The Case of the Little Peppers

Peppers have been a challenge for me.  I started these from seed, experimented with the shading and direct light, and some variations in watering.  For a long time I had a great system going where I would water heavily one day and refill my wine bottle ollas the next.  It worked great until everything turned into a big mass of green and made moving around the garden difficult.  

So this is the pepper problem.  Great looking plants, tons of peppers, but all of them have been… tiny.  My jalapenos have been more like buttons – ripe, red buttons.  I’ve eaten M&Ms that were bigger than these things (seriously, the mint ones that are a little bit bigger, so good).  The New Mexico peppers, which should be GOOD SIZED peppers, were getting two to three inches long and turning red.  Grrrr!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, they have good flavor.  If you are patient you can put them in the oven on broil and roast them up.  I ate several that way, they just take FOREVER and you get very little chili.  Not ideal.

So I started doing research on the topic.

Just an FYI, you want to avoid Google search phrases like, “Why are my peppers so small?”  Nuff said on that.

The only thing that people mentioned was that it was the type of pepper that I planted.  

EEEEE!!!  No, that’s incorrect!  Thanks for playing.

Then somebody pointed out that peppers are mainly water.  Ding!

I had been watering pretty much every other day, hoping that my mulch was keeping the peppers from drying out.  The plants looked okay (accept in the heat of the day) so I figured everything was fine.  But the more I thought about it the more I thought it might be a water issue.  So I’ve been watering, heavily, every day.

Two things have happened.  

#1 All of the plants are producing MORE peppers or flowers.  Good sign.

#2 The NM Peppers in particular are getting bigger and are not turning red yet.  🙂


Obviously the left one is “pre-watering increase” and the one on the right is still growing POST watering increase.

I’ve even dug through and started to refill the some of the ollas.  If I can get the sweet potatoes harvested and out of the way I might be able to get to all of the ollas, but sweet potatoes are a subject for a different post.

For next year i have started purchasing real ollas.  I think these are going to be the best solution for my spring/summer garden, especially when it comes to the tomatoes and the peppers.

For now, I’m watering, watering, watering… and dreaming of roasting peppers on the grill, maybe even filling some with cheese and cooking them in an egg batter… oh yeah, good stuff.

Have a blessed day!

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11 Responses to The Case of the Little Peppers

  1. Sheri Fox says:

    Ahhh! I’ve had a terrible time with peppers and I bet water is the culprit! Ok, I’ll try again. Also a friend gave me some big green chiles – Anaheims maybe? Mildly spicy. How would you cook them?

    • I have a friend that eats all chilies raw, but that’s not for me. I like to roast them, either on the grill or in the oven on broil. Till the skins turn papery and brown/black, then throw all of them in a paper sack and let them sit for a few minutes. After that the skins come off REALLY easy. Then I clean out the inside and they are good for a LOT of stuff… like stuffing. 🙂 Monterrey Jack cheese works good, then breaded or just egg battered and fried, or wrapped like an omelet. Once they are grilled you can dice them for salsa, casseroles, on top of burgers, sandwiches… EVERYTHING! I love green chilies! People usually use poblanos for chili relleno, but the Anaheim are great as long as they’re big enough to make it worth your while.

      • Sheri Fox says:

        Perfect, I’ll throw them on the grill with everything else! I bet they’d be good stuffed with polenta and cheese. mmm, okay, I’m starting to figure it out. Thanks 🙂

  2. Your water issue/research is interesting. Our peppers did absolutely nothing this year – never got one but I think ours was a total fluctuation of water and temperatures. When you get those peppers filled with cheese and ready for the grill, let me know. 🙂

  3. Val Bjerke says:

    Yep water – we grow ours in a greenhouse and water twice a day.

  4. Robbie says:

    Time observing always gives the best results. From my mistakes I have learned so much , and searching the made me chuckle about “nuff said” …you do have to watch what you put into those search engines! 🙂

  5. gracejolliffe says:

    You got me thinking about my own little peppers – I will be heading in their direction with more water now…
    All the best

  6. Useful information as we can have long dry spells here in Queensland and this is a reminder about keeping water level up for these veggies.

  7. I’ve found it hard to strike a balance between watering and how. Especially, when we had a heat wave here in England. All of my chillies and bells were grown in a small green house. In pots, as well. I have noticed, that with the sweet peppers, they are small. But, In feeding them, and then moving them to the Polytunnel; the size and frequency of fruits has increased. Next year, I plan to put them-direct-into the polytunnel once they are 10-12 inches high. I have fed mine with tomato feed, and with a general fruit/veg feed. That, I think does make a difference. It’s fine, getting the foliage, then you want the fruit. There are, of course, those who say that being mean to them is the best thing. I was certainly compelled to water them, when they went all ‘droopy’ in the small green house.

    • Well, I think with temps consistently above 105 this summer during the day and in the mid 80s at night, the plants are getting stressed on a daily basis and the water evaporates very quickly. Our humidity (except during monsoon season), is only around 10-15%, so it is very dry. I’m excited to get some full sized peppers!

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