Bell Peppers are another easy to grow garden crop. Growing Bell Peppers is like growing Tomatoes and Potatoes, in that their growing requirements are similar. Bell Peppers are the second most grown vegetable, behind tomatoes. They come in many sizes, types and heat ranges, to suit any person’s taste. We mainly grow the large green bell peppers for adding into many recipes.
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Soil Preparation and Planting:
Growing Bell Peppers requires a planting site that receives full sun. Don’t grow them where tomatoes or eggplants grew last year, as they are susceptible to the same diseases. Make sure your soil is well-drained to avoid root rot from standing water.
Plant your seeds 1/4″ deep, and 18″ apart. They may take up to 2 weeks to sprout, so be patient. After the plant is about 6″ tall, pinch off the growing point to encourage bushiness.
Try not to transplant; this may damage the root system. Instead, plant indoors in peat pots, then put the whole plant outside when the seedlings are 4-6″ tall, and after danger of frost has passed. Plant in the garden after the soil temperature averages at least 60 degrees. Try to transplant on a cloudy day or in the evening to avoid the sun burning the leaves.
Plant your peppers about 18″ apart. A close planting will shade the fruit on the inside of the plants, preventing sunburn. It also shades the soil, keeping weeds at bay, and the soil moisture up.
Tips for Growing Bell Peppers:
Keep the soil evenly moist. Water deeply during dry spells, and mulch around the plants to keep the soil moist. Try not to water the leaves; instead, water around the base of the plants.
Pull weeds gently, or cut the weeds off at ground level to avoid damaging the pepper roots.
Fertilize with a 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer if the leaves are pale green; otherwise, peppers usually do not need fertilizing. Too much nitrogen will encourage leaf growth, at the expense of fruit production. You can use greensand in the soil to increase potash, or Epsom salts on the leaves to correct a magnesium deficiency.
Stake up the plant as it grows to prevent branches breaking from heavy fruit and wind damage. I use the small tomato cages, but they still need staking. The branches get heavy from the fruit, and the tomato cages may fall over. Be sure to train the branches to stay inside the cage to avoid them breaking on the cage wire. This has happened to me more than once.
After the temperatures reach 90 degrees, blossoms may drop off, and fruit production stop. Last year, this did not stop our peppers from producing all summer long, and into the fall months.
Pests and other Problems:
The Pepper Weevil will chew holes in blossoms and buds, causing misshapen fruit. Keep any crop debris down, and hand-pick any bugs you see.
Aphids and Colorado Potato Beetles, cutworms and hornworms are occasional pests. Beneficial insects like Ladybugs, lacewing flies and praying mantises consume aphids. Companion plantings of Eggplant, flax and green beans planted nearby help repel Colorado potato beetles. Planting Tansy will discourage cutworms.
There are also some plant diseases to watch for: Anthracnose infection, Bacterial spot, Early Blight, Verticillium wilt, or Mosaic. Crop rotation is the best defense against bacterial diseases. Rotate your crops on a 3-year plan to help with this problem.
Harvesting Your Peppers:
Peppers will produce over a long span of time. To encourage more production, harvest peppers before they mature. However, mature peppers have the best flavor. Many peppers change colors as they mature, from green to red, yellow or orange.
Cut the pepper, don’t pull it from the plant to avoid damaging the plant. In the fall, harvest all the peppers before a frost is predicted.
Saving Pepper Seeds:
Seeds from store bought peppers are usually not ideal; they may not sprout, and if they do, they may not produce well. Use open-pollinated, heirloom or non-hybrid seed varieties. Pick one pepper to save for seeds. Wait until the fruit is just past the ripe stage, and the skin begins to wrinkle. Cut the pepper open, and shake the seeds out onto a paper plate for drying. Dry for a week or two to allow for complete drying.
Store the seeds in a paper envelope or glass jar. If you use glass jars, include a packet of silica gel to absorb moisture. If you see your jar has moisture condensing on the inside, pull the seeds out immediately and dry them again to avoid mildew and rot.
Store the harvested seeds in a dark, cool place until you are ready to plant. They will stay viable for at least 2 years.
How is your experiences growing Bell Peppers? What is your favorite variety? Which Bell Pepper grows best in your area? Let the community know in the comment section below!