When and How Should I Transplant Pepper Plants?

taba(z5b MO)January 1, 2013

Whether you purchase plants or nurse your own plants along from seed, the transplanting step is critical to healthy pepper plants and bountiful harvests. After successful transplanting, peppers will normally thrive with a minimum of care.

Start with Good Pepper Plants

Plants should be 6-10 weeks old with dark green color, thick stems, and no blooms. Pinch off any blooms so the plant will put energy into adjustment after transplant, early growth, and higher eventual yeilds.

Harden Off

Hardening pepper plants will enable them to withstand the shock of being transplanted into the garden and move quicker toward new growth and fruiting. Keep in mind that your peppers have been living in a sheltered indoor environment with limited environmental fluctuations. Peppers should be hardened for at least a week to 10 days, and up to two weeks before transplanting. Move the containers to a shady spot outdoors that is protected from winds and drastic temperature fluctuations. Start with a half-hour outdoors and gradually increase to 8 hours, then overnight. Increase the amount of sunlight during the process. Never put seedlings outside on windy days without windbreaks, and either move indoors or protect from rain storms or very high winds. If possible, a cold frame works well for the hardening process. If no cold frame is available, you can construct a make-shift cold frame using hay or straw bales placed to form a square with plastic sheeting anchored over the square. You will need to water plants more frequently than was necessary indoors.

Choose the Right Time

To transplant into the garden, wait until:

last frost date for your zone has passed,

the soil temperature is around 65° F,

nightime temperatures are above 50° F, and

your seedlings are hardened.

Peppers are warm season crops that grow best at temperatures of 70-80° F during the day and 60-70° during the night. Ideally, transplant on an overcast day or an evening. If days are hot and sunny, provide temporary shade for the first few days.

Heat your spring soil while exterminating weeds. First thoroughly prepare the soil for planting, then cover the soil with clear plastic. Sunlight will warm the soil under the pastic, which traps the heat. You can start this very early in the spring. The warmed soil will cause weeds to germinate, then die in the intense heat. Remove the plastic about two to three weeks after last frost and transplant pepper plants. Avoid disturbing the soil more than required as this will turn up new weed seeds.

Choose the Right Site

Plant peppers in full sun, in fertile, well-drained soil. Planting in partial shade will reduce yeilds and lengthen the time required to produce and ripen fruit. One exception to this rule is the Red Savina variety. It has large leaves which on very hot sunny days lose a lot of water to transpiration, so they "sweat" water faster than their roots can "drink" water. If in day-long full sun, these varieties may...

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