The bulk of the gardens are dedicated to tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, onions, chives, and peppers. I am a salsa gardener and proud of it!
The most exciting, tastiest, versatile of new plants for a kitchen garden are peppers. Sweet or spicy, too hot or soothingly mild, peppers can be used for salsa, savory jelly, and grilled to stuffed perfection.
Because Prescott and the surrounding area have a limited growing season, peppers should be started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before our average last frost, around May 8th. They can be transplanted to garden soil or containers when daytime temperatures are at least 70°F, and nighttime temperatures are at least 55°F. Peppers can be sown directly into the garden 2-4 weeks after the risk of frost but slow to start without the help of a greenhouse. With a bit of protection, most vegetable plants can be started right now.
Helpful Idea – I start my first crop of summer vegetables with the help of plant protectors, also called ‘Season Starters’. These mini-greenhouses are filled with water and warm the soil around plants to prevent damage from frost.
From personal experience, here are some of my tips and tricks on sowing and growing the best peppers:
Fertilize if your seed-starting medium does not contain fertilizer. However, no fertilization is needed until seedlings develop the second set of leaves, known as “true” leaves.
My secret to a peck of peppers is two-fold. Watters 6-4-4-7 Vegetable Food is a natural that stimulates pepper plants to grow faster and sweeter. Sprinkle a handful of these organic pellets at the base of your plants every 6-8 weeks for amazing plants.
Second, add Watters ‘Flower Power’ to your water at two-week intervals, and your peppers will be larger and overly abundant. Fertilize regularly, and your plants will develop sturdier stems with more leaves. Not only do large plants have more fruit-producing potential, but the luxuriant leaves also provide shade for the fruit, preventing sun-scald. You are going to love your backyard pepper harvest this year.
Most peppers start out one color, often green, and ripen to another color. As peppers ripen to their second color, the flavor sweetens, and the nutrients increase. Picking some fruit early in the first color stage. This sends a signal to peppers to set more fruit and guarantees an increase in your pepper harvest.
Hot, Hotter, and Extreme
A class of compounds called capsaicin gives chili peppers their spiciness. Capsaicin occurs mostly in the light-colored ribs inside the pepper. The seeds contain very little or no capsaicin but often hot because they come in contact with the capsaicin in the ribs.
Capsaicin has several health benefits. Studies show it increases metabolism, support appetite suppression, decrease heart disease, reduce pain perception. Oh, and cause heartburn, believe it or not!
Like your peppers hot? The more mature the fruit, the hotter the pepper. Stress, such as drought, also make peppers hotter. You can cause stress to a plant by reducing irrigation after fruits have started to develop. Just withhold enough water so the soil stays dry. Don’t allow your peppers to wilt, or yields can be reduced significantly.
Aqua Boost Crystals prevent peppers from wilting for milder fruits. I created this special soil polymer that retains moisture at the plant’s roots to reduce wilt, water needs, and stress for sweeter vegetables. Visit for exact details.
The Scoville Scale, named for its creator Wilbur Scoville, measures the heat of peppers and other spicy foods. Some peppers such as bell peppers are sweet with zero heat, while others, like the banana pepper, have mild amounts of heat.
Want to kick up the zing? Then grow REALLY hot peppers, like the cayenne and the habanero peppers. Peppers grow so well in the summer garden it’s fun to mix the heat levels and their signature flavors. Guinness World Records regularly ranks the world’s hottest peppers at over 2,000,000 Scoville units!
Hot Pepper Idea – Dry your hot peppers and grind them. Place the grind in a shaker and use to spice up pizza, pasta, and burgers.
The twelve most popular peppers we have here at Watters Garden Center are shown on this Scoville Scale.
All of Watters peppers, herbs, and vegetables are completely organic with no genetic modifications with any of our plants. We stand against genetically altered plants.
Until next issue, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping gardeners grow better organic peppers