Plant peppers in full sun one to two weeks after the last frost date in your area. Grow sweet bell peppers the same way you grow any of the hot pepper varieties. Some gardeners plant peppers on hilled soil to help keep the roots from becoming too soggy.
Seeding and Transplanting: Start Out Right
Start your own pepper plants indoors 12 to 15 weeks before your last frost date. Some varieties may take 10 days or longer to sprout. Plant them in individual starter cells, or space them 1 inch apart each direction in a starter flat. Gentle bottom heat will aid germination.
Move seedlings to a bright window as soon as they sprout. Control damping off, which is any of several fungus diseases that cause stem or root rot in seedlings; use sterile planting medium, mist newly-emerged seedlings daily with chamomile or clove tea, or do a single light dusting of the soil surface with ground cinnamon or powdered charcoal. Always water from the bottom and do not let seedlings sit in water too long.
Maintain a soil temperature of 65 degrees F at a 2 inch depth for at least three consecutive days. Peppers will not grow in cold temperatures. Place your transplants in the soil at the same planting depth they were in the starter pots. Water them in so the soil makes good contact with the roots, but do not overwater. Peppers prefer moist soil, but not soggy roots.
If you purchase transplants, buy plants that are not blooming. Early blooming will stunt the plant, often for life.
Protect transplants from cutworms by placing a 3-inch cardboard collar around each transplant. Press the collar 1 inch deep into the soil.
Growing Peppers: Problems and Remedies
Spray plants with insecticidal soap to control insect pests on sweet peppers. Some of the same insect pests that affect tomatoes also affect sweet pepper plants. Look for aphids on pepper leaves; leaves will be puckered and deformed. Hornworms eat all parts of the plant. Whiteflies suck the leaf juices, causing leaves to turn yellow and die.
Hot pepper plants are immune to most insects, since the fruits, stems and leaves all contain capsaicin, which makes the entire plant hot and unpalatable to bugs.
Treat the soil to control root knot nematodes, which affect both tomatoes and peppers. These are soil borne organisms that feed on roots and burrow into them, often causing the plant to die. Introduce beneficial nematodes to treat them, or plant marigolds near your peppers to repel the harmful nematodes. Rotate crops and plant tomatoes and peppers in a different part of the garden each year. Don’t follow tomatoes with peppers or peppers with tomatoes.
Pinch off leaves if they are spotted, streaked, yellow, or infected by any kind of fungus or wilt. If the entire plant is infected, remove it from the garden.
Weed your peppers regularly. Weeds are host to many of the pathogens that infect pepper plants, and removing weeds removes much of the risk of infection.