One of the most popular crops to grow during the heat of a Zone 9 summer is hot peppers. Hot Peppers can range in heat from a mild warmth to melt your face off on fire, but while there is quite a bit of variation is pepper variation the techniques to get the most heat out of any particular pepper are the same.
Water only when needed.
One of the most common reasons for peppers being far less hot than expected is over watering. Hot peppers are often originally from hot and dry climates and they will produce their best peppers when these conditions are simulated in the home garden.
The soil that peppers are grown in should be kept fairly dry. The amount of moisture in the soil should be kept to a minimum, watering hot peppers only when the leaves start to show the first signs of wilting. Watering more frequently will lead to a more mild pepper than expected! If there is a lot of rain keeping soil dry could be difficult, so keeping hot peppers in containers is a great way to control the amount of water they are given.
Many commercial fertilizers contain high levels of nitrogen that is readily available to the plant. This nitrogen causes the plant to grow rapidly and put much of its energy into growing the plant and not the peppers. The end result will be a larger plant with an often-lower yield of less hot peppers.
The best way to fertilize pepper plants is to use natural fertilizers such as compost. These fertilizers are very balanced and not very high in nitrogen. The nutrients in natural fertilizers are slow release and do not overwhelm the plant.
If a high quality compost is not available look for fertilizers that have low nitrogen content. Natural fertilizers that work well include fish emulsions that are in the 2-4-1 nutrient range.
Learn more about NPK here.
Commonly commercially available fertilizers and even many natural fertilizers lack sulfur. Sulfur is used in plants to create compounds, such as protein chlorophyll and various enzymes. Sulfur is used at about the same rate as nitrogen by plants, but is still considered a secondary nutrient because it is often available in most soils…