Bell peppers are one of the most popular vegetables grown in home gardens. The bell pepper is native to Central and North America and is easy to grow. There is now a much wider variety of peppers to choose from with different colors and even different shapes. 

Peppers are a tender, warm-season crop. They resist most pests and offer something for everyone: spicy, sweet or hot, and a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. For this page, we will focus on sweet bell peppers.


Growing Information

 

  • Sun exposure: Full Sun
  • Soil type: Loamy
  • Soil pH: Neutral


Preparing the Plants

  • Peppers like hot weather. They are easily damaged from any cold weather and frost is fatal. If you live up north, utilize items such as plastic mulches, row covers, hoop houses and anything else you can find to quickly grow this wonderful plant before the weather gets cooler.
  • You will want to start the seeds indoors first and transfer them to your garden when the soil is warm and the weather is right.
  • Plant the seeds in pots about two inches in size. Larger pots will allow the roots to develop better and offer a more stable plant when it’s time to transfer them to the garden.
  • Place seeds about 1/4 inch deep in moistened, lightweight mix. Keep them slightly moist and warm. Plants will germinate in about 6-8 days. Thin the plants to one per pot after the first true leaves have appeared.
  • Using bottom heat or heat lamps to keep the soil warm will promote better and quicker germination.
  • Do not water seedlings directly. Rather, immerse the tray or pots with holes in a pan of water about 1/2 inch deep. Allow the seedlings to drink for a few minutes, but do not let them become soaked.
  • Seedlings need lots of light. Supplement with fluorescent lights if necessary to avoid tall, weak plants.

 

Planting

  • Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last spring frost date.
  • The temperature must be at least 70 degrees F for seed germination, so keep them in a warm area for the best and fastest results.
  • Start pepper seeds three to a pot, and thin out the weakest seedling. Let the remaining two pepper plants spend their entire lives together as one plant. The leaves of two plants help protect peppers against sunscald, and the yield is often twice as good as two segregated plants.
  • Begin to harden off plants about 10 days before transplanting.
  • A week before transplanting, introduce fertilizer or aged compost in your garden soil.
  • After the danger of frost has passed, transplant seedlings outdoors, 18 to 24 inches apart (but keep paired plants close to touching.)
  • Soil should be at least 65 degrees F, peppers will not survive transplanting at temps any colder. Northern gardeners can warm up the soil by covering it with black plastic.
  • Put two or three match sticks in the hole with each plant, along with about a teaspoon of fertilizer. They give the plants a bit of sulfur, which they like.

Care

  • Soil should be well-drained, but maintain adequate moisture either with mulch or plastic covering.
  • Water one to two inches per week, but remember peppers are extremely heat sensitive. If you live in a warm or desert climate, watering everyday may be necessary.
  • Fertilize after the first fruit set.
  • Weed carefully around plants.
  • If necessary, support plants with cages or stakes to prevent bending. Try commercially available cone-shaped wire tomato cages. They may not be ideal for tomatoes, but they are just the thing for peppers.
  • For larger fruit, spray the plants with a solution of one tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water, once when it begins to bloom, and once ten days later.


Harvest/Storage

  • Harvest as soon as peppers reach desired size.
  • The longer bell peppers stay on the plant, the more sweet they become and the greater their Vitamin C content.
  • Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut peppers clean off the plant for the least damage.
  • Peppers can be refrigerated in plastic bags for up to 10 days after harvesting.
  • Bell peppers can be dried, and we would recommend a conventional oven for the task. Wash, core, and seed the peppers. Cut into one-half-inch strips. Steam for about ten minutes, then spread on a baking sheet. Dry in the oven at 140 degrees F (or the lowest possible temperature) until brittle, stirring occasionally and switching tray positions. When the peppers are cool, put them in bags or storage containers.


Special Notes


For maximum flavor, eat peppers on the same day they are picked. You can also leave them on a kitchen counter for a day or two to ripen further. Do not place peppers in the crisper drawer or in plastic wrap or bags in the refrigerator. Peppers are warm-weather fruits and do not store well in cold temperatures. If you have too many peppers, consider the following storage options.

Freezing.
This is the easiest storage method, but the peppers will be soft when thawed. The flavor is retained, however, so use frozen peppers primarily for adding 'spice' to soups, stews, and sauces. If you stuff the peppers before freezing, you'll have a ready-made dinner, perfect for the microwave.

Pickling.
Peppers can also be preserved by canning them, but they're low-acid fruits and thus require canning under pressure. It's easier to pickle peppers as you would cucumbers in a crock filled with a simple brine of four cups of water, four cups of vinegar, and 1/2 cup of pickling salt. Add a clove or two of garlic and some fresh herbs for added flavor.

Drying.
This method works best with the thin-walled hot peppers, particularly the smaller varieties that can be dried whole right on the plant. The key to drying peppers is doing it slowly to retain their color and flavors.

Caution:
Be especially careful when handling the blistering hot peppers like 'Habanero' and 'Thai Dragon.' Capsaicin, the chemical that provides the 'heat' in a hot pepper, is in a volatile oil that can actually burn your fingers. The pain can sometimes last for days. When handling hot peppers use latex or plastic gloves and make sure not to touch any part of your body, particularly your eyes or mouth.

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Capsicum White, Bell Pepper Ivory White - Seeds

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