Bell Peppers are often the most prolific plant in the vegetable garden for most homesteaders. From sweet to hot the varieties are endless. They resist most garden pests too which is an added bonus.
In this post, we will cover bell peppers, their care, harvesting, and other information to help you be successful in growing peppers on your homestead.
Taxonomy and General Information
The botanical name for bell peppers is Capsicum annum. They are an annual fruit because they are seed-bearing (often mistakingly called a vegetable like tomatoes), although they can be a perennial plant in some southern states like Florida.
Peppers are believed to have originated in Mexico and South America. Actually it is believed that Christopher Columbus brought the first batch of peppers to the United States!
They require full sun and loamy soil that is slightly acidic to neutral. They are hardy in zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. They bloom in the summer and have small white flowers before setting fruit.
Varieties of Bell Peppers
There are so many varieties of Bell Peppers on the market available for homesteaders today!
Let’s look at some common varieties:
- Canary Bell
- Coral Bell
- California Wonder
- Purple Beauty
- Big Red
- Chocolate Beauty
Choosing a Site For Bell Peppers
Pepper seeds can be started indoors about 8 – 10 weeks before your last frost date for your state. Because Bell Peppers require quite a long growing season starting them indoors seems to be the best choice. They typically take between 60 and 90 days, and quite possibly up to 100 days, to produce the pepper.
When choosing a planting site on your homestead look for a spot that receives full sun for the best and healthiest plants. Make sure the soil drains well and is very rich in organic matter. The soil must warm up quickly and also drain well. A temperature of 70 to 80 degrees F. is best for germination which typically happens in about 10 days. A pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal.
Fertilizer and any organic matter should be in place and mixed with the soil at least a week before you decide to plant your pepper seeds or transplants. Seeds from organic store-bought peppers can be removed, allowed to dry out just a bit, and used in the garden!
Planting Your Bell Peppers
If you start your bell pepper seeds indoors you may want to use a heat mat for best germination. Plan your seeds 1/4″ deep. When your seedlings are about a week to 10 days from being transplanted and have 2 to 3 true leaves, start hardening off your plants.
When transplanting indoor started seeds to outside, make sure the night time temperatures stay above 60 degrees F. Place your newly grown transplants at the same depth as thy were originally growing and at least 18 to 24 inches apart. If not the changes during transplanting can cause stress to the plant causing blossom drop.
Care for Your Growing Bell Peppers
Water your Bell Pepper plants 1 to 2 inches per week. If you live in a hot climate like Florida or Texas, you may have to water daily.
After our first fruits have set, you may start fertilizing your pepper plants. Make sure you also weed around your plants often. If you need supports for heavier plants, a tomato cage is perfect for Bell Peppers.
Pests and Diseases of Bell Pepper Plants
Try and avoid planting your Bell Peppers to close to any vegetables in the nightshade family. These include tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes. These plants can expose our pepper plants to diseases.
Anthracnose is a fungus that causes spots on the leaves. The spots may be yellow, brown, black, or purple. You may also see dark spots on the fruit or even on the stems. Anthracnose causes the plants to eventually rot and die.
Any infected plants must be dug up and destroyed. To prevent this, always make sure to provide good drainage and plenty of compost and mulch. Another suggestion is to avoid overhead watering.
Aphids are an insect that commonly attacks Bell Peppers. The signs to look for with an aphid infestation include; yellow leaves, distorted fruit or flowers, sooty black mold appearance or a large presence of ants on your plants.
Surround your Bell Pepper plants with any of the following to deter aphids:
- Mosquito Plant
- Banana peels
- Orange peels
You can also wipe your pepper plats with a liquid dish soap solution every 2 to 3 days for about a week. You can also look into natural pest control methods.
Blossom-End Rot is a nutrient deficiency caused by a lack of sufficient calcium uptake. It is recognized by dark spots on the blossom end of the fruit or the side opposite to the main stem. If pH is to low the plant may struggle to get calcium from the soil.
To solve this problem, remove any affected fruit. When planting and caring for your pepper plants make sure the temperature of the soil is correct, water deeply and regularly. and make sure to provide good drainage. You may also want to avoid giving your plants to much nitrogen.
Colorado Potato Beetles
Colorado Potato Beetles are insects that lay their eggs in small clusters on the underside of leaves. Once they become larvae they eat the leaves of the plant.
The only treatment that is guaranteed is to physically remove these pests, eggs, larvae and all, by hand. Using straw mulch and row covers can help prevent these pesky critters.
Mosaic Virus is a virus with symptoms that include stunted growth, a green and white pattern of marks on the leaves, ringed spots on the leaves and/or fruit, and “warts” on the fruit.
Mosaic Virus is usually spread from aphids. By preventing aphids you can prevent this virus usually.
These little insects cause the roots to become “knotted” and cause stunted, yellowed, and/or wilted plants. Unfortunately the only cure is to remove the entire plant, root and all, practice good crop rotation yearly, and to solarize the soil where the affected plants were originally growing.
Flea Beetles cause tiny holes throughout the leaves of pepper plants. Using row covers will help prevent these creatures from attacking. Mulching heavy and adding native plants to attract beneficial insects also helps.
These insects chew the plants leaves usually starting at the top. The best way to get rid of these chewing predators is to physically remove them from the affected plants. Again, mulching heavy and using pest deterring plants nearby will help repel these pests.
Special Note* If you find hornworms with a white cocoon on their back, relocate these worms because that cocoon belongs to the parasitic wasp which is a very beneficial insect in the garden.
Harvesting Your Bell Peppers
Bell Peppers can be harvested the minute you feel they have reached your desired color and size. Remember this, the longer a bell pepper stays on the plant the sweeter they become. They will also contain higher amounts of vitamin C.
Peppers should be cut off the plant instead of pulled off so as not to damage the plant. Plants will keep producing more peppers until the frost has killed off the plant.
Most Bell Peppers will turn colors the longer they stay on the plant, these can be red, yellow, orange, purple or brown.
Storing Your Peppers
Storing your harvested peppers is a pretty easy feat for homesteaders. Bell Peppers can be kept whole in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Bell Peppers can also be dried in a conventional oven. Simply wash, remove the center seeds and core, and slice into strips about 1/2 inch thick. Steaming them for about 10 to 12 minutes is very helpful. Spread your slices on a cooking tray in an oven at 140 degrees F. until the pepper slices are dry and brittle.
Bell Peppers are low in calories and very rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. A fresh, raw, Bell Pepper is composed of mainly water, 92% to be exact! The rest is made up of carbs, protein and fat.
Bell Peppers are loaded with the following:
- Vitamin C (allows 169% of the USDA recommended daily intake)
- Vitamin B6 (improves red blood cells)
- Vitamin K1 (helps with blood clotting and bone health)
- Potassium (improves heart health)
- Folate (B9) (helps during pregnancy)
- Vitamin E (essential for healthy nerves and muscles)
- Vitamin A (comes from beta carotene)
Final Words on Bell Peppers…
So now you have complete guide to growing, caring and even harvesting and storing your Bell Peppers on your homestead. Are you growing these wonderful vegetable, I mean fruits, on your homestead?
Tell me your thoughts in the comment box below!