I Wouldn’t Recommend Growing Peppers in a Small Space

Posted on Sep 2 2009 - 4:00am by Mike Lieberman

Three months after starting my fire escape garden, I was finally able to harvest my red peppers.

I harvested a grand total of two red peppers with the possibility of some more. Yes, it was rewarding and felt great to put them in my salad, but I was hoping for more.

If you are gardening in a small space and looking for productivity, I wouldn’t recommend planting red peppers. I’d either experiment with something else or plant something that is productive like lettuces or greens.

For those of you with more space to grow, then plant some red peppers. I’d plant them again in my backyard garden in Brooklyn.

Not sure if it was the kind of red pepper, Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Italian, or just red peppers in general. What I do know is that next season, I won’t be planting red peppers on my fire escape again nor would I recommend it for you.


41 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Becky September 2, 2009 at 6:43 am -

    I've had alright luck with one of my little potted green pepper plants. The fruit has been small, but it's produced a couple of little peppers each week. That's just about right for me, though, since I'm not a huge sweet pepper fan.

  2. truecrimson September 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm -

    Bananna peppers and other smaller pepper varieties tend to produce more quantity. Bells tend to produce fewer peppers. Admittedly this is our first year gardening, but it is what I have experienced. Kudos to you on your small gardens. Hopefully more people will start doing it.

  3. Mike Lieberman September 3, 2009 at 7:45 am -

    Cool. I'll likely experiment with some other varieties next season. I was definitely looking for productivity. The peppers were damned good though.

  4. Mike Lieberman September 3, 2009 at 7:46 am -

    Thanks for the advice. Maybe I'll get me some of the smaller varieties next season.

    Definitely hoping for me people to start. It's been fun and rewarding so far.

  5. Autumn Belle September 3, 2009 at 4:07 pm -

    I like to grow the peppers in my garden too. I use the seeds from other peppers that I am cutting out for my dishes. When the plant is blooming, we use the green as well as red peppers for pickles, for cooking and to make dipping sauce. I use the leaves of my pepper plant to make a tasty dish of clear soup – just add some chopped chicken fillet, garlic, ginger and a beaten egg.

  6. Mike Lieberman September 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm -

    Sounds good. I'm not saying not to grow peppers. I'm saying that if you have limited space, then I wouldn't recommend peppers. Most definitely going to keep growing them in my backyard garden where I have much more space.

  7. Avis September 5, 2009 at 8:07 pm -

    Sorry to hear you got so few peppers. I've been growing jalapeno in a pot on my balcony for several years now and they are extremely prolific, so if you like those maybe you should give them a try next season. Cheers!

  8. bangchik September 6, 2009 at 5:29 am -

    Not bad for the first harvest. Giving plants a chance to live and see light of days is an honorable thing to do…. ~bangchik

  9. georgie September 6, 2009 at 3:38 pm -

    You have inspired me to attempt some personal type of garden growing…wow just wow at what you have done on that fire escape

  10. Mike Lieberman September 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm -

    Yes. Love me some jalapenos. Definitely seems like the smaller pepper varieties turn out a lot more. Will def do it next season. Thanks for the tip.

  11. Mike Lieberman September 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm -

    I'm definitely happy with the first harvest. Guess I'm being greedy and want more.

  12. Mike Lieberman September 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm -

    Georgie – It's comments like that that make this blog and growing all worth it. Hope you have fun and enjoy gardening. Keep me updated on the progress.

  13. Mary September 11, 2009 at 2:08 am -

    Type your comment here.If you want to try again, see if you can find some of the miniature sweet pepper plants or seeds, they supposedly work well in containers. I am going to try them myself next year. The peppers are only 2-3 inches in size, and supposedy very productive.

  14. Mike Lieberman September 11, 2009 at 6:09 am -

    Thanks Mary. Seems like the sentiment is to go with the smaller varieties. Will def do next year.

    My pepper plant grew fine. It just didn't give me a million peppers. 🙂

  15. Damon October 16, 2009 at 10:34 pm -

    I have a favorite…. Superchili! I got almost 200 peppers (serrano size) off of one plant on my roof! It was in a nice mix of old rockwool and good ol' backyard dirt. Super hot too….made a fiery fermented hot sauce with the first harvest of 3 so far. I'll probably go pick the rest tomorrow before the cold comes. I do save seeds too (all organic/non-GMO always!) so let me know if you want some, I love to share. Peace!

  16. Damon October 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm -

    My bell peppers were lame this year too….except for the 5 or 6 that I had started with a fogger table in February. They had AMAZING roots when they went outside and I got the most peppers ever! That got me swearing by root development over all else…..

  17. Mike Lieberman October 17, 2009 at 6:29 am -

    Cool. I'd def be interested in some seeds man. Appreciate it.

    Seems like the smaller hot and chili peppers are the way to go for crazy productivity. Will look into some of them for next year.

  18. Mike Lieberman October 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm -

    Cool. I'd def be interested in some seeds man. Appreciate it.

    Seems like the smaller hot and chili peppers are the way to go for crazy productivity. Will look into some of them for next year.

  19. c_a July 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm -

    You've got to be a bit more picky with your varieties. Nardello not known for being productive.

    Also, you should not be using your SWC with peppers. They don't like wet soil; they aren't tomatoes.

    Also, you can't have more than one plant per 5 gallon container. As per a study at NMSU, it drastically lowers the fruit load to have anything growing within two feet of each pepper plant.

    I actually have 6 pepper plants (3 Habaneros (Orange) and 3 Ring of Fire Cayenne) in my Brooklyn fire escape; I'll be glad to show you pictures in a month or so when my Habaneros are a bit more ripened. I can already tell you this though: my harvest is gonna be a lot more than two peppers. The habs are setting fruit at the rate of about one every three days per plant.

    I also don't do the organic thing, but I bet that has little to do with my yield.

  20. c_a July 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm -

    Oh yeah, a great resource: thehotpepper.com These guys know the deal, and most of them grow in containers because things are a lot easier to control that way.

  21. Mike Lieberman July 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm -

    Thanks for the comment and input. Glad that you have been able to get such a large harvest.

  22. RuTemple March 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm -

    Mm, what c_a said; also what are you using to attract pollinators? Peppers are insect pollinated. I’d say, try again some time – where you are now, you’ll get enough heat for the lovely things.

  23. Mike Lieberman March 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm -

    Will certainly do. I don’t get much sunlight these days though. Might look into it.

  24. Niki March 5, 2011 at 1:01 am -

    I have a jalapeno plant that refuses to die and has given me 30 little jalapenos so far this summer. I am in south florida, though. The darn thing is in a little pot and seems to thrive on abuse. I’ve had it a year an it refuses to die!!!

  25. Mike Lieberman March 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm -

    It seems like a picked a bad variety to grow in containers. Others appear to have had better success than me.

  26. Belinda @zomppa March 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm -

    Hmm. Good to know! I don’t even have a fire escape to grow anything on…=(

  27. Mike Lieberman March 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm -

    I’m sure you have something to grow on though…

  28. AshtonLea April 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm -

    So, I’m wondering… Is it the the space or the lack of sunlight?

    My experience with peppers is that they do quite well in containers. However, need SUNLIGHT, SUNLIGHT, SUNLIGHT to thrive.

    If they are on a balcony they may just need more sunlight. If you can some how make that accommodation, say roof top, maybe you could take another stab at it. Just a suggestion, You gotta have peppers!!!

  29. Mike Lieberman April 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm -

    I think it was a combination of a few things – lack of space and sun, also the variety of peppers that I was growing.

    Thanks for the input.

  30. Joyce Michaud May 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm -

    Mike – I did bell peppers last year and I’ve started some this year as well. They were in containers along the side of the house maybe slightly smaller than those 5 gallon jugs you use. They actually did really well. Don’t give up! 🙂

  31. Mike Lieberman May 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm -

    So you are saying that you are better than me? Hahaha. Thanks for the encouragement. 

  32. Joyce Michaud May 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm -

    Not at all! Maybe the ones you had are harder to grow? Haven’t tried hots yet – this year I am though. 🙂

  33. Mike Lieberman May 24, 2011 at 9:05 pm -

    Very well could’ve been the variety. I’ll take some hots. yes.

  34. jem July 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm -

    crap- that’s what I just started growing on my porch.

  35. Michelle July 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm -

    Those peppers are still beautiful!  I didn’t have much luck with mine last year either and skipped planting them this year (and I have lots of space) – better luck next time. 😉

  36. Mike Lieberman August 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm -

    All good. Give it a go and see what happens. You might have better luck than me. Keep m eupdated.

  37. Mike Lieberman August 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm -


  38. Annejones October 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm -

    Planted 3 varities in 3 pots. I got loads. 3 quarts. You always get fewer if you let them get ripe (I always let them get red on plant). I think it’s the variety you planted. Try more fertilizer and tons of water.

  39. Mike Lieberman October 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm -

    Thanks for the advice.

  40. Suzannahk Johnson June 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm -

    matchbox peppers do well in pots

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