Bell pepper, also known as Capsicum anuum, is a must have vegetable crop in your garden if you live in a place with warmer climate. Bell pepper has a crispy sweet flavor which makes it a great addition to a variety of dishes. It does not taste hot like its relatives the chili hot peppers because it does not contain the capsaicin compound.
There are several varieties of bell peppers. The green bell pepper is the most common and cheapest in the supermarket. Next to green peppers on the aisle are the red, yellow, and purple peppers. Green pepper are often cheaper because they are picked early. All colors of peppers keep their colors when cooked except the purple peppers which turned to dark muddy color when cooked. You can buy bell pepper seeds at your local nurseries or online from amazon. You should always look for varieties that can ripen fast. Some of the recommended varieties are lady bell, gypsy, orange sun, and Golden California Wonder.
When to Sow Bell Peppers
Bell peppers like cool temperature in between 21 – 25 degrees. It will not grow well if it is too hot or too cold. Therefore, the best time to plant it is a few weeks before Spring in February or in the Fall time in September.
Sowing the Seed
A good pot of seeding mix will consist of cocopeat, vermicompost, and sand. When you plant the seed, make sure you don’t bury it too deep. You only need to bury the seed about 1 cm deep. If the seed is sown too deep, you will not be able to see the leaf when it germinate. The birds always like to eat new seeds that are just sown so you should cover your pot with a polyethylene cloth.
The pot with the newly sown seeds should be exposed to at least 4 hours of sun in order for germination to take place effectively. Bell peppers is like a small tree and it will produce lots of small branches with leaves when mature. So, if you plant in a big pot, you can at most plant only 2 seeds. The seeds should be planted about 6 – 8 inches apart.
Preparing the Soil for Transplanting Bell Peppers
Bell pepper likes loamy soil that is well drained. You can make the soil well drained by lining it with porous landscape fabric or plastic. If you use plastic, makes sure to punch holes on the locations where the drainage holes are. The soil should not be too wet and muddy or else the root will become rotten. It also should not be too dry until it show cracked lines as it will result in blossoms drop.
Prior to transplanting, you can add aged compost into the soil. The aged compost will work as fertilizer and as mulch to assist in the retaining of the water. It is recommended to continue adding other fertilizers for maintaining the bell pepper plant. For example, you can add compost tea or fish emulsion solution every 10 days or so.
High nitrogen fertilizer can prevent the plant from bearing fruits so it should be avoided. Many people also like to add plastic mulch to increase the yields. On the other hand, organic compost mulch can lower the amount of weeds and reduce the need for watering. Organic compost mulch does not help in any way in the fruit yield.
Caring for the Young Bell Pepper Plants
After the young plants are successfully transplanted, you must keep watch for weeds that will spring up every now and then in the planting beds. In addition, you should also don’t forget to water 1 – 2 inches of water every week. You need to keep in mind that pepper is a heat sensitive plant which means you must water daily if you live in an area with warm climate. You can apply a solution that consists of a mixture of detergent and water on your pepper plant to keep away the aphids and whiteflies. It is important to keep the bell pepper plant in a place with the suitable temperature otherwise it will not bear fruits.
Usually, it takes around 2 months for the bell pepper plant to grow to full size. It is best to harvest the peppers when it has changed to the color you want. For example, if you want to use green pepper in your cooking, then you can pluck it when it is green. However, if you want to use yellow pepper, you should ideally wait until it has changed to yellow color. It will also work if you pluck it green and then keep in place that has sunlight so that it can change to red and then yellow. However, it will not taste as sweet as when you pluck it in yellow color from the plant.
You can store bell peppers in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 1 – 2 weeks. You can also store peppers in dried forms. To dry the peppers, you must first remove the seeds and then cut into strips. The strips are to be spread out on a baking sheet and baked for 10 minutes in the oven. After that, you can remove the peppers from the oven and let it cool down. Once cooled, you can put the pepper in bags and store them in the refrigerator.