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How to Plant a Salsa Garden: What’s Hot and What’s Not

Salsa is a family favorite for many and fresh salsa out of your garden is not only tasty but also healthy. Here are some ideas on how to plant a salsa garden. The choice of how hot your salsa will be is up to you.

Listed are some examples of hot, medium and mild to no heat peppers. And some “firm” varieties of tomatoes for your salsa. I use Jung’s catalog and website and these are some of the peppers, tomatoes, and onions that I use. I also have some herb suggestions to go in your salsa garden! Here we go!

Planning the Salsa Garden

The size of the salsa garden will depend on how big your family is and whether or not you want enough to can, freeze or just use fresh. Look on the Internet and in catalogs for varieties of onions, tomatoes, and peppers for your salsa garden. Try to match the heat of the peppers to your taste.

Picking a Spot for Your Salsa Garden

Salsa gardens need to go to a full sun area.
You will need easy access to water for your salsa garden.
Do not plant tomatoes, peppers, and onions in the same spot as last year if you can help it.
Pick from regular gardening, raised bed gardening or lasagna gardening.
Make sure you have fertilizer or compost for your salsa garden soil.

PEPPERS for Salsa Garden 

I like to have green, yellow and red in my salsa.

Hot Peppers

  • Mucho Nacho Hybrid – 4″ long, usually use when green but will mature to red color. REALLY HOT!
  • Early Jalapeño- 3″ long, green to red, HOT
  • Garden Salsa Hybrid- 8″-9″ long, Medium heat that gets hotter with a dry season.
  • Burning Bush- Hot and slightly sweet, 1 ½ ” -3″ long, green to orange
  • Caribbean Red Pepper- Twice as hot as Haber+nero, 1 ½” green to BRIGHT red
  • Cayenne – Long red pencil-thin, dark green to bright red, VERY HOT

Medium Hot Peppers

  • Hungarian Yellow Hot Wax- “Hot Banana” is Spicy sweet, 5″-6″ long and medium hot. Yellow to red.
  • Mariachi Hybrid- 3″-4″ mildly hot and usually used as yellow, but can be used when red

Little to No Heat Peppers

  • Fooled You – 3 ½”, tastes like Jalapeño without the heat! Green to red.
  • Zavory – Smells like a habernero with little to no heat.
  • Banana Bill – Yellow to red-Very sweet at the red stage.
  • Big Bertha- green to red
  • Chinese Giant-an heirloom, mild, flashy red color

Tomatoes for Salsa Garden

I like to use firm and meaty varieties and yellow and red colors.

  • Giant Oxheart – Firm and meaty, red
  • Yellow pear – Yellow and sweet.
  • Burpee’s Big Boy Hybrid – firm-bright red
  • Roma and Viva Italia Hybrid – Small, firm and red.

ONIONS for Salsa Garden

I buy bulk onion bulb sets. Usually yellow.


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How to Plant a Salsa Garden

Pepper

Pepper plants should be planted at least 18″-24″ apart and the space between rows should be 24″ -36″. Peppers like moist soil, not wet. They love the sun and hot weather. Start seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before planting. Don’t plant pepper plants outside until the soil is 50 degrees at night.

Dig a hole and add a wee bit of water. Gently set plant in the hole. I usually plant my peppers fairly deep, within a couple of 2-3 inches of the first branch. Keep weeded and watered. Mulch might be considered to keep the weeds in check.

Tomatoes

Tomato seeds should be planted indoors 6-8 weeks before the last threat of frost. Wait until the temps are at least 50 degrees at night. Plant at least 24″ apart in rows that are 30″-36″ apart. You will want to fertilize your tomatoes. It is also easier if you stake or “cage” the tomatoes. Otherwise, they will spread and you will be walking on them.

Dig hole, I usually dig one deep enough to set the tomato plant in up to within an inch or two of the first branch. I believe this encourages deep, strong roots. Deepwater your tomatoes but always try to keep the water at the root level and off of the foliage. You might want to use a mulch to help aid in weed control moisture retention.

Onions

The majority of the onions I plant are bulb sets. I plant them in little holes about 3-4 inches deep. Set the bulb in with the pointed end up and cover with 2″ of soil. The onion sets should be spaced about 4″ apart.

When onions are starting to grow well, you may want to “thin” them out to give more room to the remaining onions. Onions like the sun and they like to be protected from the wind. I like my onions planted in well-fertilized and loose soil.

When you are planting your salsa garden, be sure to read the instructions that come with the seeds and plants and sets. Different plants and areas require different planting instructions.

image - Planting guide for salsa garden
Planting guide for salsa garden
  • T=Tomatoes
  • P=Peppers
  • O=Onions
  • Cil=Cilantro
  • Oreg=Oregano
  • Marj=Marjorum

Herbs for Your Salsa Garden

What is salsa without some herbs to add to the great flavor? Your salsa garden will be enhanced by planting a couple of cilantro and oregano and marjoram plants along the edges of the salsa garden.

These can be purchased as plants almost anywhere plants are sold. Bring home and set them around the edges of the salsa garden. Use herbs fresh from your own salsa garden to make your salsa!

Follow instructions on each plant. Keep watered well and you may want to mulch around your salsa herbs to help keep the weeds down.

This is my idea of a handy salsa garden. Your salsa garden can be very small or quite large for sharing or canning. When you are getting ready to plant your salsa garden, its always a great idea to contact your local extension office for extra help on how to plant the tomatoes, onion, peppers, and herbs for your part of the country.

Now, go plant your salsa garden with confidence. Keep it watered and weeded and enjoy the most flavorful salsa you have ever had. And it will all come from your salsa garden!

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