Bell Peppers are an interesting garden plant. They are typically grown as annuals but are actually perennials that can live for 5+ years and can grow into 6’x6′ bushy plants with strong wooden branches.
In greenhouses bell peppers are pruned and run up twine growing over 10′ tall and look like a vining plant.
Bell pepper plants are usually started indoors for 8 weeks. When you buy a seed packet of bell peppers the time listed to maturity on the packet will typically be time to maturity after transplanting outside, around 60-90 days. Growing bell peppers from seed takes 120-150 days.
How To Plant Bell Pepper Seeds in a Starter Tray
Use a pen to make holes 1/4″ deep in starter pots. Place seeds in holes make sure they’re covered and then water the tray from the bottom.
To water a starter tray from the bottom fill it with a 1/4″ of water and put the starter pots in it. Check the starter pots by feeling the top of the soil in the starter pots. When the tops feel moist, in about 30 minutes, the water has wicked it’s way up the soil and you can empty the remaining water in the tray.
Check out Cow Pots as starter pots. Cow Pots are environmentally friendly compostable starter pots that are made by a third generation dairy farmer and were featured on the TV show “Dirty Jobs”.
How To Plant Bell Pepper Seeds in Pots
To grow bell peppers in pots use at least 3 gallons of dirt per bell pepper plant. Make a hole 1/2″ deep, plant the seed, cover with dirt and water in gently.
If you plan on overwintering a bell peppers indoors plant one bell pepper plant per container. If you live in an area with a good amount of winter sunlight or plant to use supplemental lighting use a large container as overwintered bell peppers can grow into substantial bushes.
If you’re growing bell pepper plants as annuals expect them to grow into 1.5’x1.5′ to 3’x3′ size plants depending on how early you start them indoors and how well they start for you.
How To Plant Bell Pepper Seeds in a Raised Bed or Garden Plot
Bell peppers are warm weather plants that grow best with temperatures between 65-85 degrees. They also take a long time to grow from seed, around 120-150 days to maturity, so consider starting bell peppers indoors.
To plant bell pepper seeds use a tool or a stick to make a line where you want your row of bell peppers to be. Make holes 1/2-1″ deep and plant bell pepper seeds 18″ apart and rows 18″ apart in garden beds where you don’t need space to walk through.
In a garden plot consider spacing rows 30″ apart to give room to walk through for fertilizer application and pest patrol.
If you’re transplanting starter bell pepper plants outside cover the rootballs with 1/2″ of soil. If the starter plants are a good size, 18″ or more and you have 3 months or more of good growing season ahead consider spacing the bell pepper plants further apart, up to 36″ apart.
The difference in size at the end of the growing season between a bell pepper with a good start indoors and one started from seed outside can be substantial. Something like 1.5’x1.5′ vs 3’x3′
Should You Soak Bell Pepper Seeds Before Planting?
You do not need to soak bell pepper seeds before planting. The purpose of soaking seeds is to increase germination rates and/or speed up germination.
The main factors that affect germination are soil temperature and moisture. If you have viable seeds don’t worry about soaking them. If you’re worried about the viability of the seeds sprout them with the paper towel method.
Seeds need moisture to germinate. Moisture activates catalysts within the seeds that begin germination along with other processes that make germination possible. That’s why the next section on watering bell pepper seeds is important.
Soil temperature is the main factor for how fast germination occurs. With hotter soil temperatures bell pepper seeds will germinate in around 5 days and with cooler soil temperatures germination can take a couple weeks.
The danger with planting in colder soil is that the seeds will open partially and then rot or freeze.
The best way to know when it’s time to plant seeds in the garden is by knowing the last expected frost date and using a soil thermometer.
Carrot seeds will germinate with temperatures above 50 degrees, bell peppers 60 degrees, and watermelon seeds with temperatures above 70 degrees.
A soil thermometer is basically a meat thermometer that reads down to lower temperatures. Plant the thermometer into the ground for 5 minutes between 9-11AM for an average of the soil temperature.
Watering Bell Pepper Seeds After Planting
Water bell pepper seeds with room temperature water right after planting. This will help set the seeds in place and provide them with the moisture they need to germinate.
Continue to water them after planting until they sprout. The seeds need the moisture to germinate so don’t forget about them after planting. Wait until the soil almost dries out and then water them again.
Preparing the Soil for Planting Bell Peppers
To prepare the soil for bell pepper plants use a pitchfork or shovel and work up the soil 18″ down. This will break up any compacted soil so that water will drain better and make it easier for plants roots to grow through.
MySoil test kit is a reasonably priced soil test kit that will give you you’re soil’s PH level and 13 nutrient levels.
Soil PH is important because at certain levels plants will uptake nutrients better than others.
The three numbers that are listed for fertilizers stand for Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium. These are the three most important nutrients. Following them are calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, copper and other trace minerals.
Organic Plant Magic is my favorite organic fertilizer. It has a lot of different organic materials in the mix, over 50 micronutrients, and 13 different strains of beneficial soil bacterias.
Jack’s Classic is a great standard fertilizer that is water soluble and measures 20-20-20. For a smaller application you cut the mix in half and use it as a 10-10-10.
Please comment below with your own thoughts on getting bell pepper plants started.