The Vegetable Garden


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    Pepper is a tender, warm-season vegetable. Pepper plants require somewhat higher temperatures, grow more slowly and are smaller than most tomato plants. Brightly colored, sweet bell pepper varieties have recently burst onto the scene. A vast range of other garden peppers (pimiento, tabasco, cayenne, chili and paprika) may be grown for food, spices or as ornamentals.

    The sweet varieties of peppers, especially the bells, traditionally have been by far the most popular in the United States. They are eaten green or ripe and are used for salads, stuffing, soup, stews, relishes and pickling. New developments in color and form have done nothing to dull the popularity of sweet peppers. Hot pepper varieties have also enjoyed a rebirth of popularity recently, mainly due to various ethnic cuisines that use their unique flavors and heat creatively.


    Hybrid Bell

    • Bell Boy (70 days to harvest; goes green to red)
    • Lady Bell (72 days; goes green to red)
    • Purple Belle (70 days; immature purple, black to red)
    • Chocolate Bell (75 days; green to chocolate brown)

    Sweet Frying or Salad Type

    • Gypsy (65 days to harvest; pale yellow to orange to red)
    • Sweet Banana (70 days; pale yellow to orange to red)

    Hot Peppers

    • Cayenne, large thick (70 days to harvest)
    • Cayenne, long, slim (73 days)
    • Jalapeno (70 days)
    • Red Chili (84 days)

    When To Plant

    Peppers are best started from seeds indoors in late winter and then transplanted into the garden after the soil and air have warmed in the spring. The plants cannot tolerate frost and do not grow well in cold, wet soil. When night temperatures are below 50° to 55°F, the plants grow slowly, the leaves may turn yellow and the flowers drop off. Raised beds, black plastic mulch and floating row covers may be used to advantage with peppers to warm and drain the soil and enhance the microenvironment of the young pepper plants in spring, when cool weather may persist.

    Spacing & Depth

    Set transplants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, or 14 to 18 inches apart in all directions in beds. A dozen plants, including one or two salad and hot types, may provide enough peppers for most families; but with so many colors, flavors and types available, more may be necessary for truly devoted pepper lovers or for devotees of ethnic cuisines.