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Chapter 23: Peppers

23.1 Varieties

Tables of Disease Resistant Varieties

23.2 Planting Methods

Peppers are relatively slow to emerge and need protection from soilborne diseases. Use a sterilized growing medium and seed treated with a suitable fungicide. The daytime temperature for producing transplants should be about 75°F and nighttime temperature about 65°F. Flats with 72 to 128 cells are commonly used. A two inch by two inch cell size is recommended for early production.

Plants are usually set in the field when they are six to eight weeks old and four to eight inches tall. A few days at 60° to 65°F or reduced water application will help to harden the plants and prevent transplant shock. Overhardened plants will grow slowly in the field. Transplants should not be set in the field until the danger of hard frost is past, usually after mid-May. Growers using row covers and those on Long Island may plant seven to ten days earlier. The use of black plastic mulch with drip irrigation and double rows can greatly increase yields and quality, provide weed control without herbicides, and reduce disease pressure because the fruit and foliage are not wetted as with sprinkler irrigation.

Table 23.2.1 Recommended spacing

Row type Row (in inches) In-row (in inches)
Single 48-60 12
Double 151 14-18
1: Center to center beds should be 5-6’ apart. Plants should be staggered.

23.3 Fertility

Use lime to maintain a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Starter solution may be beneficial. See Table 23.3.1 and Table 23.3.2 for the recommended rates of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Table 23.3.1 Recommended nutrients based on soil tests for transplants in bare ground

N pounds/acre P2O5 pounds/acre   K2O pounds/acre Comments
  Soil Phosphorus Level   Soil Potassium Level  
  low med. high   low med. high  
90-150 150 100 50   150 100 50 Total recommended.
50 150 100 50   150 100 50 Broadcast and disk-in. 1
40-50 0 0 0   0 0 0 Apply when first clusters set fruit. 2
40-50 0 0 0   0 0 0 Apply only on light soils or in seasons with heavy rains.
1: If equipment is available, apply half of the phosphorus and potassium in bands 4" deep and 4" from the row at planting or drill deeply after plowing.
2: Nitrogen can be applied as a split application. Apply half at fruit set and the rest when fruit are 1" in diameter.

Table 23.3.2 Recommended nutrients based on soil tests for transplants in plastic mulch with fertigation.

(If plastic mulch is used without fertigation, broadcast and incorporate all fertilizer before laying plastic mulch).

N pounds/acre P2O5 pounds/acre   K2O pounds/acre Comments
  Soil Phosphorus Level   Soil Potassium Level  
  low med. high   low med. high  
125 150 100 75   150 100 75 Total recommended.
50 75 50 0   75 25 0 Broadcast and disk-in.
15 15 15 15   15 15 15 Apply 1 week after transplanting and every 3 weeks for 5 applications.

23.4 Harvesting

Bell peppers are harvested by hand usually at the green stage but after fruit reach full size and walls are thick and firm. Peppers may be picked twice per week during the peak harvest period. The demand for colored peppers has increased, which requires two to four weeks additional growing time. Increased attention to insects and diseases is required in the production of mature, colored fruit.

Peppers are often washed after harvest. Water temperature should be close to that of the fruit, and never more than 10°F cooler, to prevent movement of bacteria into the stem end of the fruit. Chlorinated water should be used. Peppers are often waxed to prevent moisture loss and scuffing damage.

Bell peppers and fresh hot and novelty peppers are best stored at 50° to 54°F and 90 to 95 percent relative humidity. Chilling injury occurs at temperatures below 45°F, and damage may occur even below 50°F, depending on variety and other factors. Bell peppers may be stored two to three weeks if handled properly. Dried hot peppers are stored at 32° to 38°F.

Table 23.4.1 Nonpathogenic disorders

Disorder Management Option Guideline

Blossom-end rot

Irrigation, variety

Occurs when soil moisture has become deficient after a period of abundant moisture. Maintain optimum soil moisture.

University of Florida Blossom End Rot fact sheet

Poor fruit set Variety Nighttime temperatures below 60°F or above 75°F affect fruit setting adversely, and blossom drop is common during periods of abnormally cool or hot weather.
Sunscald Maintain foliage Caused by intense sunlight on fruit. Maintain foliage and take care when harvesting to avoid breaking-off branches.
Lodging Stake, variety Heavy fruit load on sandy soil. In some areas related to Fusarium and dry, hot conditions.

23.5 Disease Management

23.5.1: Anthracnose Fruit Rot

23.5.2 Bacterial Leaf Spot

23.5.3 Bacterial Soft Rot

23.5.4 Damping-off

23.5.5 Nematodes

23.5.6 Phytophthora Blight

23.5.7 Seed Rot and Damping-off

23.5.8 Cucumber Mosaic Virus

23.5.9 Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus


23.6 Insect Management

23.6.1 Aphids

23.6.2 European Corn Borer

23.6.3 Stink Bugs


23.7 Weed Management



Maintained by Abby Seaman, New York State IPM Program. Last modified 2019.