Jalapeno is a type of hot pepper that comes from the same family of plants as cayenne and cherry. This popular pepper originally comes from a place called Xalapa, in the capital of Velacruz, in Mexico. It is often served stuffed with seafood, and cheese and also used as a spice for tacos in Mexican dishes. Jalapeno has a rating in between 2,500 – 8000 Scoville heat units, which is a medium range of chili intensity. Jalapeno looks like a hard plant to grow but you can actually grow it easily by providing adequate sunlight and water.
Planting and Germinating the Seeds
Firstly, you must decide how many jalapenos plants you want to grow. Then, you can prepare the containers for sowing the seeds accordingly. The container should have holes at the bottom so that the water can drain away when you water it. You can use seedling pots or soda bottle as the container. In each container, you can plant 2 – 3 seeds. The seeds are to be sowed at a depth of 1/4 inch. Not all seeds will sprout so you may want to sow extra seeds.
Jalapenos don’t like cold temperatures so you must wait for the temperature to warm up to 75 – 85 before sowing the seeds. It takes 2 – 3 weeks for jalapenos seeds to sprout. After 3 weeks, you can move each seedling that has sprouted to a 3 inch diameter pot. It is to be placed on a sunny spot indoor, for example, the window sill or under the grow lights.
The potting mix of the sprouted seedlings must be kept moist but not too wet so as to damage the roots. You only need to water the seedlings 1 – 2 times per week to maintain the moisture level. You will have to gradually move the seedlings to a few more bigger pots until it grow a young plant. This should take about 8 – 12 weeks. The final container size will be about 2 gallons. Terra cotta container is the best option for the final container. They offer better result compared to plastic containers.
Transplanting the Young Chili Plant Outside
The young chili plant cannot be moved outside immediately. Instead, you will need to slowly expose it to outdoor conditions to allow it to adapt to the new environment. When it is time to move the plant outside, be sure to plant it in a place that get at least 8 – 10 hours of direct sunlight. The transplanted plants should be about 14 – 16 inches apart to ensure that there is enough air circulation.
Caring for the Jalapeno Plant
The best potting soil for jalapenos is organic, rich in nutrition with good drainage quality. Fertilizer should be added about 1 month after you have transplanted the young plant outdoor. You will want to choose a fertilizer with a NPK of 10-10-10. The addition of fertilizer ensures that the chili plant will receive an adequate amount of nutrition after all the existing nutrients in the soil has been used up. New fertilizer can be added on the third watering. There is no need to add any fertilizer if you are using a high quality potting soil. Diluted fertilizer is easier for the plant to absorb compared to solid fertilizer.
Jalapenos are night shade plants just like tomatoes and potatoes so make sure you don’t plant them close to each other. This is because the pests from your tomato and potato plant can go to the jalapeno plant. Some of the common pests are cutworms, aphids, and flea beetles. You can spray neem oil keep it away from these pests. Additionally, you should hand pick the caterpillar, snails, and worms on your jalapeno plant.
Harvesting the Peppers
It takes at least 90 – 120 days for you to see the first crop of your pepper plant. When the pepper plant is mature, it will grow to 2 – 3 feet tall. You may see 30 – 40 pepper pods hanging from the plant. The pods will grow to 2 – 3 inches long before it is ready for harvesting. If it yield too much peppers, you can use a plant cage as support. You can harvest pods from a jalapeno plant for a few times. You can harvest the jalapenos green or red. Or, you can wait until the full time at the end of 120 days to pick the jalapenos when it is ripened to red color.
Picking the peppers early can force more new blossoms. Green jalapenos are not yet ripened so they have milder taste. When it is red, it will have a medium intensity heat flavor. Some people have also picked jalapenos with a mix of red and green color. They make a nice presentation for their dishes. To harvest, you simply pinch the pepper off the vine gently. You can store the pepper fresh in your refrigerator for up to 2 – 3 weeks.