We’ve all been there, we go out of town for a couple of days thinking that our garden will be fine only to return and find that everything has shriveled up. So what happened?
Well, our plants probably went too long without getting water.
Mature peppers can last up to a week without water but should be checked on frequently in the hot summer months. Pepper seedlings need to be watered about every day and container-grown peppers about every other day.
I’ll go over how to water your plants and what it looks like when your plants are being over-watered and under-watered. Lastly, I’ll also chat about the best time of day to water your peppers.
When to water peppers at each stage
How big your pepper plants are will determine when to water them and how much. Let’s look at some of the differences.
This is arguably the stage of life where getting the watering right is crucial. Small tender seedlings can’t go that long without water.
I start most of my seedlings indoors in plug trays so that I’m able to keep a close eye on them and have better control over their growing environment.
I will check my seedlings every morning to see how they feel. Even if the soil feels a little moist, I’ll give them a quick pass over with the hose anyway just to make sure they have a good drink of water for the day.
Oftentimes, I can tell if my seedlings need water simply by feeling how heavy the tray is. If it feels light, then I probably need to water my seedlings.
If the seedlings are big enough, I’ll even pop one or two out of the tray to see how the root ball feels. You should try to not let the seed trays completely dry out.
Seed trays that become completely dry can take a long time to get back to the correct moisture level.
When I water my seedlings, I use a fan-shaped hose nozzle or a rain wand. When I water, I try to mimic the rain as much as possible.
For all of my seed starts, not just peppers, I do a slow pass with the hose so the seedlings get a deep watering.
I like to take my time with this so I make sure not to miss any of the seedlings. Sometimes, when we’re in a hurry, it can be easy to miss seedlings that are in the corners of the trays.
Peppers in the ground
Peppers can be quite hardy in the right conditions. If you’re growing peppers directly in the ground, then they can go up to a week without needing to be watered.
In the peak heat of the summer, they will likely need to be watered more frequently so check on them often.
If you’re going out of town for a couple of days, then give your peppers a deep watering before you go. This will ensure that they don’t shrivel up and die while you’re away.
If you’re going to be gone longer than a week, then you’ll definitely want to ask your neighbor to water your garden for you.
You can either water your peppers by hand using a regular garden hose, or you might consider setting up a drip irrigation system.
For the long rows in my garden, I like having drip tape set up because it keeps me from having to fight with the garden hose and drag it all around my garden.
Drip tape is easy to set up and is available at most garden supply stores. People have different methods for setting their drip tape up but here’s mine.
I like to have a piece of drip tape running down the center of each row. Sometimes I plant wider rows and will use 2 pieces of drip tape instead.
I use landscape staples to hold the tape in place before covering the rows with straw mulch. The drip tape can be attached to a larger hose that connects to the spigot on your home or some other water source.
On days I need to water, I’ll simply turn the spigot on in the morning and then come back in about an hour to turn it off.
Peppers in pots
If you choose to grow peppers in containers or pots, then check the soil frequently. The soil in containers tends to dry out a lot quicker than the soil in the garden.
This is usually because the soil in containers is less compact and has more space for the water to seep through and drain from the container.
Although it might seem like a bit of a nuisance to water container peppers more often than those planted directly in the ground, your containers must have good drainage holes in the bottom.
This will help your peppers from becoming waterlogged which can sometimes be just as bad as under-watering your plants.
Peppers grown in containers should be watered about every 2-3 days. But feel free to check on them every day just to make sure they’re not becoming too dry.
The most simple way to water container peppers is by hand either using a hose or a good old-fashioned watering can.
What happens when pepper plants don’t get enough water?
When peppers don’t get enough water, you will notice that their leaves start to wilt. Before long the leaves may even start to turn brown towards the edges and shrivel up.
If you live in a region that has high temperatures consistently over 90 degrees in the summer, then staying on top of watering is of the utmost importance to the life of your peppers.
You can’t depend entirely on rain, especially if you live in a dry climate. Plants that start to wilt can quickly die in just a day if they don’t get watered immediately.
Can you water peppers too much?
While we don’t want our peppers to dry up and die, we also don’t want them to be over-watered either. Peppers hate having wet feet, and can easily become waterlogged.
Waterlogged plants will struggle to take up nutrients through their roots. The roots and stem may even start to rot if the soil is too wet.
Don’t be afraid to reach down and feel the soil with your hands. It shouldn’t be saturated. It should be slightly damp about 3 inches down. Don’t be worried if the top 2 inches of your soil are dry. Your peppers won’t mind this.
The best time of day to water peppers
The best time of day to water any plants, especially peppers, is in the morning.
Some people like to water their plants in the evening and find success with that. I’ve always been taught that watering at night or close to night increases the risk of rot and disease in plants since the excess isn’t being evaporated so I try to shy away from this
I also find that I just like making watering the garden a part of my morning routine.
You just want to make sure you’re not watering in the middle of the day unless your plants look absolutely parched and desperately need it.
This is because you want to give your peppers time to take in and absorb the water that you give them. Water given to plants in the middle of the day is quickly evaporated by the hot sun.
For more info on the best time to water your garden, check out this article.
Now that we’ve covered everything, let’s do a quick recap:
For young pepper seedlings, make sure to water them every day. You can slowly cut back on how much you water as they get more mature.
For peppers that are planted directly into the ground, you only need to water them about every 4 days or so. Peppers grown in containers will dry out more quickly and need to be watered about every other day in the peak season.
If you’re ever unsure if your peppers need water or not, don’t be afraid to get your hands in the soil and feel it. Does it feel bone dry? Then give them some water. Do their leaves look wilted? Then give them some water.
That’s the incredible thing about plants, they tell us exactly what they need if we’re paying close enough attention.