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Bell peppers (Latin: Capsicum annuum) are also known as sweet peppers, peppers, or capsicum. They belong to the Solanaceae family, as do tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes.
Peppers were originally grown in Central and South America. Christopher Columbus brought it to Europe, from where it spread to Asia, Africa, and North America by the 17th century.
The fruit of this plant is used for cooking throughout the world. It is put into dishes, stuffed, and even used as a spice. It can be eaten cooked or raw.
There are numerous health benefits to eating this vegetable.
It plays a role in lowering the risk of visual impairments because of carotenoids.
They are a good source of iron and rich in vitamin C, which makes them excellent for preventing anemia.
And now, we are here to provide some insight into how to grow bell peppers at home!
But first, let’s learn about different varieties and some common characteristics!
Bell peppers are perennial plants in an all-year hot climate. On the other hand, in colder climates, people grow them as annuals, since they do not tolerate cold weather.
A bell pepper plant can reach up to 3 feet (1 meter) in height. Most bell peppers start flowering after at least three months.
However, there are varieties that ripen much faster. They need only about two months to produce fruit.
The color of the fruits ranges from green and yellow, to orange, red, and even purple.
Bell peppers consist of water – 95%, carbohydrates – 5%, and a negligible amount of fat and protein. They are very rich in vitamin C, especially the fully ripened red peppers. They also have a moderate amount of vitamin B6.
Varieties of Bell Peppers
Some of the varieties that grow to yellow are Canary Bell and Golden California Wonder. Those that grow to reach the color red are Coral Bell, Big Red, and California Wonder 300 TMR. There are even varieties that are darker in color, such as Chocolate Beauty and Purple Beauty.
1. Canary Bell
This variety reaches maturity after about 100 days. The fruit is yellow, and its size is between three and a half and four inches (9 to 10 cm).
2. Golden California Wonder
This pepper reaches gold-yellow at maturity. It takes up to 75 days to ripen fully. It is ideal for gardens with little space and patio containers.
3. Coral Bell
The color of this variety is vibrant orange. It is a very fruitful plant that produces four-lobed fruit. Mature fruits reach the size four by three and a half inches (10 by 9 cm). Harvest is expected after 80 to 90 days.
4. Big Red
This variety needs about 75 days to ripen. The fruit starts green and turns to red. It is three- and four-lobed, with thick flesh.
5. California Wonder 300 TMR
This is another variety that ripens to red in about 75 days. It can be picked green as well. The fruit is four-lobed, with a size of about four by four and a half inches maximum (10 to 12 cm). It is delicious when it is stuffed. The TMR stands for Tobacco Mosaic Virus Resistant.
6. Chocolate Beauty
This extra-sweet pepper is deep brown in color. It matures quickly – only after about 70 days. It is resistant to Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
7. Purple Beauty
The fruit of this pepper is dark purple, with thick walls. Its size is four by three inches (10 by 7 cm). It takes around 70 days to mature.
Planting Bell Peppers
It is relatively easy to grow bell peppers from seed. You can use seed from pepper or you can buy a bag of seeds in a shop.
A pepper seed can be stored for up to two years (if the conditions are suitable) before being sowed. Here are some pieces of advice on how to do this properly:
- It is better to take seeds from a red pepper than from a green one because the former fruit is more mature and therefore the seed is more appropriate for sowing.
- Let the seeds dry for a few days before storing or sowing them.
- They need to be put in a dark, dry location during the storing period. These conditions will not allow the seed to sprout prematurely.
Where Can You Plant Bell Peppers?
If you live in a colder climate, you may choose to start your peppers indoors, while it is still cold outside. When the weather becomes warmer, you may choose to take the plants into the garden.
If the climate is warm most of the year, you may plant bell peppers directly in your garden.
When the first real leaves grow on the plant, it is ready to be transplanted into the garden. The plant should be about 8 inches (20 cm) tall then. This should not be done sooner than two or three weeks after the last frost has ended.
The plants should be hardened off before being transplanted into the garden. The individual plants should be 18 to 24 inches apart (45 to 60 cm) in order to have enough space to develop.
The pot should be about 10 inches (25 cm) deep to accommodate a mature plant.
Places where other members of the nightshade family (Latin: Solanaceae) have been planted recently should be avoided when planting bell peppers. Doing this may lead to your peppers getting a disease.
When Can You Plant Bell Peppers?
This depends on the climate of the place where you will grow the plants.
If the climate is cold, you may sow the seeds indoors around two months (6 to 8 weeks) before the last frost is expected to end. It would be advisable to wait two or three weeks after the last frost before you introduce your garden to the beloved indoor-grown bell pepper plants. This is due to the fact that peppers need warm air and soil temperature to thrive.
This is important to plan since bell peppers have a quite long growing period – 60 to 90 days.
How to Plant Bell Peppers?
- The seeds should be planted about one quarter of an inch deep. Cover them with soil lightly. Do not press the soil. The seedlings should appear in two weeks’ time at most.
- To help the process of germination, you may cover the pot so that it retains the warmth. When the seedlings appear, you should remove the cover.
- When the seedlings appear, thin them and put each individual plant into a separate pot. This will enable the plants to develop and grow the best way possible. Make sure to water them.
- To transplant the plants to a garden, wait for the right conditions in terms of the temperature of the soil and the weather outside.
- Since blossoms may drop in the course of transplantation due to the stress the plant undergoes, it is advisable to remove them before moving the plants to the garden. They will grow again very soon.
- Dig small holes 18 to 24 inches apart (45 to 60 cm) for each plant.
- Take a seedling by the base of the stem and pull out of the pot, together with the soil that comes with it. Place it in a hole. The root ball should be completely covered by soil.
- The plants should be planted in the same depth as they were in the pots. Otherwise, their stems may rot.
- Secure the plants into the ground by pouring a bit of water and patting the soil firmly around the base.
- The newly transplanted plants need a bit more watering and some organic mulch (such as chopped leaves or straw) in order to accommodate to the new environment.
- As the plants get taller, they may need support so as not to bend, especially when they start growing fruit. You may use a stake or a tomato cage for support.
Caring For Bell Peppers
The Perfect Soil
Bell peppers need soil that is rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
The soils needs to be well-drained. It should also be well-fertilized and rich in organic matter. It should be slightly acid: ideally of the pH value of 5.5 to 6.5.
If the soil is both sandy and loamy, this will ensure good drainage and preserving of warmth, both of which are needed for bell pepper plants to grow well.
Some fertilizer or aged compost should be added to the soil a week before the plants are transferred into the garden.
Taller varieties will probably need to be staked when they start producing fruit, as the fruit may become heavy on the plant.
The Right Temperature
Bell pepper seeds need warmth for germination. The best conditions would be about 80° Fahrenheit (26.6° Celsius) of air temperature and somewhat warmer soil.
Remember that temperatures that are too high or too low may disturb the plant from developing normally. It will grow slowly if nights are cold (below 55°F / 13°C). Also, if the temperatures get too hot, the blossoms may drop and the plant will not yield fruit.
If the plant is sprouting slowly, it may need a heating mat to ensure warmth. It will probably not sprout if the temperature is below 55° Fahrenheit (12.7° C).
The plant should be protected from sudden drops in temperature. This can be done by putting glass jars or plastic milk containers over the plant to preserve some warmth and prevent cold from reaching it.
If you choose to start the plant indoors and want to transfer it to your garden later, you should harden it off carefully before transferring it outside completely. You may start this process when the temperature reaches at least 60° Fahrenheit (16° C) at night.
Indoors, use bottom heat or heat lamps to keep the soil nice and warm for your newly expected plants.
Bell peppers need at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight during the day. So, whether you choose to grow it indoors or outdoors, make sure that they stay in a place that is not shaded and that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day.
If grown indoors without enough light, the plant will grow tall and slim to the direction of the light. This is not very good for it as the overall health of a plant is affected badly. Fluorescent lighting is a good choice to avoid this.
Generally, bell peppers should be watered one to two inches per week.
Seedlings should not be watered directly. Instead of that, it is advisable to pour water into a tray under the pot (which should have holes at the bottom). Leave for about 10 minutes and remove the extra water. You do not want the seedlings to soak.
If you live in a very warm place or a place with a desert climate, daily watering might be necessary.
Bell peppers thrive well in soil that is fertilized with slow-release granular fertilizer or some organic varieties, such as those that are made with a fish meal or alfalfa.
You should fertilize the ground about a week before transplanting your peppers to the garden. Also, fertilize after the first fruit set appears.
If the plant is not producing fruit, it would be good to decrease the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Fertilizers with nitrogen help produce lush plants, but without fruit.
Diseases and Pests
As bell peppers are in the same family and tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes, they share similar needs, pests and diseases, and nutritional needs. Therefore, these should not be planted in the same place in a garden one after another.
However, if they are grown at the same time, it is good to put them close, precisely because the care is similar for them.
- Overwatering may cause fungal diseases to the bell peppers.
- It is important to weed the plants regularly to prevent weed from disturbing them.
- If the fruits get black at their ends, a condition called blossom end rot, that is the sign that the plant needs more calcium in the soil. This is most easily done by pouring some expired milk to the soil.
- Reduced pollination may happen at temperatures lower than 60°F (16°C) and higher than 90°F (32°C).
- Insects like aphids, spider mites, stink bugs, flea beetles, and cutworms are very hard to get rid of, as they do not go away so easily. However, everyday spraying of water on the plants (with special attention on the underside of leaves) will probably do the trick. Or they can be picked by hand and squashed. Of course, if none of these work, organic pesticides can be used to get rid of them.
To protect your plants from pests and diseases, it is strongly advised to check them regularly and to make sure that there are natural predators like birds, praying mantises, and ladybugs that will get rid of the annoying pests.
Harvesting Bell Peppers
How to Harvest Bell Peppers
The fruit of most bell peppers start green and within two weeks ripen to their true color. Nonetheless, some varieties need up to a month to grow to their color.
You may harvest peppers when they reach the desired color or size. Remember that the longer they stay on the plant, the sweeter they get and the more vitamin C they have.
You will know that it is not yet the time for harvest if the fruits feel thin. On the other hand, if they are soggy, the harvest should have been done earlier. It should feel firm when you touch it for the best effect. The typical length of bell pepper that is ready to be harvested is 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm).
The best way to harvest fruits is to cut them with a sharp knife, shears, or scissors. Of course, make sure not to cut any other part of the plant so that it can continue thriving.
Regular harvest will encourage more growth.
When the first cold touch of winter is felt, the leftover fruit should be harvested and the plants should be dug out of the soil. If they are not infected by a pest or disease, these plants can be used for compost.
How to Store Bell Peppers
You can store bell peppers in a refrigerator for about 10 days after harvesting. They should be in a plastic container, cleaned with a dry cloth. They should be cleaned by water immediately before use. Otherwise, they may become moldy and rot quickly.
You can freeze them. This retains the flavor, but not the firmness after being thawed. Having been stored this way, they are excellent for adding to soups, stews, and sauces. If you stuff them before freezing, you will have a tasty and quick meal.
How to Dry Bell Peppers
You can dry the peppers as well. This is done by following these steps:
- Wash the peppers, core and seed them.
- Cut them into strips.
- Steam the strips for about ten minutes.
- Spread the steamed strips on the baking sheet.
- Dry them in the over at the lowest temperature until they get brittle.
- Stir and switch the tray position from time to time.
- When the peppers are done, let them cool down.
- Put them in the preferred storage containers.
How to Make Pickled Bell Peppers
Pickled bell peppers can last for 2 years. Here is how to do it:
- Use 7 lbs (3 kg) of fresh firm bell peppers.
- Wash them, cut into quarters, remove seeds and cores, and cut away any blemishes.
- Slice the peppers into strips.
- Boil a mixture of 3 ½ cups of sugar, 3 cups of 5% vinegar, and 3 cups of water.
- After one minute, add the peppers and let it boil again.
- Put one half of a garlic clove and a quarter of a teaspoon of canning or pickling salt into each sterilized jar. The jars should be half a pint big. If you use pint jars, double this amount.
- Place the pepper strips into the jars and pour the vinegar mixture over it.
- Leave about half an inch (1.2 cm) headspace.
- About 9 pints are expected from this quantity.
More Details about How to Grow Bell Peppers
- When in a supermarket or a grocery store, you may have seen that green and red (sometimes even orange) peppers are put together. That is because they come from the same plant, only some have ripened more than others.
- There is a slight disagreement about whether peppers should be classified as a type of fruit or vegetable. We certainly vote for a vegetable. And you?
- They are self-pollinators. However, insects such as bees may cross-pollinate them. You should have that in mind, especially if you have hot and sweet pepper close to one another. It may not show in the current plants, but planting them the next year from their own seeds may show that even the sweet peppers got somewhat hot.
- You should not store peppers with fruits and vegetables which emit ethylene gas (some examples are apples and strawberries), as peppers are sensitive to this gas.
- The seed packets for bell peppers state the time it takes from transplanting the plant until it grows ripe fruit of full size. You should pay attention to that as you will need to include more time, that which is needed for the plant to grow enough to be transplanted.
- It is good to avoid any garden work after rain, as wet pepper plants are prone to getting diseases.