Knowing The Basics Of How To Grow Peppers & Chillis Is Essential If You Want Good Crops. Here’s How To Grow Great Fruit Indoors Or Outside.

Pepper History

I grew my first commercial crop of peppers in the 70s. But their history goes back many centuries. Peppers, Capsicum annum, aka sweet peppers or bell peppers, were first brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1494. There are records of them in England from 1548, but few were grown in any quantity here until package holidays took off in the 60s. Having experienced them on the Costas, and beyond, Brits then wanted to eat them at home! So the UK commercial pepper growing industry developed. And here ar Amy tips on How To Grow Peppers & Chillis.

Growing Commercial Crops of Peppers

My first commercial crops were grown in 120x14ft polytunnels. We grew four rows the length of each tunnel and they loved the humid atmosphere and relatively high temperatures in these tunnels. We loved them because other than planteing them around May7th, after a crop of lettuce, they required little attention except watering and feeding. We used dilute liquid fertiliser in the irrigation water and watered every day via drip irrigation. We used the same fertiliser on our peppers as on our tomatoes. This made life much easier and suited them well.

Our peppers grew to around waist height without any means of support. We didn’t side shoot or pinch them out, it is unnecessary in this cropping system. However long term peppers, grown under glass and planted in December or January are sometimes grown on a cordon method. Few gardeners have the space or expertise for this type of doing term cropping.

We picked all our peppers when full size and green. We had a good market for them and to wait for them to ripen red or yellow took both time and decreased total yields.

The crop was harvested until October when growth slowed and the frosts eventually took the plant. The yield per plant averaged 7 lb. This made it a profitable crop that required little work after planting except picking once a week.

Sweet Peppers: Growing Sunshine in Your Garden

Green, yellow, orange and red and the normal colours grown, though others are possible. How about a chocolate coloured crop? It’s possible.

For the home gardeners adding a splash of colour and delicious flavour to your meals with peppers is certainly possible.

Sun-loving and Tender

These vibrantly coloured fruits thrive in sunshine and warmth. They’re typically grown under cover in the UK, like in a greenhouse or a sunny conservatory. However, if you live in a particularly warm area, you can try planting them outdoors in a sheltered spot. I had e grown them outdoors in Devon but yields are of course much lower than those grown in polytunnels or in greenhouses.

Starting from Seed

No matter where you plan to grow them, you’ll need to sow the seeds indoors first. The ideal time is between late February and early March. They germinate best in warm conditions (around 18-21°C or 65-70°F). Keep them in a sunny spot on a warm windowsill or use a heated propagator if you have one. Early ones will also benefit from additional light.

Choosing Your Varieties

There’s a wide selection of sweet pepper varieties to choose from, with fruits in all shapes and sizes, from long and slender to blocky and sweet. My commercial crops were of a variety called Bell Boy. But there are plenty of others and I suggest you opt for varieties with the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) – these are proven performers that should grow well in British conditions.

The peppers in the photo are a smaller heritage variety.

How To Grow Peppers & Chillis

For outdoor success, choose varieties with smaller fruits that will have time to ripen before the cold weather arrives or harvest them green. Compact varieties are OK for containers on a sunny patio or even a windowsill.

Planting Time

Once your seedlings are established, it’s time to plant them in their final positions. Young plants need to be kept indoors until late May, when the risk of frost has passed. And even if frost is not likely I’d wait until soil and night temperatures are higher.

Greenhouse or Outdoors?

  • Greenhouse: For the best results, grow your peppers in a greenhouse, polytunnel, conservatory, or possibly a cold frame. Here, they’ll receive plenty of warmth and protection, leading to a better harvest.
  • Outdoors: In very sheltered locations with warm summers, you can try growing peppers outdoors. However, as I said above, they’ll produce fewer fruits, and some may not mature fully. If you choose this route, make sure to harden off your plants gradually before moving them outside.

Top Tips for Success

  • Sunshine is Key: Provide your peppers with the sunniest spot you have, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Warmth Matters: Aim for temperatures above 15°C (59°F) for optimal growth. Better still go for the high 20sC.
  • Feeding Time: Feed your plants with a plenty of organic matter to retain moisture (but ensure it is free draining) and use tomato feed. .
  • Support Needed: Taller varieties “may” need support canes to keep them upright if grown outside. Though usually they don’t grow fast enough for this to happen outdoors. .
  • Container Planting: Peppers grow OK in very large containers filled with peat-free compost. But I prefer them in the soil where their roots can spread and find moisture.
  • Outdoor Planting: Choose a well-drained, fertile spot with neutral or slightly acidic soil. Add well-rotted manure before planting, but avoid fresh manure.
  • Protection for Young Plants: Use cloches to protect young plants outdoors, especially from wind.

Last Pepper Growing Thoughts

Peppers are actually tender perennials and you could keep them going from year to year. But in my view it isn’t worth it. The reason being the risk of carrying over pests and diseases and just the sheer hassle of it.

Peppers are most often treated like a vegetable. But of course it is a fruit, in fact botanically it is a berry! The surprises many people.

How To Grow Peppers & Chillis

Chillis, (C. annuum var. glabriusculum) are just a type of pepper, albeit one with more heat .. in some cases much more heat! And some chilli growers prefer to grow them as perennials. That is fine, as it gives them an early start. Commercially I grew from seed each year and grew them exactly the same as my bell peppers. They cropped very well but are hard work to harvest as many chillis are needed to fill a 12lb box, which they were sold in. Whereas with bell peppers I could fit a box in minutes and the price wasn’t that different. Simple economics made me stop growing more than a handful of chillis for a few select restaurant customers.

Tag: How To Grow Peppers & Chillis

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