Green peppers are high in vitamin A and C.
image by Cedric Delalande: sxc.hu
Green bell peppers originated in South America. According to The George Mateljan Foundation, wild peppers date back to 5000 BC. Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced them to other parts of the world. Peppers are divided into three to four lobes and range in size from 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Green peppers contain high levels of vitamins A and C, powerful antioxidants that promote a healthy heart, reduce the risk of some cancers and strengthen the nervous system. Growing them in the home garden provides a delicious and nutritious treat for your family.
Start bell peppers inside 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds in individual pots or flats of moist seed starter. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and firm the soil down with your hands. Water to thoroughly moisten the soil. Place the flat in a warm location to germinate. Bottom heat speeds germination. Seedlings emerge in 7 to 10 days.
Place seedlings on a sunny windowsill and continue to keep the soil moist. Seedlings grow slowly at first, but should reach a size of 4 to 6 inches before it is time to plant them in the garden.
Select a sunny location that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Afternoon sun is preferred as peppers thrive in hot weather. Prepare the garden bed by tilling the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Remove rocks and debris and rake it smooth.
Transplant seedlings to the garden once nighttime temperatures remain above 55 F and all danger of frost has passed. Peppers are a warm season crop and require warm temperatures to thrive. Cold nights shock the plant and inhibit growth.
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Work in well-rotted manure or compost and fill the hole with water. Allow the hole to drain before planting the seedlings.
Plant the seedlings to the original depth they were growing in the flat and firm the soil around the base of the plants with your hands. Peppers grow best if two or three plants are grown together so that their leaves are touching. Plant several groups of seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart if you are planting more than three plants.
Side dress with fertilizer or apply water soluble fertilizer every 10 to 14 days once the buds form and the fruit begins to set. Keep the soil evenly moist for best fruit production.
Harvest when the pepper is plump and breaks easily from the stem. Cutting the fruit from the stem reduces the risk of injury to the plant.