A Back Yard Farm

Time to Start peppers

by Reid.

About ten weeks is needed to have peppers ready to go outside that will mature in time in our short Minnesota growing season.  Season extenders are an option, but the limiting factor is day length.  Green peppers are certainly doable, but great is the reward of a full ripe pepper.  Many people think that green peppers are a specific cultivar (variety) but a green pepper is nothing but an unripe pepper, same as a green banana.  Sure it is edible, but for the best flavor, best eaten at the perfect time.

If you are new at starting seeds, see my previous article on seed starting.  The only difference with peppers, is be sure to provide bottom heat.  Even with this, peppers can take 2 1/2-3 weeks to germinate.  This is the main reason to get a jump on sowing the seeds now. Be sure to cover the seedling tray with a clear plastic dome that comes with seed starting kits(or just use Saran wrap).  Once you see the first sprouts, remove the covering.  If this is not done, a disease called damping off can kill your seedlings.

There are several sweet varieties that are bread for short seasons.  Some of my favorites are non-bell type peppers.  They are long and come to a point or blunt tip.  They are:  Lipstick (red), Carmen (red), Gypsy, Italia, Giant Aconcagua, Planet Hybrid, and Yummy.

Everyone who loves salsa needs to grow jalepeños.  These can be used at any stage, and can be used from the time they are as big as a thumb.  Some varieties can grow more than twice that big.  Look for certain hybrids that claim bigger sizes.  jalepeños are on the milder side of the pepper heat scale.  The scale used to measure heat is called, "Scoville units."  To give you an idea, a jalepño has a rating of about 2,500.  Serranos have a rating of 1,000.  Cayannes have a rating of 30,000.  Habaneros start at 100,000.  The worlds hottest pepper The Carolina Reaper, has a rating of 2,200,000!  

Carolina Reaper:

I have had a lot of luck growing peppers in containers.  This is mainly because containers get warmer, and peppers like warm soil. Be sure it is a high quality potting soil mix.  I like Dr. Earth.  Mesh grow bags also work well.  Add a balanced slow release organic fertilizer so it is fed throughout the summer. 

To expand your pepper options, check out your local garden center to grow yourself a rainbow of peppers!