Growing

How to Grow Bell Peppers: Complete Guide

Our complete guide to growing peppers at home - Everything you need to know from planting to caring for your peppers to harvesting them.
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Are you planning your summer garden? Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and they make for a fantastic addition to a shade house, greenhouse or outdoor veggie patch.

Sweet salad peppers, boisterous bells, and spicy chili peppers are all excellent options to bring more flavor and color to your garden this coming season. In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about growing peppers.

When Do I Start Planting My Peppers?

Bell peppers grow as a perennial in tropical climates, as do many other varieties. However, in colder climates, they only work as annuals. If you live in the far northern states in the US, you’re going to struggle to get a crop of peppers to grow in your garden.

Bell peppers need a long growing season, preferably up to 100-days in length. Therefore, if you only get short summers in your area, then chances are your peppers won’t finish in time.

Therefore, if you live in the northern states, and you want peppers in your garden this summer, you’ll need to start them indoors around 6 to 8-weeks before the ground begins to thaw.

  • If you want to grow your peppers from seed, then you can plant the seeds you get inside store-bought organic peppers. Nurseries and online dealers also have a wide selection of different varieties available for purchase.
  • Start your seeds in a potting mix in seedling trays. Keep the potting soil moist and place the seeds just under the surface. You should see the seeds germinate in 10 to 14-days, depending on the temperature conditions.
  • Seeds germinate optimally at temperatures of 80°F. After the seeds germinate and produce three sets of leaves, they’re ready for transplanting into larger pots.
  • Prepare your pots with soil mix, and a half a handful of perlite to improve drainage. As the seedlings start to harden, and growth begins to accelerate, you can transplant them into the garden or a larger pot.
Young pepper seedlings
Young pepper seedlings

How Do I Transplant Peppers?

If you’re bringing indoor plants outdoors, then you need to harden them for 10-days before sending them to the garden.

Hardening refers to bringing your peppers outdoors to catch the early morning sun. Bring them indoors after the morning sun starts to turn hot. Take the plant outdoors for an extra hour each day until it has the strength to make it through the entire day outdoors.

After hardening, plant the pepper in your vegetable garden. Make sure that the soil conditions are right before planting and wait for the ambient temperature to reach above 65°F before transplanting. When planting in the vegetable garden, ensure that you space the plants at least 18-inches apart.

Prepare the soil and add a nutritious potting mix and a handful of perlite to the earth for amendments. Your peppers won’t need fertilizing right away. Place the root ball in a hole that covers the roots, but avoid burying the plant, or it might cause the growth of root rot.

After planting, add a layer of 2 to 3-inches of mulch. The mulch releases nutrients into the soil and prevents evaporation. Bell peppers have shallow root systems, and adding mulch prevents them from drying out on warmer days.

Add some mulch around the base of the pepper plants
Add some mulch around the base of the pepper plants

How Do I Care for Peppers?

Caring for peppers is relatively easy, and they’re a good choice for novice gardeners growing their first veggie patch.

What Are the Soil and Temperature Requirements for Peppers?

Bell peppers typically require warm soil and warm air temperatures for optimal growing conditions. If you’re planting in colder regions of the united states, cover the roots of your peppers with black plastic. This strategy helps to keep the roots warm and retain moisture in the soil.

Bell peppers prefer temperatures between 70 and 90°F. Nighttime temperatures below 55°F slow growth of the plants and limit the flowering phase. As a result, your peppers don’t reach their full potential.

However, if temperatures get too hot, the plant may drop its blossoms prematurely, preventing the fruit from forming.

Peppers prefer fertile, loamy soils that drain well and offer plenty of nutrients. Make sure your position your peppers in an area of the veggie patch that receives full sunlight throughout the day. These plants love basking in the sun, and the more sun they have, the bigger the fruit.

Peppers love sunlight
Peppers love sunlight

How Do I Water My Peppers?

Peppers don’t like it when you let the soil dry out too much. They require moist soil conditions throughout the growing season. If you live in a hot, dry region, and you can’t rely on rainfall, then water your peppers at least three to four times a week.

If you reside in a region of the US that gets decent rainfall, then water the plants when the soil starts turning dry.

In most cases, between 1 and 2-inches of water per week is sufficient. As the peppers start to form, stake them to bamboo or plastic stakes to support the weight of the bells.

Never overwater your peppers. Overwatering will waterlog the soil, resulting in the roots staying wet. Wet roots invite pests and disease to your crops, and root rot might start to develop, ruining your plants.

Do I Need to Fertilize Peppers?

If you use a high-quality potting mix, then you won’t have to fertilize your peppers through the growing season. Peppers prefer less fertilizer, and adding too much during the season results in leggy plants that grow too tall.

What Are the Pests and Diseases Affecting Peppers?

Bell peppers are susceptible to pests and diseases in the garden. If you live in a rainy climate, you’ll need to check your peppers are a few days of consistent rain, especially if the temperatures start to get low. Cold and wet environmental conditions bring disease into the vegetable garden, and it might find its way to your peppers.

Root rot is a common problem in wet and cold conditions, as is phytophthora blight, a fungal disease causing the permanent wilting of the foliage. Moisture stress can also lead to the development of blossom end rot. This pathogen shows itself as a dark region on the pepper.

It’s common for blossom end rot to occur due to a calcium deficiency in the soil. Throughout the growing season, gardeners need to keep an eye out for various other pests, such as aphids and flea beetles. Cutworms and flea beetles are also a concern for your plants.

If you notice any of these pests hanging around your plants, dose them with neem oil to keep them away.

Beautiful Peppers
Beautiful Peppers

How Do I Harvest and Store Peppers?

Peppers can take between 90 to 100-days to reach maturity, depending on the species. Gardeners can harvest their peppers with a set of pruning shearers or sharp kitchen shears.

  • In the week before the fruits start to turn ripe, place some drip trays on the floor around the plant. Any ripe peppers will fall to the ground, and if you don’t collect them quickly, then start to rot on the side touching the floor.
  • When harvesting your peppers from the plant, always cut the stem above the fruit. Never tear the peppers from the plant, as it may cause damage, and entire branches might break off the plant.
  • After harvesting your peppers, rinse them under fresh water. Pat your peppers dry using paper towels, and them store them wrapped in paper towels in Tupperware inside your fridge. If you planted later in the season, your pepper plants might keep producing well into the start of the winter.
  • Leave your plants to keep fruiting, and then dig them up and throw them away at the end of the goring season. Leaving your pepper plants in the ground over the winter invites pathogens to overwinter in the soil, tainting the following year’s crops.
  • The large peppers will taste sweet, while smaller ones might be bitter. If you’re harvesting any unripe peppers, leave them in a cool, dry place to ripen for a few days. When the color changes, add them to your stockpile in the fridge.

Peppers don’t do well in the freezer, and you’ll need to eat the fruits while they are still fresh. Pickling is an option, but we don’t recommend it unless you have professional canning equipment in the kitchen.

Expert Tip – Be Careful when Handling Hot Peppers

If you decide to grow chili peppers like habaneros in your veggie garden, be careful when harvesting and processing your peppers. Spicy peppers contain an ingredient called d “capsaicin,” which is the polyphenol antioxidant in the fruit that gives it its fiery bite.

Sensitivity to capsaicin can vary from person to person. When harvesting your peppers, wear plastic latex gloves to ensure you don’t get any of it on your fingers from the skin of the fruit. If you accidentally get it on your fingers and then touch your face, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Capsaicin is a powerful irritant, and it could cause swelling and itching in your skin for a few hours, even after rinsing it off your skin.

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Hollie Carter

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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