Sweet bell pepper enriched with vitamin C and vitamin A is an ingredient that you don’t want to miss in your cooking. The fruit with a smooth skin, crunchy flesh and white membrane can give a delicious mild flavor. Bell pepper is not difficult to grow. Many people have successfully grown it in their backyard whether in garden soil or in container gardening.
Sowing Bell Peppers
The right way of sowing bell pepper seeds is to start them indoor instead of directly sowing them into the ground outside. You can start the germination of the seeds about 5 – 8 weeks before the last frost. You are to fill a seedling tray with well drained potting mix. The seeds are sown at about 1/4 depth in the soil. Soil should be kept moist with a temperature around 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is not hot enough, you can put heating mat under the seedling tray or near the window.
After it sprout, you must watch for the first true leaves to emerge. The cotyledons, the seed leaves, which appear before the first true leaves are to be vibrant and green. If it is yellow, it means that it is not getting enough nitrogen. You can add fertilizers like fish emulsion and kelp mixture into the seedling potting mix to ensure that it grow the true leaves successfully.
Selecting a Plot in Your Garden
You can first plot the area in your garden where you want to transplant the young bell pepper plants. Ideally, the site you choose should not have been grown with tomatoes or potatoes as they share the same pests with bell peppers. The soil on the site should be well drained and heavy as well as rich in all the essential nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. You can aim for a pH around 6.5.
You can transplant the young bell pepper plant into the garden plot after it has developed 1 – 2 true leaves. To allow the plants to adapt to the new environment, you may want to slowly expose the young plants to the sun by placing the pots outside for a short period of time daily.
When it is time to transplant the peppers, first check and see if the temperature has already reached 60 degrees with no danger of frost. The transplanting day should be a cloudy day with some sun. You are to plant the pepper plants at a distance of about 12 – 20 inches apart.
You can stake or cage the plant if there are lots of wind and you are afraid that they break the stem.
Bell pepper plants usually need a consistent addition of nitrogen on the soil until it successfully develop the fruits. For this reason, you may want to add nitrogen fertilizer into the soil. You will want to be careful not to add too much nitrogen as it can reduce the fruit and increase the leaves growth.
You only need to water at least 1 inch of water every week. If the weather is hot, you can add mulch to help retain the moisture. Early blossoms can be pinched off to help direct the energy of the plant so that you get a heavy harvest afterwards. If you keep your bell pepper plant fed and water well, it will have lower chances of developing diseases.
Dealing with Bell Pepper Pests
Bell pepper plants get attacked by different types of pests including cut worms, corn earworms, caterpillars and weevils. To avoid pest infestation, you should avoid using water soluble fertilizer that contains a high level of nitrogen. Using this type of fertilizer can cause the plant to become soft and easier for the insect pests to penetrate.
Whenever you spot weeds, be sure to pull them out. Weeds are habitats to insect pests. You can apply pesticides to prevent the pests population from infesting your plant up to a damaging level. The pesticides should be applied thoroughly including underneath the leaves. If there is too much damage, you will have to discard away the pest infested plant.
Harvest and Storage
A well grown bell pepper plant will produce 5 – 10 large fruits. Bell pepper can be harvested when it is green or purple color. If you want sweeter flavor, you can wait until it ripens to red or yellow or orange. The sweetness and vitamin C will increase as the color changes. Picking the fruits when they are green will encourage more new blossoms and fruits to develop. If the fruit set after late August, it usually will not ripen.
When harvesting the peppers, remember to use hand pruners or small knife to avoid damaging the plant. This is because it can still continue to yield more fruits for you in the next few years. You can keep the fruits in a humid place with a temperature range in between 68 – 77 Fahrenheit degrees in the event that they are picked early because of the cold season. They will change color but they will not grow sweeter. Refrigerating bell peppers can help to retain the firmness and flavor for 3 – 5 weeks.