Bell Peppers are a delicious and tender, warm loving crop (70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 to 27 degrees Celsius). They are popular and are quite easy to grow in your garden. They do well in containers, raised garden beds and/or in-ground gardens. There are many varieties available (green, red, orange, yellow and purple) but here is the basic foundation for growing all of them.
What Do You Need?
- Bell Pepper Seeds or Plant transplants
- Compost and Organic Soil
- Organic Fertilizer
- Mulch (such as chopped dry leaves or straw to keep the surrounding soil cool and moist) especially if you are high heat area.
- Raised Bed or a Container or a sunny spot in your garden that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight a day
Germinating the seeds Indoor vs. Outdoor
Bell peppers germinate best when there is a little bottom heat. If your days and nights are warm (70F), then you can sow the seeds directly outside in the soil.
If you nights are still cold and the probable danger of frost is suspected, we would recommend germinating the seeds inside on seed trays in warm place (at least 65-70F) - example on top of a refrigerator etc. Move it outside once the weather outside is frost free since bell peppers are not frost resistant. Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last spring frost date. You can further provide warmth by covering the soil after planting with black plastic or mulch sheets
Bell Peppers have shallow roots and hence benefit from loose soil texture. Use compost (your kitchen scraps work great!). The soil should be slightly acidic with a ph range of 5.8 to 6.5. We use a combination of Organic garden soil, Peat Moss and homemade compost with the compost forming the bottommost layer. We supplement it with organic fertilizers. We also tend to use Epsom salt in the soil (and later towards the harvest time to increase the yield).
Planting Bell peppers
Usually your bell pepper transplants or seeds come with planting instructions. But if otherwise, pair two plants together and plant them 18 to 24 inches apart. This pairing is done to hinder the sun from scalding your plant as they shade each other from the harsh sun.For Nor Cal sunshine, we have skipped this strategy without issues. Dig about 1 to 2-inch deep in the soil and place the seeds/plant in it. Cover them back again with the soil. Water well especially if it's a freshly prepared soil.
Caring for your plant while it grows
Depending on your climate, watering schedule will vary. As the plants mature, the watering required is less - about twice a week allowing a good soak of the soil. Keep the soil moist - not soggy. Fertilize regularly. We have a monthly cycle. We spray epsom salt (one tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water) to the plant towards the harvesting season since it helps to increase its yield and size of the bell peppers. They may also require stakes or support (like tomato cages) as they grow to prevent bending. Remove weeds growing around the plant.
Harvesting your crop
You can harvest the Bell peppers as soon as they reach a desired size. Their Vitamin C content as well as sweetness increase the longer they are in the plant. Use sharp Garden scissors to neatly cut the fruit off the plant. I prefer cutting them just before I use them in my cooking, but you can store them in a plastic bag in fridge around 10 days after harvesting.