Growing bell peppers is a great way to add flavor and variety to your garden and nutrients your diet. They come in a wide range of colors and each has a wonderful, unique flavor.
With full sun and fertile soil, they’re easy to grow as long as you keep the temperature right. They’re also simple to store, meaning those nutrients and delicious flavors can stay with you year-round.
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During your garden preparations, keep two things in mind for your peppers:
Don’t rotate them with any plant from the Nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes) and choose a spot that will get plenty of sun – to be all that they can be, peppers need plenty of sunshine and warmth
Bell peppers can be grown from seed, but it can take 10 to 12 weeks to grow to the point that it's ready to transplant into the garden. In addition, they need to stay very warm – at least 80 degrees F (27 C) – until they germinate, so you’ll probably need a heat mat or grow light.
Your other option is to purchase a transplant from your local nursery. The major downside here is that you’ll be limited to the varieties that they carry. If you go this route, pick plants without any peppers already growing on them.
Also keep in mind that peppers do very well when grown in pots or other containers, so even if you have only a deck or patio, you can grow them. Containers will also make your life easier when it comes to avoiding their Nightshade family cousins.
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As with the planting and germination stages, maturing bell peppers like it to stay warm while they grow. If you live in a cooler climate, use plastic mulch to make sure the soil stays above 60 degrees F (15.5 C) and row covers if the air temperature is going to drop below 55 degrees F (13 C).
Bell peppers also need fertile soil, but they’re sensitive to too much nitrogen. When you set the plants into the ground, they will benefit from fertilizing with a starter solution, but otherwise, do not fertilize too much. Over-fertilizing can cause blossoms and small pepper pods to fall off the plant.
Plants need to be kept evenly moist, but not soggy and may need to be staked.
When you harvest your bell peppers is up to you. For maximum sweetness, wait until they turn their “final” color. For maximum yield, pick them when they’re green. Either way, the fruits should be swollen and glossy.
Bell peppers can be stored in the warmest part of the refrigerator for about two weeks in a plastic bag.
They can be frozen with or without blanching, but blanched peppers that have been frozen can only be used in cooked foods. To freeze without blanching, cut off stems and cut out membranes. Then cut peppers to desired size and freeze in freezer bags. When blanching, leave them in the boiling water for 3 minutes for halves; 2 minutes for strips.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing bell peppers. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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