Pepper Growing Tip

Okiedawn OK Zone 7August 29, 2007

Hi Everyone!

In response to Sherri's request, here's some tips for growing peppers in Oklahoma.

1. Prepare your soil. Peppers grow best in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. They like rich, loamy soil and abhor wet feet, so plant in raised beds or on raised furrows in the soil if you don't have raised beds. Add manure to your pepper beds at the rate of about 50 pounds per 100 square feet of growing space. Or, you can use any vegetable fertilizer at the rate of about 2 to 2.5 lbs. per 100 square feet of bed.

2. Start with transplants. Sowing seed in the soil will mean that the peppers are ready to bloom and form fruit when temps are so high that they can't bloom and set fruit. Peppers raised from seed sown in the ground generally won't produce ripe peppers until fall.

3. Transplant about 7 to 10 days after your last spring frost date. (Tomato transplants go into the ground right at the last frost date.) If you plant pepper plants in the ground while they still might be exposed to air temps in the low 40s, the plants will be stunted and will not produce well. To check the soil and be sure it is warm enough for the plants, check the soil temps with a soil thermometer 2" below the soil surface and only plant after you get readings of 55 degrees for at least 3 consecutive days.

4. Transplant into moist but not soggy soil. Plant them at the same depth in the soil as they were planted in the pots. Unlike tomatoes, peppers do not benefit from deeper planting and it will stunt their growth. Peppers tend to wilt easily as a result of being transplanted, so I like to set them out in the beds on cloudy days or in the evening. I also will water the bed a couple of days BEFORE I set out the beds. Then I will water the plants in their little pots before I put them in the ground. Once I get them in the ground, I water them in gently with water from a watering can to help the soil settle firmly around their roots.

5. Grow them in full sun. Peppers in less than full sun will give you less than great production.

6. Support them. Pepper plants are much more brittle than tomato plants and limbs break off easily. I like to stake them while young AND put a small (2' tall) cage around them. In our rural location, these little cages also help protect my plants from all the possums, skunks, raccoons, armadillos, etc. that like to find their way into the garden and wreak havoc. Also, sometimes plants are so heavily laden that limbs will droop and touch the ground, which can cause peppers touching the ground to rot. Staking and caging the pepper plants helps avoid this.

7. I like to space my pepper plants 18" to 24" apart. You can put them a little closer together, but your yields will be reduced.

8. Healthy transplants set out at the right time ought to begin blooming within 2 to 4 weeks of being set out in the garden. Some people like to side-dress their peppers (when the first blooms appear) with either a good organic vegetable fertilizer or a high-nitrogen fertilizer like ammonium sultrate (21-0-0), applied at the rate of 1 cup per each 35 foot row of plants. If you use a higher-nitrogen fertilizer like ammonium nitrate (33-0-0), use only 2/3s of a cup for that 35-foot row. Spread the fertilizer down both sides of the row in a band about a foot the plants' bases.

9. Add mulch after side dressing. The reason you wait a while and don't mulch immediately upon planting the peppers is that the soil is still sort of cool, and mulch would keep it cool. Letting the plants sit there a few weeks without mulch helps the soil warm up and encourages good plant growth.

10. Peppers like adequate moisture, but not wet feet. I use a soaker hose and try to keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy. It is time to water when the soil is dry 1" below the soil surface.

The worst problems you will face with peppers are plant viruses that cause twisting and stunting of the foliage. Pull up and dispose of such plants as soon as you are sure that is the problem so the disease doesn't spread to other plants.

The most serious problem I usually encounter is fruits that do not have enough foliage above them to completely shade the peppers. Peppers tend to sunscald and burn easily. If I see peppers are in danger of blistering or burning, I will use a double sheet of newspaper and clothespins to clip a sunshade over the pepper pod as protection from the sun

OK, those are my pepper growing tips. I hope the rest of you will add yours.


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Wow! Thanks a million for the pepper tips, I wish I would have asked earlier, before 1/2 of my peppers and tomatoes got scalded!! I can still save alot this year though.
I don't have any tips to add, this is the first time I've planted anything other than tomatoes :)

Now I know why I haven't been getting very many peppers, their way too close together. I planted 1 poblano pepper plant, and it had a lot of peppers, but the peppers only have gotten about 2 inches long, and stay that size until they rot or fall off, I've cut some open and they were very very thin. Would that be caused by a lack of water or more likely lack of sun? Sheri

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 1:07AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


There are many reasons that peppers rot and fall off the plant, so you will have to do a little troubleshooting.

Pepper plants can drop pepper pods as a reaction to ANY stress, including being too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, etc. So, about the most you can do here in Oklahoma in the summertime is to keep their soil evenly moist--not too dry and not too wet. I realize that this year's weather conditions have made this an almost impossible task. Of course, you CAN prevent soil from getting too dry, but you can't do much to prevent it from being too wet if torrential rains (sound familiar?) are falling.

There are two pests that can cause peppers to drop--pepper weevils and pepper maggots--tunneling in th fruit and causing rot to set in.

Peppers are susceptible to blossom end rot, so look at your peppers and see if the rot sets in on the blossom end of the pod.

Peppers often abort peppers when there is a lack of fertility. As much rain as we have had, it is possible that your plants need to be fertilized--all the rain may have leached nutrients out of the soil. (To me this is the most likely possibility since your peppers get to a certain size and stop growing,) Peppers are heavy feeders so they do appreciate being fed every now and then.

If you have sandy soil, you may have nematodes which are damaging your plant roots and preventing proper uptake of water and nutrients.

If the rot starts as a small dark brown or black lesion that then spreads, your plants may have anthractnose.

If you have foliar spotting, your plants may have picked up a virus.

If you have tunneling on the leaves, it is caused by leaf miners and can defoliate the plants completely if it is a severe infestation. Usually, though, leaf miners don't hurt the plants enough to cause the pods to drop.

One of the worst pepper diseases is pepper mosaic virus, which really is a complex set of viruses that are spread by certain leaf-feeding insects. If you have mosaic virus, your leaves will be discolored with that characteristic mottling of the leaves that you also see with tomato mosaic virus. This virus can cause oddly shaped fruit that often fails to grow and mature.

Wow! After typing the above list of all that can go wrong with peppers, my initial thought is 'it sounds like it is hard to grow peppers'. Really, though, peppers aren't any harder to grow than anything is just that I had to list all the options I could think of since I can't see your plants (which might or might not help) and don't have first-hand knowledge of your specific growing conditions.

I hope this info is helpful in diagnosing the problem.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 10:35AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Hi Dawn, I just sent you a message. It has to do with roses.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Sammy,

I e-mailed you back!


    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 9:19AM
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We have had a poblano pepper plant the past couple of years that bears peppers but they reach only the size of a large marble at maturity. Can you provide any insight as to why and also if there is anything we can do to generate larger peppers? All of our other peppers (not poblano) in the same garden area produce normal size peppers.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:06PM
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