Has anyone some advice on growing peppers outdoors in the Northwest, ie culture varieties and methods to keep them happy and productive? Am especially interested in the warmer cooking types.
In SWWA/Portland, OR we have plenty of summer sun and heat to ripen most varieties. Seattle area may be more difficult. The important part down here is NOT to put them in the ground until it is really warm and for me that is often midJune. Just keep potting them up.....they tolerate that well. I do find that some of the thinner walled types do well: Cubanelle, Hungarian Stuffing, various Italian types (Marconi, Cornos, etc.). Tequila Sunrise is a very nice spicy/not hot midsize pepper. Early Sungold is thicker walled and blockier and is good green or gold. Peto Wonder is an excellent performer. Territorial Seeds has a supurb selection. I grow 16 to 20 types every year from seed and get most seed from Territorial or Nichols Garden Nursery. (Territorial also ships plants.) JINGLE BELLS is a great small red for salads. Pepperoncini and Golden Greek Pepperoncini perform well. I have a friend nearby who grows only hot pepers and she is also very successful. Have fun! jwww
In my experience, there are two factors that influence whether peppers will ripen: the growing degree days in your microclimate, and everything else being perfect. :)
Seriously though, here in the Sunset Zone 4 part of the Olympia area we'll probably get around 1600 degree days (or heat units) in a season. So anything that can set back progress can prevent ripening. Early varieties help, and getting the soil warm earlier could help too. I'm tempted to use a soil warming plastic mulch this year, but the prospect of tending a patch of shiny plastic doesn't appeal, so I'm gonna try cloches and tunnels in May & June.
In any case, now is about the right time to start seeds.
I grew Gypsy bell peppers, red mushrooms, and habenero last year. Started inside, transplanted out late May with a soil warming mulch. Lots of fruit set, and the Gypsy peppers started ripening in mid-August, but they really started going when I put a poly tunnel over them late August (did the same with my tomatoes). One of the habeneros which had lots of fruit set I potted into a 5 gl. pot and put into our sunroom late August. That one we got peppers on in to December. This year, I started the seeds earlier, and plant to put them into a poly tunnel right from the start. By the way, if you like really hot peppers, the red mushrooms are great, and ripen earlier than habenero. We had great salsa!
I've had good success with all varieties...wild to mild. My garden gets sun from about 10 AM until about 5 PM so isn't ideal but I get good yields.
The only caution is that when rains start in August the peppers will spoil quickly with what looks similar to late blight on tomatoes.
i don't like to mess with seeds to i'd buy a six pack of peppers when it got warm enough and plant in a full sun location. they do well in the same location with tomatoes. the only pepper i grew every year and was happy with were thai hot peppers (spicy, held upright). i used to buy every year from a greenhouse that sold them under the name "thai dragon," but these were very, very prolific and i had enough to make several batches of hot chili dipping sauce, cook fresh and dry for the rest of the year--this was off of two plants! jalapenos did all right, but despite looking healthy and tasting nice, i never managed to grow them very big.
in the valley (corvallis area) i had a hard time growing bells. they were always small and would tend to spoil quickly--so no matter what variety i had, i pretty much ate everything as a green bell to prevent waste!
as a warning: if you put your plants out too early and they get chilled, they'll be stunted and you might as well rip them out and buy new ones. if you can't wait, i you might try covering them. that worked well for a friend of mine. if you have just a few plants, you can cut the bottoms off of gallon milk jugs and cover them that way. the advice judy gave about starting indoors and re-potting until it heats up is a definite must if you're trying seeds.
I started lots of varieties from seed (on my daughter's water bed, great germinating spot) then transplanted into large south facing garden windows in pots. Got many peppers, cayenne and habeneros did great - I did not finish picking them until late fall and just let them dry - very spicy and tasty. Am planning the same this year, just a little behind. Not putting them outside takes away the summer rain worries.