Growing peppers has got to be one of the best things about summer.
Come December, a couple of months after my summer growing season has ended, I am itching to get started on seeds and peering outside to see if the sun it out, googling what today’s temperature will be! I know I’m not alone; anyone who loves gardening begins to get the bug come mid-winter, and while we’re months away from being able to put any seedling outside, you bet we get started indoors, making an enormous mess and watching wet potting mix daily–sometimes hourly–to see if any seedlings have popped up.
I often chuckle to myself thinking that it would make one very weird video should someone tape me in January while I wait for something — anything — to happen.
But one thing is guaranteed when you live in California: summer will arrive…usually with a vengeance.
But first, there’s spring. Daily, while it’s still too cold and unreliable to have your seedlings outside overnight, you transport tiny little cotyledons outside and back inside, treating them like babies. Forget one night and poof–all of your hard work since December is gone and you have to start over.
But sooner or later, the lows are not as low and you will be able to leave your plants outdoors. I kid you not–the first week the seedlings stay outside, I must stay out there with them virtually 15/24 hours per day. If there is daylight, I am out there “tending” to them, though God knows what it really is that I do out there all day with seedlings that are not doing much of anything at this time.
Summer feels like eons away and you barely have leaves, never mind buds, but oh, the anticipation! After a couple of weeks, the seedlings change daily and if you look closely, you can actually spot what changed overnight. It’s the coolest natural process in the world if you ask me!
Eventually and finally, summer does come around. Before I know it, I’m sweating (and cursing) while watering my plants during a 90 degree morning and my skin screams for sunscreen. Before I know it, I’m plotting where and how to shade my plants from the heat and the sun, whereas just a few weeks prior, I was wondering if they’d be freezing overnight. Right about then, you spot something amazing that makes you smile:
While lots of plants begin to suffer in the blazing heat we have in our Zone 9 garden, peppers are always standing sturdy and tall, bushy and beautiful in the midst of 99 degrees or even higher–sometimes, unbearably hotter. Unlike tomatoes that tend to be much more selective regarding the amount of heat they will tolerate, peppers are less so. While all growing will halt at a certain point, you can definitely worry less than one day of 105 temperatures will kill your plant; it won’t.
But with any plant, it’s important to keep in mind that all assumptions are based on your plant being healthy. If your plant is ailing, none of this will apply. If your plant is being taken down by pests or has a virus that is attacking the pepper plant, a hot weather day can easily demolish your plant in one afternoon.
Peppers, above all else, are resilient. I don’t recommend it, but accidents happen and I’ve forgotten about a pepper plant or dropped on only to have to it chopped in half. Sure–some accidents, they cannot recover from, but many others, give it a good pruning and peppers will come back. The only thing I am careful about when it comes to peppers are touching the buds; they do fall off easily and every single one you lose was potentially a pepper. Also, when transplanting, peppers do require some care, but we’ll cover repotting peppers another time.
If you’re an experienced grower, you have most likely already grown thousands of peppers in your yard. But if you’re just starting, peppers are a good place to begin your adventure. They are easy, and so long as you do not overwater your pepper and Mother Nature cooperates, you absolutely will be munching on fresh peppers come summertime.
Leave a comment with any questions you may have.