In warm regions such as USDA hardiness zone 9 and higher, peppers grow like weeds. These tropical aborigines thrive in the heat and will grow as perennials in these regions. In climate regions below Zone 9, it is still possible to grow amazing productive peppers as annuals. You may need some extra care and attention.
Ideally, pepper seeds germinate at temperatures between 21 and 26 ° C (70 to 80 ° F). Plant peppers seeds outdoors well after the last frost date in your area. Daytime temperatures should consistently reach 21 ° C (70 ° F) and soil temperature should be 18 ° C (65 ° F) to plant peppers.
Peppers need between 60 and 100 days above freezing to fully ripen and cannot tolerate frost. Each variety is slightly different. If you live in a region with shorter growing seasons, start pepper seeds indoors before the last frost to achieve profitable production.
Commercial growers in northern climates cover the soil with black plastic to warm it up before planting. This gives a slight head start and keeps germinating seeds warm.
Start indoor pepper seeds 8-12 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Germinate the seeds in potting soil or fold them in damp paper towels to speed up the process. Store germinating seeds in a warm place as close as possible to the ideal germination temperature.
Plan to keep the seedlings indoors until three weeks after the last frost. This requires some transplanting and a possible cut indoors before the plants go outside. Some northern gardeners prefer to store peppers in greenhouses or poly tunnels throughout the season.
Checklist for starting bell peppers:
- Germinate at temperatures around 70°F(21°C)
- Plant outside once soil temperature reaches 65°F(18°C)
- Plant outside 2-4 weeks after last frost
- Start seeds indoors in USDA zones 8 and below
Depending on when you started your seeds, you may need to transplant some important plants outdoors if the weather is warm enough. Before plants can go directly into the garden, they should be hardened.
Harden the seedlings by taking them outside more and more each day. Start by taking them outside in the dotted light for half an hour. Over the course of two or three weeks, increase the time you spend outside and the intensity of the light you receive.
Plants can be successfully planted in the garden if they show no signs of wilting or tanning after 24 hours outdoors. You should be used to direct sunlight, temperature fluctuations between day and night, wind and rain.
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