The Q&A Archives: growing bell peppers

Question: what are tips on growing peppers (sweet) in the vegetable garden?

Answer: Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are members of the same nightshade family that includes tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes. These peppers usually have a mild flavor, especially when compared to any variety of hot chile peppers.

In general, problems growing peppers are related to the unpredictable weather. Bell peppers usually take about 100 to 120 days to mature, so our short growing season makes it difficult for large bells to reach maturity.

To overcome this challenge, select short-season varieties like "Gypsy" (64 days), "King Arthur" (67 days), "Bell Boy" (70 days), "Lady Bell" (72 days) or "Purple Bell" (75 days).

Select a sunny area in the garden that hasn't been planted in the last 2-3 years with tomatoes, peppers or eggplant. Plant peppers in well-drained, amended soil and space plants in rows about 18 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows.

Mulch lightly to prevent weeds and to retain moisture. Cage or stake peppers to prevent the plants from breaking under the weight of the fruit. Lightly fertilize when planting and apply a small amount of fertilizer after the first fruit sets. Too much fertilizer may cause excessive plant growth and failure to set fruit.

Just like tomatoes, bell peppers can experience blossom-end rot from inconsistent watering. Blossoms can drop when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees before mid-morning or below 55 degrees at night.

Because bell peppers are susceptible to a variety of insects, such as aphids and flea beetles, keep plants healthy by practicing good cultivation methods and providing consistent moisture and closely monitor plant progress.

Bell peppers become sweeter and more flavorful the longer they remain on the plant. To keep plants producing, harvest peppers when they're shiny green.

If peppers are left on the plant to ripen, green peppers will turn red, orange or yellow, depending on the variety. Use a knife or pruning shears to carefully cut peppers from the plant.

Best wishes with your peppers!

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