If you want big flavor, bright colors and an easy-to-grow garden vegetable, any variety of pepper will be the number one choice. Bell peppers, hot pepper, chili peppers or ornamental peppers can be grown in-ground or in containers with very little know-how or maintenance. Plant them right and forget about them, until you spot some red-hot pods growing on the knee-high plants.
Pepper plants thrive in hot weather, but can be successfully grown in cool climates if a soil-warming row cover is used. Select a planting location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. Till the soil to 12 inches deep (or use a 12 inch deep container), then work in 1 inch of compost or well-rotted cow manure and ½ cup of slow-release, granulated fertilizer to create fertile, well-draining soil that will nourish the plants throughout the growing season.
Seeds or Plants
Pepper seeds can be sown directly into prepared soil (in-ground or in containers) after the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has past in the spring. Sprinkle seeds on top of prepared soil and lightly cover with loose soil, then water gently. When seeds germinate, thin the seedlings to 18 inches apart.
When planting pepper plants, dig holes 6-8 deep and 18 inches apart. Place plant in hole almost up to the first leaves, fill hole and gently tap soil into place around stem and water in well.
Care and Harvest
The organic matter (compost or cow manure) and the fertilizer that was added to the soil will keep the pepper plants fed and growing strong, so there is no need to feed plants again. Add a couple inches of mulch to retain soil moisture and water only when the plants begin to look droopy.
Peppers are one of those wonderful vegetables that can be harvested and eaten at any stage of maturity. Snip the pods off the stems when they are small and green, or allow them to ripe to any range of color that you prefer. Generally speaking the longer they remain on the plant, the more intense flavor and/or heat the pod will have. Experiment by harvesting different pod sizes and colors to discover the one(s) you and your family prefer.
Save the Seeds
Saving pepper seeds is as easy as growing them. Allow one perfect pepper to remain on the plant until it become overripe and soft. Snip the perfect pod off the plant, cut a small circle around the stem and use the stem as a handle to lift out the core with attached seeds. Use your finger to flick the seeds off the core and onto a paper plate. Spread seeds out in a single layer and allow to air dry until a test seeds breaks in half when folded. Place dried seeds in a secure container and store in a cool, dry place until next growing season.