The sweet bell pepper can grow in your garden in many colors and sizes. The bell pepper is a warm-weather plant, which you should start indoors from seeds if you live in an area with severe winter weather. Learn from these tips about how to avoid common mistakes when growing bell peppers.
Planting Bell Peppers Too Soon
Wait to transplant your bell pepper plant seedlings into the garden until both the soil temperature and night air temperature are above 55 degrees F. (13 C). To keep the young pepper plants warm at night, place row covers over them in the garden. Bell peppers need 75 days of growing time to produce the mature fruit.
Do Not Crowd Bell Peppers into the Garden
Recommended bell pepper spacing in the garden seems to be large for the size of the seedling, but these peppers will grow on a vine that can get up to 24 inches long. Plant the seedlings 24 inches apart in each row, or each in its own square, measuring 18 by 18 inches.
Avoid Over-Fertilizing Bell Peppers
Over-fertilizing of your bell peppers, especially with a high-nitrogen formula, will produce more leaf and vine growth rather than more peppers. Fertilize peppers with a root-starter when you first transplant the seedlings, and then apply one more dosage of a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 into the soil once the peppers appear on the vines.
Do Not Let the Soil around Peppers Dry Out
Water peppers regularly, and irrigate daily in hot dry weather, to allow small new peppers to continue ripening. Dry soil will also allow root diseases to develop, so keep the soil moist and effectively drained.
Prevent Disease and Insect Pests
If you buy bell pepper plants instead of transplanting your own seedlings, check for the presence of any insects, such as aphids, that betray themselves by leaving sticky honeydew under the leaves. If aphids do get to your pepper plants, use predatory insects, such as lady beetles and lacewings, to control them. Look for any leaf spots or swellings on the stems, called cankers, before buying the plants. If you are a tobacco user, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly before touching the plants, to prevent spreading tobacco mosaic infection to the peppers.
Harvesting the Peppers
Depending on the pepper variety, you can pick them when they are still immature and ripen them indoors near a sunny window, or leave them on the vine to ripen. When you harvest them, cut the thick stem of the pepper fruit close to the vine instead of pulling the pepper off, to prevent tearing the vines and leaving wounds through which mold spores can enter the plant.
With the proper planting, fertilization, steady watering, and careful treatment when harvesting, sweet bell pepper vines can produce in large numbers, for you to enjoy in the summer and early fall. In most growing zones, you can pick and eat bell peppers from your garden from July through to the middle of October.