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The Greener View: Growing Bell Peppers

Jeff Rugg on

Q: I love red and purple bell peppers, but I can't seem to grow them in my garden. I buy them at a local garden center. They look healthy, but at the end of the summer, I only get a few peppers from each plant.

A: Bell peppers are one of the most-planted vegetables, and I have heard your complaint before. Many garden vegetables start producing in as little as 60 days, but peppers often take over 100 days to start producing. In spite of a botanical name of Capsicum annuum, this pepper species is perennial. They do not survive frost, but if grown in frost-free areas or greenhouses, they can live for several years. As such, they are not in as much of a hurry as other garden vegetables that are annuals and that produce fruit as quickly as possible.

If you are in a short growing season area, look on the label or seed package for pepper varieties that start producing earlier. Varieties that grow big peppers will produce fewer peppers than varieties that grow small snack-sized peppers.

If you can harvest them during the green stage, rather than waiting for the full color of a ripe pepper, you can get more peppers. Ripe and colorful peppers do have more vitamins and often taste better.

Probably the biggest thing to remember is that they thrive in warm but not hot temperatures. Don't plant them outdoors until the nighttime temperatures stay above 60 degrees. Pepper plants that sit on tables outdoors at the big box store, or are planted too early, can be exposed to cold nighttime temperatures that cause the plant to go dormant for a while, which slows their growth in your garden. A soil temperature above 60 degrees 3 inches deep is best.

If the daytime temperature goes over 90 degrees, they need to be grown in afternoon shade. A shade cover over the pepper row or some other kind of shade is helpful. In hot climates, they grow better as a winter vegetable that is planted in the fall. When the pepper plant is too hot, it will not just wilt but also drop the flowers. Then, the plant has to start all over again to grow more flowers before it can produce fruit.

Along with the warm temperatures, an evenly moist soil that doesn't dry out or stay waterlogged helps a lot. Consistent water is better than a lot of water and then none. Mulching the soil helps keep the soil damp between waterings. If you are growing peppers in a pot, be careful to keep the soil damp. A drip irrigation system can be useful for peppers in the garden or in pots.

 

Any fertilizer that says it is for tomatoes will work just as well on peppers. Follow the label directions. Compost worked into the soil will help fertilize the peppers and help hold water in the soil during dry spells.

Peppers can get any of the tomato family diseases and insects. Blossom end rot is caused by inconsistent watering, especially in the cooler part of the growing season. Powdery mildew can be a problem on plants getting too much shade. Aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and tomato hornworms can all be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Some kinds of mild paprika are made from dried and ground red bell peppers. Pimento comes from different varieties of peppers similar to bell peppers.

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Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Copyright 2024 Jeff Rugg. Distributed By Creators.

 

 

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