The Q&A Archives: Why Bell Peppers Don't Thrive

Question: I'm trying to grow golden and red bell peppers, both from seeds and as transplants. The seeds were slow to sprout but finally popped up after several weeks. They are now all in the garden. However, they do not seem to be growing. The red pepper plantshave big broad green leaves and look pretty healthy, just not getting any bigger. The golden peppers are slowly turning yellow, not growing, and generally look emaciated! When tilled a couple months ago, I used Miracle Gro to fertilize. The day before planting the peppers in the garden I used horse manure and tilled it in. Since planting around May 1, I've kept the garden moist. Do I need some other kind of nutrient for this species? Allen Marysville, CA

Answer: A few different things might be keeping the peppers from thriving. First of all, most peppers of my aquaintance, while needing regular moisture, do not enjoy wet feet. The soil should be well drained. Also, peppers are heat lovers, and while I assume your weather has been warm, if you are in a cool microclimate, that may be reason. The Miracle Gro you added to the soil before planting has probably all leached away by now. It is a plant food rather than a soil-building, slow release fertilizer. Youcan use it when plants are actively growing, but it's better all around to build nutrients and humus in the soil. If the horse manure you added was fresh, it may actually be robbing the soil of nutrients while it breaks down. It's better to use aged or composted horse manure to fertilize. Also, it may be the peppers are just experiencing some transplant shock. Give them time, good drainage and warmth and they should bounce back. And I always suggest having your soil tested every few years tofind out what the nutrient levels are, so you'll know how to fertilize.

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