Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) are highly nutritious fruits that contain rich antioxidants like Vitamin C, E, and several other minerals. With its smooth glossy outer skin, you can find this fruit in varying colors of green, red, yellow-gold, orange, and purple that changes from unripe to fully ripened stage.
Compared to its spicy, pungent counterparts like chili peppers and other hot peppers, bell peppers are a much sweeter variety when it is left on the vine for ripening. This exceptional fruit can be consumed raw, grilled, roasted, and cooked to make delicious recipes and add brilliant colors to your dish.
With many health benefits and attributes to bell peppers, garden enthusiasts are looking for new ways to grow and harvest them from seeds right at home. Steps such as proper seed starting soil, temperature maintenance, watering, sunlight, and transplanting method can promote high germination of bell pepper seeds and yield a bountiful harvest fresh from your garden.
How to grow Bell Peppers from Seeds
The following are simple steps that can help grow healthy bell pepper plants from seeds with increased fruit production.
1. Select Seed variety:
There are about 20-27 known bell pepper varieties in the world. Some are rare and exotic, while others are common bell peppers that we find in supermarkets or grown in home gardens. Selecting seed variety is crucial before sowing, as each variety may need different growing conditions to thrive. If you are buying seeds online, you can purchase those seeds that best suit your weather conditions as well as your dietary needs.
Some of the popular bell peppers used in households and restaurants are ‘Lady Bell’, ‘Sweet Marconi Rosso pepper’, ‘California Wonder bell pepper’, ‘Yolo Wonder sweet red bell pepper’, to name a few.
2. Seed Starting Soil for Bell Peppers:
Seed starting soil for bell peppers can consist of soil mixes such as loamy soil, sandy, and organic compost. Though bell pepper seeds germinate well in most soil mixes, it is important to keep the seed starting soil moist and well-drained.
3. Plant Seeds indoors:
Starting seeds indoors can be beneficial as bell peppers have a long growing season. Depending on your climatic conditions you can start sowing seeds a few months before the frost sets in (2 months or 8 weeks before the frost cover). This can provide ample time for bell peppers to successfully germinate. Plant the seeds ¼ inches deep in the seed starting tray or containers. And lightly cover them with the same soil mix.
4. Temperature Maintenance:
Bell pepper seeds are sensitive to cool climatic conditions, for this, you can maintain the indoor temperatures between 80 – 90 degrees. This can help bring it to an ideal soil temperature of 70 degrees.
If your region experiences intense cold weather conditions, you can use garden supplies like heating mats, artificial grow lights, or propagation clone trays to maintain warmth for your indoor seeds.
5. Seed Germination:
It can take up to 10-14 days for bell pepper seeds to germinate. Depending on some seed varieties it can as long as 5 weeks to sprout. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can segregate the weak seedlings and harden off the plants. This can be done 10 days before bell peppers can be transplanted into the soil outdoors. The plants need to get acclimated to the outside environment so that they can grow healthy and not wither away due to transplanting stress.
6. Transplanting Bell Peppers outdoors:
Once the seedlings have hardened off you can transfer them to your outdoor garden. As the bell pepper plants can reach a height of 18-36 inches and spread for 18-24 inches, they require ample spacing to grow into mature plants. For this, you can sow the seedlings at a depth of ¼ -1/2 inch and provide 18-24 inches of spacing between each plant. The spacing between each row can also be maintained with a 24-35 inches gap or by planting them 2-3 feet apart.
Bell peppers grow healthy and ripen fruits under direct sun. While transplanting bell peppers to your garden, you can make sure to grow them in an area that receives full sun coverage. If your region is prone to intense heat, you can use garden supplies like a sunscreen net to protect it from leaf burns and wilting.
Thorough watering is required for bell pepper plants to grow well and bear fruits. Watering for about 1-2 inches every week can ensure that the plants receive appropriate water content. It can also help to keep a check on overwatering.
9. Mulch and Stake for Bell Peppers:
You can cover the newly planted area with mulch to retain warmth and ward off pests and unwanted weeds. Silver plastic mulch sheets can also be used as a ground covering for bell peppers.
As bell peppers bear fruits and grow in height, they can tend to bend over or certain weather conditions can be too harsh and cause damage to the plants. For this, you can use stakes, cages or plant supports to hold your plant up.
Certain fertilizers with low nitrogen and high phosphorus content can be used for mature bell pepper plants. Pests like flea beetles and aphids are a major concern when it comes to this variety. For this, organic insecticides or other repellants can be used to control and save bell pepper plants and fruits from damage.
When to Harvest Bell Peppers
Once the plants reach their mature size and fruits turn into the right color, it’s ready for harvest. Depending on the bell pepper variety, it can take about 65-85 days to ripen. The longer the bell peppers stay on the vines, the sweeter they can get, and thereby also produce increased Vitamin C content. The green peppers are bitter because it’s not reached their full maturity. The fruits gradually turn into yellow-gold, orange, and then finally red - the sweeter version of the bell peppers.