The Q&A Archives: Growing Bell Peppers

Question: I know my soil is lacking something, because my bell peppers had black spots on the sides and bottoms and did not grow very big. Also I live in the dessert and have a small garden. I was told suffer was the thing I needed, but I cannot find it. Can you help?

Answer: You may be looking for Iron sulfate. You'll find it in the fertilizer section or where citrus tree food is found. In general, bell peppers do best when grown in full sunshine, in a soil with average fertility and plenty of organic matter worked in. The soil should be kept evenly moist but not soggy and a mulch applied after the soil has warmed is helpful. If your soil is rich, an excessive application of nitrogen could result in excess foliage growth at the expense of peppers. Planting too early while the soil is still cold or otherwise stunting the plants can also reduce yield. Wait until your nighttime temperatures remain above 48 degrees before planting your peppers. A balanced fertilizer (or one with a higher middle number), either granular or water soluble, applied according to the package instructions should do just fine. As an example, many gardeners will work some fertilizer into the soil during the preparation process prior to planting, apply a transplant solution or compost tea at planting, and then side dress periodically during the growing season. Depending upon variety and growing conditions you can expect to begin harvesting your peppers in mid- to late-summer. Good luck with your peppers!

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