Answer: I probably wouldn't start the pepper seeds much earlier than 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for your area. Doing so can result in plants that are leggy or spindly, more importantly, I would put my money on why you didn't get a good harvest on the hot/cold cycles. Peppers are a heat-loving crop, and are particularly sensitive to environmental stresses such as cool weather and drought. In particular, cool weather (and very hot weather) will cause pepper blossoms and/or young fruit to drop. Keep in mind also that peppers like a soil that is well amended with organic matter without being too rich. It should be on the slightly acid side (pH of 5.5 to 6.5). Peppers are heavy feeders and require a well-balanced fertilizer with plenty of micro-nutrients. Peppers like plenty of water when young, especially just after transplanting (any break in the watering pattern and peppers can become stunted). They like moderate watering when actively growing and before fruiting. As they began to ripen their fruits, cut back on watering considerably. Hot peppers, especially, develop best taste and heat when grown on the dry side before harvest.
Q&A Library Searching Tips