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Guide to growing sweet and hot peppers

Selecting your varieties

Variety is the watchword for peppers. Peppers can be:

  • Mild (California Wonder, 0 on the Scoville scale) to fiercely hot (Orange Habanero, 150,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units).
  • Many colors: Green, yellow, orange, or red.
  • Various shapes: Thick-walled and blocky to thin-walled, long and narrow; small, medium, or large.

Peppers need sun and heat, but vary in terms of how much. Many Bay-side gardeners report that small hot peppers do better for them than do large bells.

Where, When, and How to Plant Your Seedlings

  • Space seedlings 12 to 24 inches apart
  • Add balanced fertilizer or extra compost or manure to the soil when planting.
  • Provide light afternoon shade when temps are over 90 degrees F.
  • In cooler areas, use a plastic ground cover to warm the soil before planting, after you’ve prepared the soil. If you have drip or soaker hose, lay down the irrigation hose, lay down the cover, cut holes for planting and leave the plastic in place till harvest. A light spun cloth row cover placed on top of the plants, only until they flower, can also help keep the heat in.
  • Peppers are nightshade plant, like eggplant, tomatoes, tomatillos and potatoes. To minimize disease problems, don’t plant peppers where they or another nightshade has recently been planted.

Soil and Fertilizer

  • Side dress with a balanced liquid fertilizer like 5-10-10 at blossom time and periodically during the growing season.
  • Limit added nitrogen fertilizer, which can lead to leafy plants with few fruits.


Maintain moderate and consistent watering to prevent water stress or soggy conditions. Never allow your peppers to wilt.


  • Harvest peppers when they stop growing and cut the stems instead of pulling them to avoid plant damage.
  • Remove small fruits towards the end of the season to encourage larger fruit growth.

Additional resources