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Growing Chile Peppers

Consult the monthly archives in Garden Tips Link above for other growing information.
Planter 's References contains the online resources we used to grow our garden as organically as possible.

Chile peppers are our main crop, taking up 2/3 of the growing space.  We are chileheads and process at least 3 dozen pints of salsa and almost as many pickled peppers, relishes, and jellies.   In the past 5 years of gardening in NH, we've been able to try new cultivars and weed out old ones.  Getting peppers to turn red when our growing season is about two weeks too short is a continual challenge.  But we're committed!

The father of New Mexico pepper varities, Paul W. Bosland, Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture, is the source of numerous articles on growing chiles.

The following list was taken from the New Mexico State University Extension Service web site.  We purchase some of our seeds from the New Mexico Chile Institute, which is affiliated with the University.  A good source for home gardeners is the Virginia Tech Extension Service. .

New Mexico seed companies that carry chile seed:

Post New Year. January and February are spent planning the garden, which includes picking out and ordering favorite cultivars. Hot peppers generally need a longer growing season, so we seed them two weeks earlier than other peppers. All peppers will go in the ground by June 10th in Warner, at 6-8 weeks maturity. (See Hardiness Zones to calculate your planting schedules.) The hot peppers are transplanted into larger, 3" pots to accomodate for the longer growing period.


The seeding date for peppers has been moved up to May 1st (or, mid-April for hot-hot peppers, like habanero, tabasco, chiltepin)thanks to the evolution of erratic weather these last 4-6 years.

May.Time to harden all peppers. 

June.When we began Zone 4 gardening  in 1997, we thought by using black plastic, we could plant peppers a couple weeks before the frost-free date of May 20th.  Not so, as seasoned local gardeners warned.   We've moved the transplant date to the first week of June.  Black plastic is reserved only for pepper rows.

Drought, nighttime temperatures above 75 degrees, and dry winds can cause pepper blossoms to drop.  Misting them twice a day helps them retain blossoms and set fruit.  Daytime temps below 50 degrees will delay growth.  Soil temps above 85 degrees may stunt root growth.  If using black plastic and plant is not grown enough to shade roots when it gets this hot, some mulch on top of the plastic may be needed.

July.Peppers loose their flowers when temperatures are above 85 or 90 degrees. A cool spray would help them in mid-afternoon.

August.These are some of the peppers that, given the right set of growing conditions,  Planter has grown.

In 2002, the heirloom Jalapenos that survived spring cutworm damages performed as well if not better than replacement sets purchased by a local grower.  The Hungarians and Tabascos did well, also.  Two new trial varieties, 'Mirasol' and 'Pasilla' outperformed our old favorite, 'Cayenne,' but that could be because the Cayenne were not planted under black plastic.  The jury is still out on these two varieties, but we're not giving up, because they make good ristra peppers.

The growing tips of mature peppers should be clipped like tomatoes to allow fruit to fully mature before the first frost.  This also aids in looking for pest damage. 

September.Cayenne, tabasco, piquin, other small hot peppers can be left on the plant as long as possible to get red peppers for drying.  Southern growing zones are dryer, gardeners there can  pull the whole plant out of the ground and hang it upside down in a dry area with good circulation.  Chiltepin (Bird) Peppers need to be brought indoors in Warner, because they need longer growing seasons. They are only for hard core chileheads!

Red peppers are critical to our pickle relishes and salsa, so we take the extra measure of covering them with plastic tunnels when our first-frost date of September 20th approaches. 

pepper_row_fall_small.jpg (5662 bytes)

Northern gardeners might try an improvised solar dryer -- IF there is enough sun!  We used an old terrarium handed down by our Dad.  See the September archive for a photo.


Read up on storage and making ristras in the October Archive.