Mainstay Vegetables: Bell Peppers

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 - 10:09pm

Continuing our series of farily easy things to grow that most people would know from the supermarket, today we will look at the lowly bell pepper. A great deal of this information applies to other types of peppers--hot peppers, frying peppers, banana peppers-so this information can pretty much be applied to the lot of them.

I have a confession to make: I have never bought a green bell pepper seed in my life. I just save seeds from supermarket peppers and plant them. Simple! (This did not seem to work with the red ones, in my experience; they were probably hybrids.)

Peppers are one of the plants that will absolutely benefit from being started indoors for a headstart, 8 weeks before the last anticipated frost. They will sprout up in 8 to 25 days and can go outside when the soil has warmed to at least 60° F.  (You can start them from seed sown direrctly into the ground at that time). They require full sun, and  you have to be careful not to plant them (and potatoes and eggplant)  where diseased tomatoes have been - they are related and may pick up the diseases from the soil. I space mine closer than the recommended 18" apart: in my raised beds I set them 6" apart and they do just fine. Green peppers, especially,  are heavy feeders - they require some form of plant food, whether it's organic or something you buy at the store. Give them a dose right after they flower to get the best fruit set.

Dry pepper roots get nematodes, so keep them moist. Mulching helps. Hot weather can cause bell peppers stop setting fruit for a while, but just keep watering and caring for them and they'll start fruiting again as soon as the nights cool off.

I store any excess by freezing diced, blanched bell peppers in small bags, enough for one meal per bag. Other sorts of peppers, I pickle - especially jalapenos, which we go through like ketchup. And there's always salsa to can. The problem is home-canned salas is so good it does not last very long.

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