A pepper might look strong, vibrant, and healthy on the outside, but nothing is quite as disappointing as cutting into it only to find the walls are paper-thin. This isn’t a rare occurrence; many gardeners have to deal with thin-walled peppers during their first few seasons. Luckily, the fixes are pretty quick once you know why it’s happening.
Here are 8 reasons your peppers have thin walls:
- The Soil pH is off.
- You are harvesting your pepper plants too soon.
- You are watering your peppers too much.
- You aren’t watering your peppers enough.
- Your pepper plants need more sun.
- Your pepper plants are getting too hot.
- Your pepper plants are getting too cold.
- There’s an illness or pest invasion.
Below, I’ll detail some of the most common signs of the above causes for peppers having thin walls. Afterward, I’ll provide you with a few quick fixes to the problem. To round out the article, I’ll remind you of some of the ideal conditions for growing your pepper plants.
1. The Soil pH Is Off
Soil pH has a lot to do with how well your plants grow, which might surprise you if you’re a new gardener. Typically, we might think that the most important components for a plant to thrive are sunlight and water. Sunlight and water are necessary, but nutrients can be just as crucial. The nutrients your plant needs are all in the soil and are only available at a certain pH.
For most plants, including peppers, your soil pH should be somewhere between 6.5 and 7.0. If you don’t quite remember the pH scale from high school science, let me give you a little more detail: 7.0 is a “neutral” on the scale. Anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above it is alkaline.
You might be wondering why acidic soil is good for your plants. Plants need 17 elements for proper growth. These are:
- Carbon (primary nutrient that supports plant structures)
- Hydrogen (primary nutrient that supports respiration, energy production, and your plant’s structures)
- Oxygen (primary nutrient that supports pH, hydration, and water retention)
- Nitrogen (primary nutrient that helps with amino acids and chlorophyll and helps the plant form cells)
- Phosphorus (primary nutrient that helps with cell formation)
- Potassium (primary nutrient that helps with enzymes and water)
- Sulfur (secondary nutrient that helps with protein, amino acid, and vitamin formation)
- Calcium (secondary nutrient that helps with roots and enzymes)
- Magnesium (secondary nutrient that helps with metabolism)
- Boron (micronutrient that helps with enzymes)
- Chlorine (micronutrient that helps with chlorophyll formation and cellular development)
- Copper (micronutrient that helps with enzymes)
- Iron (micronutrient that helps with enzyme development and activity)
- Manganese (micronutrient that supports enzyme activity and pigments)
- Molybdenum (micronutrient that helps with enzyme activity and is especially supportive of legumes)
- Zinc (micronutrient that helps with enzyme activity)
Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are usually obtained through sunlight and watering. The absence of even one of these nutrients can have detrimental effects on your peppers (including but not limited to thin walls!). These nutrients are only readily available for your plants in the correct soil pH. Otherwise, though they may be in your soil, your plants can’t access them. This video does a great job of explaining this in terms of a dining table:
So, if your peppers have paper-thin walls, there’s a chance they’re missing an essential nutrient, or they just haven’t been able to get it because the soil pH is off.
How To Fix This
To fix this issue, you first have to detect it. You can detect the soil pH by using a pH test kit or sending a soil sample into a lab. The pH test kits are more readily accessible because you can buy them at a gardening store or online.
Otherwise, if you want a full scope of what’s going on with your plant soil, I’d suggest sending a sample to a lab. Typically they’ll provide a container to scoop some dirt into and then send you a lab report back. This will include what nutrients and pH your soil has and give you some insight into what microorganisms are lingering around and if there are any diseases and issues that need to be addressed.
Once you get your result back, you have a few options. If the soil pH is too high (something over 7.0), then you can:
- Add sulfur.
- Add aluminum sulfate.
- Add sulfuric acid.
If the soil pH is too low (something more acidic, under 6.4), then you can:
- Lime your soil.
You can keep the soil pH balanced by ensuring you have lots of beneficial microorganisms around.
2. You’re Harvesting Your Pepper Plants Too Soon
When you harvest a fruit or vegetable before it’s ready, its taste and texture will be different from a store-bought counterpart. For peppers, in particular, they may taste bitter or spicier than you planned, be a different color, or have thin walls. Though they may look ready for the picking, having a batch of thin peppers may mean they need a little longer to grow.
How To Fix This
Unfortunately, technology hasn’t gotten us to a place where you can just scan your produce and see if it is ready to be harvested. However, you can be vigilant of a few signs that indicate that pepper is ready. Some of these include:
- The right color for the variety you are growing.
- Seems to be full-sized (depending on which kind of pepper you are growing, this could be anywhere from two inches to five inches or 5 – 13 cm).
- The correct weight.
If you’ve picked your plants too early because of the top two indicators, the third one will be your saving grace. Taking the pepper gently in your hand and weighing it might tell you whether or not your pepper is still growing.
3. You’re Watering Your Peppers Too Much
Peppers are picky when it comes to water. They need to be watered at least once a week, but their soil needs to properly dry out and drain before being watered again. For this reason, I like to tell gardeners to pay attention to their soil rather than the peppers when they’re watering.
Plants that are being drowned in water never do very well. Pepper plants that are watered too much may be waterlogged or have some type of root rot, and if that happens, their roots can’t take up all the necessary nutrients. This may result in a strange taste or thin walls, or even your peppers not growing very big at all.
Other signs that you are watering too much are:
- Soil is getting muddy
- Wilted leaves
How To Fix This
If you’re overwatering, the fix is simple. Don’t water as much! Pay attention to how wet your soil is between waterings. Again, your soil needs to drain and dry fully before you water your pepper plants again. If you live in a rainy climate, you may never have to water. However, if you live somewhere scorching hot, you might even need to water your peppers every morning.
Another key element to consider when it comes to this issue is that your soil needs to drain properly. Otherwise, your plant may become waterlogged, and you are susceptible to root rot. If you are growing a container garden, make sure there are holes on the bottom that allow water to flow through when your plant has absorbed what it needs.
If you’re having drainage issues in your soil, you might want to look at the soil composure (too much peat moss may cause drainage problems) and check out ways to stop waterlogging.
If you need a little more support, there are tools you can buy to help make watering easier. Investing in a moisture meter will help you determine how moist your soil is. These devices go straight into the soil and indicate whether the plant is getting too much or too little moisture.
Additionally, investing in an irrigation system can help you water the same amount every day without the hassle. With peppers, you should proceed with caution on an irrigation system if you want it to do all the work for you. Some irrigation systems can detect moisture or temperature, but others are set on timers. If the weather where you’re from is unpredictable, make sure to shut off the system before your plants drown!
4. You Aren’t Watering Your Peppers Enough
Wait, didn’t I just tell you that you were watering your peppers too much?
Well, there’s also a chance you are watering them too little! Some think that the flesh of your peppers is determined by how much you are watering them. In short, too little water means far too thin walls.
I talked a lot about the nutrients your soil needs to survive, and water is one of the most important ones. If you haven’t been watering your plant, there’s no way it can grow to its full potential. If your watering has been inconsistent, there’s an increased chance that the plant was stressed and halted at different parts of the process.
How To Fix This
Now, you by no means have to do things perfectly. You don’t have to water the same amount every day, at the same time every day, with the same watering can every day. Instead, just be sure your plant soil seems to be dry before you water it. If it is, go ahead and add some water. If it’s moist, leave it be.
Like the above suggestion, you might want to consider looking into a moisture meter or getting an irrigation system to help you water if this is your issue!
5. Your Pepper Plants Need More Sun
Your pepper plants need full direct sun, but what does this mean?
This means that even if your plants are in a great spot in the garden with lots of indirect sunlight, they may become leggy or have thin walls. Direct sunlight is key here. Nothing should be getting in the way of your pepper plants’ sunlight, no shade nor netting or other plants.
How To Fix This
Container gardeners can fix this problem easily by moving their peppers to a more sunny spot.
However, if you’re knee-deep in your growing season, you might need to wait until next year. At the beginning of your season, look for a spot that will give your peppers the full, direct sunlight they need. They’ll need at least six hours of sunlight a day. If you don’t know what spot in your garden will do this, you can get a sun meter or grab a moisture meter that doubles as a sunlight meter.
If it’s too late to plan your pepper spot for more sunlight, it’s not a total loss. See if you can remove whatever barriers block the sunlight for your pepper plants. That’ll be easy if it’s an overgrown tree or a grill blocking the sun–but it might be harder if you have other plants blocking your peppers. I’d highly suggest being 100% sure sunlight is your issue before sacrificing any of your other plants!
6. Your Pepper Plants Are Getting Too Hot
I think that some people assume that peppers enjoy dessert temperatures because some of them are pretty spicy. This isn’t the case, though many first-time gardeners are guilty of this common misconception. In reality, your pepper plants will prefer something between 70 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 and 26.7 degrees Celsius).
How To Fix This
If your plant is getting too hot, some extra watering may be in order as long as the soil isn’t already wet. Additionally, you may want to look into getting a sunshade for your pepper plants to help protect them from the sun’s scorching heat.
I’d put the shade over my peppers during the mid-to-late hours of the day when it’s the hottest and ensure they are getting the bulk of their sun in the morning or evening (maybe from 6 AM-10 AM and again from 4 PM-8 PM depending on where you’re living and how long the sun is out!). This will be especially easy for container gardeners who can pick their plants up and follow the sun.
As far as heat goes, don’t forget to check the temperature of your soil. It’s not rare for a reflective surface, such as a car in the driveway or a tin roof on a shed, to reflect excess sunlight onto a garden patch and heat it. This can be the case if you’ve noticed it’s the right temperature outside, but for some reason, your plants are wilting from the heat.
7. Your Pepper Plants Are Getting Too Cold
Just like too warm temperatures can affect your pepper plant, so can too cold temperatures. As mentioned, peppers prefer a weather that’s between 70 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 and 26.7 degrees Celsius). If you’ve planted your peppers too early or late, or your climate isn’t right for them, you might notice thin walls and strained growth. Peppers are not frost resistant, and they’ll become stressed under 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12.8 degrees Celsius).
How To Fix This
If you want homegrown peppers really bad but just don’t have the weather for it, you can grow your peppers indoors. This will be a time and monetary investment–you’ll need special grow lights, a space for your peppers to grow, and so forth–but it’s your best bet short of controlling the weather.
Otherwise, just make sure your plants are getting proper sun. If you can plant them in a spot where they’ll always be pretty warm, even if it’s next season, your peppers will be thankful for it.
8. There’s an Illness or Pest Invasion
Illnesses and pests can strain your pepper plants by stressing them out. Your pepper plants have to tap into their most important energy sources to fight off infections and continue to grow. Additionally, if the pests or illnesses are going for the roots of your pepper plants, then they’ll have no way of getting the nutrients they need.
How To Fix This
To fix this, be extra observant. Do you see little creatures crawling all over your plants? If so, what are they? Is it just your pepper plants that ended up funky this season, or so is everything else in your gardening bed? Are you noticing bite marks or discoloration?
Neem oil is an excellent way to get rid of pests because the smell kills and deters them. You could also dust your peppers with soap and water to help the bugs slip right off. Hot water is another good way to get rid of pests, but it’ll kill any nutrients in your soil and might harm your plant.
The Best Conditions for Growing Peppers
If none of this seems exactly right to you, just start at your pepper plant’s root (pun intended!). The best conditions for growing your pepper plants are:
- Temperature. Peppers thrive between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 and 26.7 degrees Celsius).
- Sunlight. Peppers need full, direct sunlight for at least six hours a day.
- Watering. Peppers prefer moist soil (not too wet or waterlogged) that drains and dries between waterings.
- pH. Peppers are happy with pH conditions between 6.4 and 7.0.