a foot tall then stop , look a little yellow and eventually make a few small fruit. Last year, after it started to happen again I did an in depth search looking for causes and settled on one.

Peppers HATE chlorinated water!.
It seems peppers (and a few other plants) will actually get stunted from small amounts of chlorine. Small amounts of chlorine from say, a watering hose. After losing about a month of grow time I started filling buckets of water and letting them stand (dechlorinizing the water) and used that water on the peppers. Almost immediately they bounced back and ended up producing a ton of fruit even with losing a month of growing time.

Quick Facts

Climate: Peppers like it hot
Difficulty: moderate to hard
SFG Spacing: 1 per square foot (locally acceptable for cold climate)
When to plant: 4-8 weeks prior to last frost indoors, transplant 2 weeks after last frost.
Soils:  Deep loamy/sandy, loose, well drained
Germination: 10-21 days (above 22 degrees C, longer if cooler)


Like tomatoes, peppers like sunshine and heat, however they don’t need as much water and will actually grow like weeds when their heat requirements are met. Dryer plants can actually produce hotter peppers as that usually means hotter temperatures.


Pepper plants after emergenceOnly use water that has been out of the tape more than 12 hours for watering if you have chlorinated water. Slow to start, seeds should be started indoors 7-8 weeks from last frost risk. They can take a month just to get an inch tall unless you keep their location very warm. A couple of rows of seeds planted in a flat box, then after their first true leaves form, dig them out carefully and transplant into single pots.

Put them under lights and water until time to transplant. Transplant when the risk of frost is well gone – planting them when its still chilly wont kill them but they wont grow as strong/fast until its hot.



Water frequently with de-chlorinized water only – not straight from a hose on city water. To de-chlorinize simply fill buckets with water from the house water, just make sure it stands for 24 hours before using it. Chlorine in water is very unstable and will evaporate into the air rather quickly (usually minutes if the water is agitated). I usually water every 2-3 days – filling up my set aside buckets after each watering to de-chlorinize for the next watering. One a month I will add some fertilizer – liquid miracle grow is my favorite. Although I have never pruned a pepper plant, larger plants may be pruned to allow more sunlight into nearby plants where needed.

Peppers ready for transplant - tomatos in background


All peppers ripen to yellow or red, all other colours are simply immature or intermediate ripening stages, Never let a pepper make it to a frost – A minor frost will kill pepper plants and can actually damage the fruit – they are tropical in nature after all. Pepper plants if allowed to ripen their fruit will stop producing more fruit. Pick the peppers green up until 40 days or so before first frost, then let the remaining ones ripen.

Since I use mine for salsa – I like them to ripen with the tomatoes  but who can resist a nice sweet green pepper.

Pepper plants


Peppers are best if eaten/used fresh however they have a multitude of storage options as well. Sweet/Green peppers can be cut up and frozen. Hot peppers/chili peppers can be dried easily and even be ground up afterwards. Making and canning your own salsa is a great way to store them as well.

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