Bell peppers are the milder cousin of jalapenos and habaneras. In the grocery store, they are priced between $1 and $3 a piece. However, the little plants are a couple of dollars for four or six plants. The decision to include them in your garden is not hard.
Bell peppers should be planted well away from hot peppers. They are not supposed to cross pollinate, but suspiciously hot bell peppers may result from placing them too close together. Of course, if you like hot peppers that may be a good thing.
Most people purchase plants from their local nursery or from mail order. However, the options of varieties are limited that way. You can obtain seeds for a much wider variety of colors and flavors from one of the internet providers that specialize in tomatoes and peppers.
If you start your peppers from seed, you do so about four weeks before your last frost date. Since different varieties of peppers are planted a little differently, it is best to follow the directions on the package with regard to depth of planting. A regular potting soil mix works just fine, or you can use the little peat pots. They have the advantage that you can plant them and the roots of the plant are not disturbed by being removed from the starter pot.
After all danger of frost has passed, you can plant your bell peppers. The hole should be slightly deeper than the root ball or peat pot. Place the pepper in the hole and fill only to the top of the root ball. This should leave a shallow cup around the pepper that will hold the water when it is watered. Water the pepper after planting.
Peppers are not heavy feeders, but appreciate 2 tablespoons of fertilizer per plant, or 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. The fertilizer should be worked into the soil around the plants.
The biggest problem you have with peppers is that bugs like them as well as humans. Flea beetles, leaf miners, and aphids are some of the problems you face. In addition, peppers are susceptible to fungal diseases. Be sure when you water you do not get water on the leaves and that you water in the early morning, not the evening. Being wet all night is an excellent way to get a fungus.
When peppers are green, shiny, and firm, they are ready to eat. You can fight the insects off a little longer and most of the peppers will turn a different color. These are good to eat, too, and are worth the wait. All bell peppers are nutritious and good sources of vitamins A and C. The colored peppers have more A than the green ones.
Bell peppers do not keep very well three to five days in the crisper is about their limit. They can be stuffed and cooked, but still do not freeze well. Fresh from the vine is the best way to enjoy these peppers.
You can read more about peppers in our How to Grow Peppers article, featured on the regular site.