Growing Bell Peppers

How to Grow Sweet Bell Pepper Plants

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Planting and growing bell peppers from seeds or nursery transplants. How to grow sweet bell pepper plants in containers. Combating green pepper pests and problems.

You can grow bell pepper plants in nearly any sunny space. Container gardening bell peppers can be grown in pots on the back patio or sweet bell pepper transplants can be tucked in to fill gaps in your flower beds.

How to Grow Bell Peppers

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Bell pepper seeds should be sown indoors at least 6 weeks before the last frost. Keep the soil warm and moist until germination takes place.

Once the seedlings emerge, move them into bright light. If they become spindly, the light is not strong enough. You may need to place them directly underneath a grow light for several hours per day.

Bell pepper plants are not as hardy as tomatoes. Wait to set them out until you are certain there won't be any more frosty nights.

A sunny to semi-shady site will keep a green bell pepper growing lushly and producing lots of fruit.

Planting Bell Peppers

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When growing bell peppers, space the plants 18-24 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Install a cutworm collar around each transplant's stem or stick 2 thin nails into the soil. One on either side of each stem will prevent these bell pepper pests from curling around the stems and cutting them down.

Plant peppers just deep enough to cover any visible roots.

When growing bell pepper plants, it is best not to expose them to drought. Keep the plants well watered and they will reward you with vigorous growth.

Any granular or liquid food with a higher middle number (15-30-15) is a good fertilizer for bell peppers. Fertilize every 3-4 weeks. Too much food will promote foliage and shoot growth at the expense of fruiting.

Once the plants bloom, sprinkle a little bit of Epsom salt on the soil around them. This will make the leaves darker and encourage fruit set.

Bell Pepper Garden Pests

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The tomato horn worm is the arch nemesis of the sweet bell pepper. Keep an eye out for this ugly green worm with a single horn on its head. When small, they are hard to detect. It is worth making an effort though because one large horn worm can eat a mature pepper plant down to the main stem in one night.

Round black pellets on the leaves are a tell-tale sign. These are the horn worm's droppings.

You can either knock them off the plant into a jar of soapy water or drop them onto the ground and step on them. They are not nearly as formidable as they look. I pick them off with my bare hand.

Spider mites look like tiny red dots on the undersides of the leaves. A severe infestation may leave webbing between the leaves. These pests usually attack a plant that is under drought stress. Regular watering will usually keep them away.

Pepper Plant Diseases

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That they are somewhat disease prone is the biggest deterrent to growing bell peppers. I find that growing hot peppers is a lot easier.

Hot pepper plants are hardier, more disease resistant, and usually more ornamental. Hot peppers are also more nutritious than sweet peppers and can be used medicinally. The health benefits of cayenne pepper are well known among practitioners of Western herbal medicine.

Sweet bell pepper plants are vulnerable to a disease called blossom end rot. This causes a rotten spot to form on the blossom end just as the name suggests. It is caused by a calcium deficiency and cured by sprinkling a bit of horticultural lime around the plants and watering it in.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) may also infect pepper plants mottling the leaves and stunting their growth. If you smoke, wash your hands before handling pepper or tomato plants to avoid infecting them.

Bell Pepper Powdery Mildew

Leveillula taurica or Oidiopsis taurica is unique among powdery mildews because of its growth habit. The fungal spores grow inside the leaves rather than on the surface like powdery mildews that infect most other plants.

Bell pepper powdery mildew appears on the under sides of pepper leaves. When infection is severe, they may also appear on the top sides of the leaves.

Unlike most other powdery mildew types, the spores of pepper powdery mildew contain sufficient water for growth and can germinate even in dry weather.

Sulfur fungicides have proven effective in preventing this disease, but ineffective in controlling it once it has taken hold. Triadimefon (Bayleton) and myclobutanil (Rally) provide excellent control even after the onset of symptoms.

Pruning bell pepper plants is not necessary.

Container Gardening
Bell Peppers

Pepper, Chianti

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When growing bell peppers in containers use a quality potting mix and enrich it with a handful of organic compost. Employ 12 inch pots for all except the mini bell pepper types which can be tucked into 8 inch containers.

Sweet Chocolate and Select California Wonder bell peppers are particularly well suited to container gardening.

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