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So you want to start growing sweet peppers. In the ubiquitous Capsicum annuum species, sweet peppers are classified as the Grossum group.
The group includes all the peppers that don’t have a bite – Kapto in Greek means “to bite.” The bite is a product of capsaicin, a chemical that causes a burning sensation in the mouth.
The amount of capsaicin in the Capsicum annuum species depends on genetics, and the Grossum group doesn’t have the capsaicin-producing gene and therefore doesn’t have a burn. The peppers in the group are also called sweet-, bell-, or green peppers.
- 1. Growing Sweet Peppers in Healthy Soil is Good For Your Health
- 2. Peppers Are Part Of The Nightshade Family (Solanaceae)
- 3. Green Peppers are Moderately Difficult to Grow
- 4. The Sweet Pepper Color is Related to Taste
- 5. Calcium is Key to Preventing Blossom End Rot
- 6. Nitrogen Helps Plants Grow, But Not Fruit
- 7. You’ve got Fifteen Degrees to Play With When Growing Peppers
- 8. Peppers Grow Well in Containers
- 9. Homegrown Peppers Have More Available Varieties
- 10. Sweet Peppers Have Some Challengers
Growing this member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family can be challenging. Still, I’ll give you everything you need to succeed in this article.
Sweet peppers are tropical perennials but generally grow as an annual vegetable.
The vegetable fruit is classified as a berry and ranges in color from green, yellow, orange, red, purple, black, and white.
The immature fruit is green. As the fruits mature, the color changes and the taste becomes sweeter.
1. Growing Sweet Peppers in Healthy Soil is Good For Your Health
Endophytes are nonpathogenic bacteria and fungi that play an essential role in plant health. Endophytes are organisms (such as a bacterium or fungus) living within a plant in a symbiotic relationship – benefiting both equally.
Studies have found that five endophytic strains are common in bell peppers and contribute to their vitality. [Source]
These organisms originate from a healthy soil biota – a direct product of aerobic fertilizer. In the study, it was found that the microorganisms produce the following five compounds that can benefit human health:
- Antibiotics – used to treat or prevent infections
- Alkaloids – examples are morphine and caffeine
- Phytohormones – plant hormones
- Anticancerous Compounds
2. Peppers Are Part Of The Nightshade Family (Solanaceae)
While it’s hard to imagine, peppers are related to potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants (and tobacco). The Solanaceae family consists of herbs, shrubs, or trees with about 85 genera and 2800 frequently lianous or creeping species.
Of particular interest to us is this vegetable-fruit-berry group under the Capsicum label. Commercial crops are generally grown in protected environments – hoop houses, polytunnels, and greenhouses.
Capsicum is interesting because it is a photoperiod-insensitive crop, i.e., a day-neutral (though this is more accurately termed night-neutral).
A plant that requires a long period of darkness is termed a “short-day” (long-night) plant. Short-day plants form flowers only when the day length is less than 12 hours (or have more than half their days in darkness).
Many spring- and fall-flowering plants are short-day, including chrysanthemums, poinsettias, and Christmas cactus. If these are exposed to more than 12 hours of light (think street lights) per day, bloom formation does not occur.
Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are all day-neutral plants. Another similarity between the nightshade plants is the effect of excessive nitrogen levels – Capsicum will have great leaves, and no fruits, like tomatoes and potatoes, will fail to form tubes.
Other day-neutral (photoperiodism insensitive) plants are corn, cucumbers, sunflowers, beans, and peas. I hope that sheds some light on the photoperiodism topic.
3. Green Peppers are Moderately Difficult to Grow
Peppers are categorized as moderately difficult to grow, and we know it has nothing to do with the amount of light they receive.
Temperatures, nitrogen treatment timing, calcium and phosphorus levels, watering, and various pests and diseases all have a role.
Peppers have pests and illnesses that are typical in the nightshade family. Pests commonly challenging your pepper-growing efforts are aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, pepper maggots, and Colorado potato beetles.
Peppers are susceptible to Verticillium wilt (a fungal infection) and mosaic virus (which forms a constant yellow-green mosaic over the leaves, followed by wilt).
Sweet peppers grow best in full sun with wet, well-drained soil. Flowers may decline due to drought stress, and flowers can also be affected by cool temperatures, excessive heat, and low humidity.
The plant also prefers a pH of 5.5 to 6.8 in loamy or sandy soil.
Plant development and fruit production will be aided by using a well-balanced fertilizer when planting and when the first flowers appear. It’s possible that staking the plant will keep the fruit from falling to the ground.
4. The Sweet Pepper Color is Related to Taste
Green, yellow, orange, and red is the most prevalent colors of bell peppers. Brown, white, lavender, and dark purple are some of the other hues available, depending on the type. Unripe fruits are usually green or, less frequently, pale yellow or purple.
Although the Permagreen species retains its green color even when fully ripe, red bell peppers are merely ripened green peppers. As a result, during some stages of the ripening process, mixed colored peppers might be found.
The leaves are green, simple, and alternating, and the flowers are little star-shaped white to yellow blossoms. The fruits appear 2 to 6 days after the bloom has faded, and the variety determines the fruit’s form and color.
Round, elongated, or block-shaped fruits are all possible, and they won’t be fully colored until they’ve ripened. To encourage continuous production, gather the fruits regularly by cutting them off the plant, leaving an inch of the stork.
- Because they have been taken from the vine before the natural sugars are created, green sweet peppers are not as sweet as other peppers and maybe less flavourful than colored (ripe) fruit.
- The flavor of orange sweet peppers is acidic and fruity, and they’re fantastic for brightening up a salad. They are firm, crisp, and crunchy, with high juice content.
- Red sweet peppers are the sweetest and have the best flavor when grilled. They’re firm, crispy, and crisp.
- Yellow Sweet Peppers have a sweet flavor and are high in nutrients. The thick, meaty skin will retain the chargrilled flavor.
5. Calcium is Key to Preventing Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot is caused by a localized calcium deficiency in the fruit; however, this does not always mean a calcium deficiency in the soil or elsewhere on the plant. Even if the soil calcium levels are adequate, blossom end rot can occur.
Calcium is very mobile in plants, and a steady supply is required for healthy fruit development during fruit set.
Calcium is taken up from the soil by the roots and transferred through the xylem, transporting water up and into the plant’s growth points.
This necessitates a sufficient supply of water in the soil. When the supply of water to the roots is cut off, the calcium collection is also cut off.
Calcium from the leaves cannot get through the phloem and into the fruit. Furthermore, foliar-applied calcium cannot be immediately absorbed by the fruit’s skin, and foliar calcium sprays are ineffective.
Maintaining constant soil moisture is the most effective strategy to prevent blossom end rot. To put it another way, don’t let the soil dry out between waterings.
A timer-controlled drip irrigation system is an excellent approach to assure constant watering. Apply a mulch or pine straw layer around the plants to keep moisture in the soil from evaporating.
Also, avoid injuring established plants’ roots by hoeing or tilling near them, impairing their ability to absorb water.
To guarantee adequate calcium levels, perform a soil test well before planting and follow the lime and fertilizer recommendations.
6. Nitrogen Helps Plants Grow, But Not Fruit
You must time your nitrogen application with your pepper crops. A standard recommendation for drip-irrigated chile peppers grown for a green harvest in mid-August is to apply 7.3-ounces nitrogen per 100 sq feet during the growing season.
- First, 1.47 nitrogen per 100 square feet is applied to the seedbed in a pre-plant application.
- Second, beginning with the appearance of green flower buds in early June, 0.735 ounces of nitrogen per 100 sware feet are injected into the drip system per week for eight weeks.
Thus, 5.9 ounces of nitrogen per 100 sq ft is injected in eight weekly increments. These increments represent eight opportunities for decision-making.
Using a nitrate meter, you can manage applications to ensure you give no more nitrogen than is needed – in the scenario above; you have eight decision points – at each application during growth.
This reduces production costs while assuring that the crop’s nitrogen requirements are met.
7. You’ve got Fifteen Degrees to Play With When Growing Peppers
Peppers grow best if nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 55 °F (12.7 °C). Plants will do best if temperatures remain between 60 °F and 75 °F (15.5 to 23.8 °C) for at least three months, which is how long it takes between transplanting and fruit development.
After flower pollination, you ought to have green fruit within 45 to 55 days, and they’ll reach their colorful stage two weeks later.
Sow seeds 8 to 10 weeks before you plan to transplant outside, ¼ inch deep in flats, peat pots, or cell packs.
Seed germinates best when the soil temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more – seeds will not germinate below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plants should be kept warm (70°F during the day, 65°F at night) and sunny indoors. Lack of light will result in transplants that are lanky and unproductive.
Don’t rush into transplanting outside. Plants can be weakened by cold weather, and they may never fully recover.
Plants will harden and reduce transplant shock by spending a few days at 60°F to 65°F with less water. After transplanting, over-hardened plants develop slowly.
When the earth has warmed, and the weather has stabilized, set plants out two to three weeks after the typical last frost. Plant them 12 to 24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart, or in raised beds about 14 to 16 inches apart.
To hasten soil warming and early development, use black plastic or row coverings. Row coverings should be used with caution to avoid overheating plants and causing them to shed their flowers—mulch plants when they are fully established, and the soil has warmed to control weeds and retain heat.
When it comes to laying fruit, peppers can be fickle if the weather is too hot or too cold. Temperatures below 60 °F or above 75 °F at night can inhibit fruit sets.
8. Peppers Grow Well in Containers
Peppers are probably one of the best options for growing in containers – after herbs and tomatoes. Unlike more standard garden varieties, you may have to hunt around for a greenhouse that grows these varieties or start the plants yourself. Look for varieties that are labeled for containers or compact.
Specific advice for peppers in containers
- Use a pot with about fourteen inches of planting space.
- Use only potting media that’s labeled for larger pots. I like using a blend of leaf mold compost, coconut coir, and perlite. Be careful not to use a blent with too much peat moss as it tends to compact and reduce root mass and water-holding capacity, preventing the plants from developing correctly.
- Organic producers can achieve comparable effects by combining fish emulsion, green sand, kelp meal, and bone meal. Feeding should be increased as the plants become larger. After 10-12 weeks, apply more timed-release fertilizer. Even with a robust conventional fertilizer program, there is good evidence to recommend the use of seaweed-based supplements.
- While insects are rarely a problem on peppers, aphids can quickly build up to dangerous proportions. Before spraying, look for Ladybird beetles and their larvae, as they typically appear just as the aphids are about to overwhelm your plants. Aphid numbers will reduce dramatically within days of the advent of Ladybird beetles. If you use a pesticide during this time, the beneficial insects (in this example, Ladybird beetles) will be destroyed.
- Peppers aren’t prone to many diseases, except for bacterial spotting, which can lead to rotting as the fruit grows. To avoid bacterial rots, apply a copper-based fungicide/bactericide every 7-10 days once the fruit begins to mature.
- Harvest your peppers as soon as they are fully mature. This timely harvest enables the plant to redirect its resources to other fruits. If you leave rotten or overripe fruit on the plant, it will impair the quality of the other fruit. Leave the fruit on the plant until it is fully colored for the most pleasing flavor.
- Working with wet plants is one of the easiest ways for pathogens to spread. Make it a general rule not to work with plants that have water on the foliage.
9. Homegrown Peppers Have More Available Varieties
One of the better options in trying new varieties is to start with tested varieties. The All-American Selection website offers a range of pepper options, tho spicy and sweet are mixed. [Source]
Dragonfly F1 – 2022 AAS Winner
Dragonfly pepper plants produce beautiful purple peppers that have thick, sweet walls, unlike the thin papery walls of other purples on the market.
Like the beloved dragonfly that flits around your garden, this pepper transforms itself from a green pepper into a purple fruit that is as delicious at the green stage of maturity as it is when entirely purple and mature.
Overall, it’s a much better purple color than comparisons with above average, robust pepper flavor. Fruits are held high on the plant, keeping them from the soil.
The 4-lobed fruits do not fade and if left on the vine, turn a beautiful, bright red color.
Just Sweet F1 – 2019 AAS Winner
The Just Sweet hybrid is a unique snacking pepper with four lobes like larger bell pepper, only smaller.
Not only are the 3-inch fruits deliciously sweet with lovely thick walls, but the plants are vigorous growers (up to 36 inches tall and 15 inches wide) that don’t need to be staked because they’ve been bred to have a robust bushy habit.
Many judges conduct consumer taste tests and report that this pepper won those tests, hands down.
The Just Sweet peppers are exceptionally bright, shiny, and vivid yellow color with a flavor described as sweet with aromatic accents. Great lunchbox item for kids!
Sweetie Pie F1 – 2017 AAS Winner
A miniature bell pepper that is easy to grow with an excellent fruit set even under hot and humid conditions.
An attractive plant that is well-adapted to a container and small garden growing.
Fruits can be harvested 60 to 70 days from transplanting, either green or red. These petite 3-oz cuties are 2.5 inches x 3 inches in size and are thick-walled, sweet, and flavorful.
These peppers can be eaten fresh, grilled, stir-fried, or stuffed.
Mad Hatter F1 – 2017 AAS Winner
This exotic pepper wins on uniqueness alone! However, the plant’s vigor, earliness, high yields, large size, and excellent taste contribute to its high score among AAS judges. Mad Hatter is a member of the
Capsicum baccatum pepper species from South America are commonly used in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine.
You can impress your friends by growing this pepper and showing off the novel’s three-sided shape and deliciously sweet taste.
The taste has a refreshing, citrusy, floral flavor that remains sweet, only occasionally expressing mild heat near the seeds.
Be prepared for vigorous and robust plants that are easy to grow because they were bred for North America’s many growing conditions.
Use your abundant harvest raw in salads, pickled, or stuffed with cheese.
10. Sweet Peppers Have Some Challengers
Whiteflies, thrips, and red spider mites are the most common pests on Sweet Pepper plants. Although few insects will kill the Sweet Pepper, a number of them can cause damage to the plant and its fruit.
Beet armyworms, cutworms, flea beetles, aphids, leafrollers, weevils, tomato fruit worms, and tomato psyllid are among the insects that can be detected.
Thrips are carriers of the tomato spotted wilt virus, which is very contagious.
Mild mottle virus and tobacco mosaic virus were also discovered. Fungal diseases such as damping-off, crown and root rot, stem and fruit rot, gray mold, and powdery mildew can all harm or destroy the fruit.
Calcium shortage can cause blossom end rot. Sunscald on the fruit might result in papery patches. Fruits should be protected by adequate leaf coverage.
Whether you call them bell peppers or sweet peppers, whether you find them challenging or easy to grow, they are one of the most versatile vegetables available. As part of the nightshade family, they should be one of your annual staples.
As container plants, they’re great – especially if you grow them with purple basil – a spectacular feature.
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