Growing peppers in The North
Growing peppers in The North
Peppers, both bell and hot/chilli, are one of the slower plants to plant in the colder region because they love heat, and seeds take a long 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 fruits. Then, 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!
Peppers (and a few other plants) will get stunted by small amounts of chlorine. Small amounts of chlorine from, say, a watering hose. So after losing about a month of growing time, I started filling buckets of water and letting them stand (dechlorinating the water) and used that water on the peppers. Almost immediately, they bounced back and produced a ton of fruit, even after losing a month of growing time.
Peppers NEED heat
The optimum temperature for growing peppers depends on the specific variety of pepper grown. However, in general, most varieties of peppers grow best when the temperature is between 70°F and 85°F (21°C to 29°C). If your temperatures are below this, they will grow slowly or not at all.
Pepper plants typically require warm soil to germinate, so it’s essential to ensure that the soil temperature is at least 60°F (15°C) before planting. Temperatures that are too high or too low can affect the growth and development of the pepper plants, so it’s essential to monitor the temperature and adjust it if necessary.
Additionally, pepper plants need plenty of sunlight and water to thrive, so it’s important to provide them with adequate light and moisture and maintain a suitable temperature.
Recently (2022), I started only growing my peppers in a greenhouse. A garden tunnel will accomplish the same thing, and may try that this year. The results of the added heat inside the greenhouse were astounding in the amount of fully ripe peppers produced. Hot, sweet, and bell peppers all produced way more than I have ever seen.
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 before the last frost indoors, transplant two 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 grow like weeds when their heat requirements are met. Dryer plants can produce hotter peppers, as that usually means hotter temperatures.
Only use water that has been out of the tap for more than 12 hours for watering if you have chlorinated water. Slow to start; seeds should be started 7-8 weeks indoors from the last frost risk. They can take a month to get an inch tall unless you keep their location very warm. First, a couple of rows of seeds are planted in a flat box, then after their first true leaves form, dig them out carefully and transplant them 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 it’s still chilly won’t kill them, but they won’t grow as strong/fast until it’s hot.
Water frequently with de-chlorinized water only – not straight from a hose on city water. To de-chlorinize, fill buckets with water from the house water; just make sure it stands for 24 hours before using it. Chlorine in water is volatile 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. Once a month, I will add some fertilizer – liquid miracle grow is my favourite. Although I have never pruned a pepper plant, larger plants may be pruned to allow more sunlight into nearby plants where needed.
All peppers ripen to yellow or red; all other colours are immature or intermediate ripening stages. Never let a pepper make it to a frost – A minor frost will kill pepper plants and can damage the fruit – they are tropical in nature, after all. If allowed to ripen their fruit, Pepper plants will stop producing more fruit. Pick the peppers green up until 40 days or so before the 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?
Peppers are best if eaten/used fresh; however, they also have many storage options. Sweet/Green peppers can be cut up and frozen. Hot peppers/chilli peppers can be dried easily and ground up afterwards. Making and canning your salsa is also a great way to store them.
Seeds and planting
Links and Resources
(These are some of what I use)
mybackyard.ca Seeds Page
Get a Head Start on Spring: The Benefits of Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Saving Vegetable Seeds: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening Success
myBackyard.ca Planting Guide
Pollock Tomatoes (North hardy Tomato variety)
Tomatoes (Useful information on starting tomatoes from seed)
Individual seed and plant information is available in the "Gardening Shortcut Links" above under "North Hardy Plants to grow". I have successfully grown all of these, and most I grow year to year.
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