How to Grow Bell Peppers: 7 Tips for Growing Bell Peppers

How to Grow Bell Peppers: 7 Tips for Growing Bell Peppers

What Are Bell Peppers?
Bell peppers have a smooth outer skin, which protects a fresh, crunchy flesh inside. The fruit is hollow, with countless seeds clustering in the center and clinging to the white membrane along the walls. Part of the Capsicum genus, which also includes the gamut of chili pepper species, the bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) is larger, rounder, crunchier, and milder than its small, spicy relatives.

 How to Plant Bell Peppers
Bell peppers have a long growing season and seeds are often started indoors (around two months before the last spring frost date, depending on your hardiness zone). To successfully plant peppers:

Start seeds indoors first. If your climate isn’t ideal for growing peppers, germinating your seeds indoors first is recommended. To germinate, fill a planting tray with soil and plant your bell pepper seeds a quarter of an inch deep. Water, provide sun, and keep them warm—you can place the seeds near a heating pad if necessary. Keep your seeds in temperatures of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Harden off your plant. After one to three weeks of germination, your bell pepper seedlings should have sprouted and are ready for transplanting outside. However, bell peppers are especially vulnerable to transplant shock, and they’ll need to adjust to the outside environment. About 10 days before planting, gently introduce your seedlings to exterior conditions for small amounts of time per day, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors, which will help them acclimate better and prevent wilting or stunted growth, leading to more healthy plants.

Transplant outdoors. When your garden soil temperature has reached at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (nighttime temperatures should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit), your bell peppers are ready to transplant. Keep your seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart, and bury them in well-draining soil deep enough so their root ball is covered, but that the seedling leaves can still rest on the top layer.
7 Bell Pepper Plant Care Tips
Bell peppers prefer a rich soil that’s more sandy or loamy, which keeps your ground conditions well-drained and warm. Bell peppers also like a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. To give your bell pepper plants the proper care they need:

1. Mulch well. Black plastic mulch can help absorb the sun and keep your ground soil warm. Grass clippings are also good for bell peppers, as they can help smother weeds that could damage their delicate root system.
2. Water carefully. Bell peppers need a deep watering, about one to two inches per week. Although bell peppers like warm weather, they will not flourish in intense heat, so gardeners in climates that are prone to higher temperatures should water twice a day if necessary. Dry conditions will cause bitter-tasting peppers, but overwatering can suffocate the roots or lead to blossom end rot, which happens if the calcium in the soil is depleted. Monitor your watering carefully, keeping it as balanced as possible.
3. Provide sun. Bell peppers need full sun to grow and ripen properly, so keep them in a sunny spot in your vegetable garden—unless you live in a climate susceptible to extremely high heat and intense sunlight, in which case shade cloth or nearby plants can be used to manage temperatures.
4. Use the right fertilizer. Fertilize with a compound that’s low in nitrogen to help your bell peppers grow without affecting the rate of fruit production.
5. Stake. While not a necessity, staking your bell peppers can help keep them off the ground, away from pests, and also help reduce sunscald, which can occur if the pepper is exposed to direct sunlight for too long under high temperatures. Bell pepper leaves usually provide somewhat of a canopy for the fruit, and staking can help keep them upright and protected.
6. Check for pests. Aphids and flea beetles are two garden pests that love bell peppers. Use organic insecticides and tend to your plant often to keep pest invasions under control.
7. Companion plant. Bell peppers do well around corn, cucumbers, and carrots, but won’t thrive near cabbage family plants or fennel.
How to Harvest Bell Peppers
It can take bell peppers anywhere from 60 to 90 days to ripen, depending on which pepper varieties you want. Green peppers are the least mature and the most bitter—but if you leave a green pepper on the vine, it will evolve into yellow, then orange, before fully ripening into a red pepper, which is the sweetest version. To harvest a bell pepper, use a sharp knife or scissor to separate the fruit from the plant (tearing it with your hands can damage the plant), leaving about an inch of stem behind.

Learn More
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