Peppers are warm weather fruits. In climates with cool springs, starting peppers indoors gives a headstart on the season and allows for the maximum amount of production time. Transplanting from indoor growing to the garden can be a delicate process. If plants don't transplant well they may never recover.
When To Transplant
Transplanting pepper seedlings outside too early will cause them to stunt. Transplanting them too late may also be problematic because the roots shouldn’t get too crowded in a pot. Here are some key things to remember when choosing when to transplant peppers.
- Plants should be 8-10 weeks old with dark green leaves and thick stems
- It is well past the last frost date in your region
- Night time temperatures are consistently above 50°F (10°C)
- Soil temperature has risen to 65°F (18°C)
- Seedlings have been hardened off
Plants grown in a greenhouse or indoors are not used to the direct sunlight or harsh temperature changes between day and night. They need to be gradually hardened to outdoor conditions. To harden seedlings, bring them outside for 1/2 an hour under dappled light on the first day.
Gradually increase the time they spend outdoors each day. Allow them to receive more and more direct light as long as they look healthy and show no signs of wilt or burn. As they get stronger outdoors, leave them outside for later in the evening to introduce nighttime temperature.
This process can take between 1 and 3 weeks. You will know that plants are ready to transplant when they show no signs of stress after being outside for 24 hours.
How To Transplant
Have your garden bed prepared to minimize the amount of time the roots spend out of the soil. The soil should be loose and amended with 1-3 inches of finished compost either worked in or spread on top.
Avoid transplant during the heat of the day, an overcast day or in the evening are best. Plants become vulnerable when adjusting to a new environment. Gently squeeze or work the rootball from the seedling pot. Take as much of the soil around the roots as possible with the plant to the new hole.
If the roots appear bound up or twisted into the shape of the pot, gently loosen them with your hands. Massage the root ball or lightly shake it until they are unbound.
Place the pepper into the new hole at the same depth that it was in the pot. Fill in with soil and press down to remove any air pockets around the roots. Pinch off any flower buds to encourage the plant to put energy into the roots. Water it in.