Like most gardeners, when you’re planning your vegetable garden,you’ll probably want to include bell peppers. Peppers are excellent in allsorts of dishes, raw and cooked. They can be frozen at season’s end and enjoyedin dishes throughout the winter.
Brush up on some bell pepper info to learn all about growingthese delicious and nutritious vegetables. A little knowledge about pepperplant care will go a long way.
Growing bell peppers isn’t difficult, but temperature is animportant factor. While they’re fairly easy to grow, pepper plant care in theseearly stages is critical.
Always start pepper plant seedlings indoors. The seeds needthe warmth of your house to germinate. Fill a seed tray with seedstarting soil or well-draining potting soil, placing one to three seeds ineach container. Place the tray in a warm location or use a warming mat to keepthem between 70 to 90 degrees F. (21-32 C.) – the warmer the better.
If you find it helpful, you can cover the tray with plasticwrap. Water droplets will form on the underside of the plastic to let you knowthe baby seeds have enough water. If the drops stop forming, it’s time to givethem a drink. You should begin to see signs of plants popping up within acouple weeks.
When your little plants get to be a few inches tall, gentlypot them separately in small pots. As the weather begins to warm, you can getthe small plants used to the outdoors by hardeningthe seedlings off – putting them out during the day for a bit. This, alongwith a little fertilizer now and then, will strengthen them in preparation forthe garden.
When the weather has warmed up and your young plants havegrown to about 8 inches tall (20 cm.), they can be transferred to the garden.They’ll thrive in soil with a pH of 6.5 or 7.
Since bell peppers thrive in the warm seasons, wait for thenighttime temperatures in your region rise to 50 degrees F. (10 C.) or higherbefore transplantingthem to the garden. Before you plant peppers outdoors, it’s important to beabsolutely certain that the chance of frost is long gone. A frost will eitherkill the plants altogether or inhibit pepper growth, leaving you with bareplants.
Pepper plants should be placed in the soil 18 to 24 inches(46-60 cm.) apart. They’ll enjoy being planted near your tomatoplants. The soil should be well drained and amended before you put theminto the ground. Healthy pepper plants should produce peppers throughout latesummer.
It’s easy to determine when your peppersare ready to harvest. Begin to pick the peppers once they are 3 to 4 inches(7.6 to 10 cm.) long and the fruit is firm and green. If they feel somewhatthin, the peppers aren’t ripe. If they feel soggy, it means they’ve been lefton the plant too long. After you harvest the first crop of peppers, feel freeto fertilizethe plants to give them the energy they need to form another crop.
Some gardeners prefer red,yellow or orange bell peppers. These varieties just need to stay on thevine longer to mature. They’ll start out green, but you’ll notice they have athinner feel. Once they begin to take on color, the peppers will thicken andbecome ripe enough to harvest. Enjoy!
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to grow luscious, vibrant green bell peppers. All it takes is patience, attention and a little knowledge of the right growing conditions. Green peppers, like most other varieties, thrive in the heat, which is why they have such a celebrated history in countries with arid climates. With this in mind, it’s important to know where to begin cultivating green pepper seedlings, how frequently to water them and when the best time is to transplant them outside to grow on their own.
First, I want to illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of growing your peppers in pots. We always grow some peppers in pots, but we also have an in-ground garden.
The benefits of growing in pots include better mobility, reduced weeding, and aesthetic appeal. If you have a balcony with good sunlight exposure, you can probably grow bell peppers in a pot!
There are also a wide variety of attractive pots to add some class to your container plants. Finally, thanks to the smaller size, there will be little to no weeding all season long!
The drawbacks of growing peppers in pots include potentially large footprint, more frequent watering, and smaller yields. While the mobility of a potted plant is great, the smaller volume of soil typically leads to more watering and smaller pepper yields. We also have the problem of underestimating the size of fully grown pepper plants.
Since the cost of entry is relatively low, we always recommend trying one or two potted pepper plants the first time. Get a gauge for how much space you can afford to dedicate to the plants and avoid potentially overcrowding a small balcony space.
The first thing you should know about bell pepper plants is that they’re quite sensitive to cold temperatures, so it’s a good idea to start them indoors before their growing season begins (spring/summer).
Keep in mind that sweet bell peppers have a long growing season — they take between 60 to 90 days from sowing to harvesting — so the sooner you get started, the better. It’s recommended to sow your bell pepper seeds 8 to 10 weeks before your last spring frost date. You can use the Back to the Roots grow calendar to find out when that is.
Germination occurs within 10 days, and once the first set of true leaves appears, you can begin transplanting them outside if that’s your goal. (Bonus: Bell pepper plants can also be grown indoors.)
But before you move your bell pepper plant out into the open, make sure to check that the nighttime temperatures do not go below 70°F, as this may shock your young plants and contribute to their premature demise. The best way to support these plants is to wait for the last frost danger to pass.
As a true warm-weather crop, bell peppers love direct sunlight and full sun, so place them in a location where nothing is blocking the light. If you live in a climate with extreme high heat and intense sunlight, your peppers may be susceptible to sunscald, especially the younger leaves and more tender fruits. While they may look aesthetically unappealing, sunscalded bell peppers are still edible and equally tasty.
Bear in mind that to produce large and healthy fruit, pepper plants need plenty of full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours every day.
Finding the right watering balance is the key factor to a thriving bell pepper plant. Since sweet bell peppers cannot tolerate extremely high temperatures, it’s essential to water them appropriately to prevent diseases. If you live in a desert climate or experience a very dry summer season, it may be necessary to hydrate your plants daily — especially in the early morning or evening to prevent water evaporation.
To avoid diseases and pests, such as anthracnose or blossom end rot, avoid overhead watering and make sure you water deeply and evenly at the base of the plant. By doing so, you encourage the development of a strong and healthy root system, which in turn will make your plant more resilient to overcome any bumps in the road.
Bell pepper plants prefer sandy to loamy soil, which is enriched with organic matter. You can either buy a potting mix with these characteristics or purchase all the elements individually and create your own. If you’re not sure what the best option is, don’t be shy — ask one of the staff members at your local Home Depot Garden Center for an opinion.
Note: Fertilizing is an important step in vegetable gardening. But don’t go crazy and over-fertilize as it usually encourages your plant to grow more foliage and produce less fruit, which is obviously not the goal.
Since water is vital for growing bell peppers, choosing the proper soil is undoubtedly the best way to ensure optimal moisture levels. These plants don’t like wet feet, so opting for sandy, loamy soil will ensure good drainage and help the soil temperature rise quicker, a key factor in the cultivation of bell peppers.
Equally important is the soil pH. Veteran gardeners claim that a slightly more acidic soil (between 6.0 and 6.8) is the optimal environment for your bell pepper plant to yield a bountiful harvest. Mixing some coffee grounds into the potting mix is a natural, eco-friendly way to balance the pH levels of the soil and support your plant’s growth.
Pro tip: To prevent blossom end rot — which is primarily a calcium nutrient deficiency — crush some eggshells and add them to the soil. It’s an easy, organic way to provide your plants with an extra nutritional boost.
To speed up the warming of the soil and help retain some moisture during hotter days, consider covering it with a dark mulch.
If you live in a small apartment with a tiny balcony and think you don’t have enough space to grow bell pepper plants, think again!
Bell peppers are a perfect match for container gardening and raised beds, so you can easily squeeze them into even the smallest spaces. Since these veggies (OK, fruits) require good drainage, a raised fabric bed — like this one from Back to the Roots — is a fantastic and affordable home for your bell pepper plant.
The Back to the Roots Fabric Raised Beds are made with durable felt and are double stitched, so you can easily move them around without worries. They also come with internal grow walls to prevent root tangling between different plants, which means you can plant all sorts of different veggies, herbs, and houseplants simultaneously.
Keep in mind that, like tomatoes, bell peppers benefit from some type of staking or structural support. Tomato cages are a great alternative, and they’re easy to set up. Just make sure you put them in place when the plants are still young, as it can be tricky to position them around fully mature plants.
A fertilizer application made just as the plants begin to flower and a second time when they begin bearing fruit improves plant health and production. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers because these can lead to lush foliage growth but few flowers or fruits. A low-nitrogen general-purpose blend, applied at the package-recommended rate, works well. Spread the fertilizer in a band 6 inches away from the base of the pepper plants and water it in. If the fertilizer touches the plant foliage, it can damage it.
To harvest peppers without breaking brittle branches, cut off with a knife or pruners leaving about an inch of stem to prolong storage life. Peppers can be harvested at any stage of development depending on your preference with that particular pepper. Peppers left to mature on the vine will normally turn from green to yellow to orange and then red. As color changes, the flavor and vitamins increase as well.
Pick peppers often to encourage production. Peppers left too long on the plant will be soft and shriveled looking, and should be removed from plant. Peppers are frost-sensitive harvest fruits before frost. If frost is expected, cover plants to protect from frost. In Arizona, it is possible for pepper plants to over-winter if weather is mild.
Question: We use a lot of green bell peppers. Should I plant them in containers or in the ground?
Answer: Pick any sunny spot to grow peppers in-ground or in containers. When grown in containers, make sure they are large ones of about 5 gallons or more for each plant. Bell peppers have grown more than two years in containers. They can be moved to a warm site when severe cold is expected. In-ground plantings also grow well when the soil is amended with organic matter. All need to be kept moist and fertilized with a slow-release product, following label instructions.
Q: I would like to add a gardenia to the landscape. Do they like sun or shade, and what is the best care?
A: Fragrant gardenias are welcome additions to any sunny to filtered sun location. Plants do not tolerate totally shady locations very well, developing weaker and more spindly plants. Select a grafted gardenia to avoid nematode problems. Gardenia plants are a bit finicky, growing best in a slightly acidic soil. Keep the soil moist and maintain a 1-2-inch mulch layer. Fertilizer in March, May, August and early October with a slow-release landscape fertilizer. Also, stay alert to scale insects a major pest that affects leaves and stems. When noted, along with sooty mold (a black fungus), apply a horticultural oil spray or systemic insecticide, following label instructions.