How to Grow Yellow Bell Peppers
The Veggie Gardens’ Living Jewelry
Bell peppers in all of their colorful manifestations are the centerpiece in many home gardens, particularly gardens that were designed to be visually pleasing as well as productive. Bell peppers come in nearly as many colors as there are colors of the rainbow. peppers are now available in red, orange, white, purple and chocolate brown as well as yellow and the basic and familiar green. The shiny brightly colored peppers on their upright deep green plants are nearly as pleasant to look at as they are to consume.
All the true bell peppers regardless of color are cultivars of the same plant species, Capsicum annuum. Botanically speaking they are classified as fruits. This last fact does not prevent them from being located in the vegetable section of seed catalogs, garden centers and websites and thought of as vegetables for everyday reference. Bell peppers are one of the few “mild” or sweet peppers which, thanks to a recessive gene do not possess the chemical capsaicin that causes the various degrees of pungency, or heat, common to almost all other peppers.
Yellow bell pepper plants are available in late spring from almost all home garden centers, or the seeds may be purchased from those same centers, or from online or mail order catalogs. However the plant is acquired the key to a successful harvest begins during the preceding fall garden clean up routine.
Peppers Have Needs too
Peppers need full sunlight to flourish so select a section of the garden that receives maximum sunlight throughout the growing season. The plants love soil that drains well, therefore select a raised bed for their spring home. Raised beds by their very nature support proper drainage. If a raised bed is not available perhaps take this opportunity to construct one; it will pay off in the end in superior crop yields.
Peppers also do well in loose loam that has a lot of organic material as part of its composition, so when digging and filling the bed, add generous helpings of any leftover compost. It is also very helpful to add finely ground eggshells as a calcium source and greensand to boost potassium levels at this time, in modest amounts. While peppers are not particularly heavy feeders they never the less benefit from a broad range of nutrients. Eggshells and greensand break down slowly and will be most useful in spring and summer if they are applied in the fall.
Finally, as a special growth booster, cover a patch of lawn with a sprinkling of oak leaves and straw. Mow the patch and catch the mixture of chopped straw, oak leaves and grass clippings in a catch bag and dig several bagsful into the potential pepper plot. This mixture will also break down slowly over the winter months and provide a rich blend of nitrogen, carbon and micronutrients for the emerging pepper plants.
Getting off to a Good Start
Starting pepper plants directly from seeds in the garden is a tricky proposition; pepper seeds need about three weeks of temperatures over 75 degrees to germinate successfully. Only planting zones that feature a long, warm growing season can provide this opportunity. Most gardeners will prefer to start the plants indoors, or purchase established plants from a gardening center.
Fortunately there are a number of attractive and tasty yellow pepper varieties available from seed companies catering to the home gardener. Some favorites include Early Sunsation, Sweet Golden Baby, Jackpot, Super Heavyweight and Gold California Wonder. There are many, many more.
Use the last frost date in your area to determine when it is time to start the seeds. Look up the frost date on a planting zone chart and count back six weeks. This is the preferred time to sow the seeds; indoors or in the greenhouse if one is available.
To prepare transplants use a large pot for each plant, five to six inches tall and the same in diameter. The plants will be in the pots for quite a while, as long as 9 weeks, and the extra size encourages optimal root development and thus a great start in the garden. Fill each with a quality potting soil that does not have fertilizer added. Plant three to four seeds per pot, about one half inch deep and water lightly. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Germination can take as long as 21 days so patience is a virtue here.
Temperature control is the key. Pepper seeds actually require a higher temperature – 75 degrees is about right – to germinate than the plants need to grow. Keep them at or near that temperature and try to avoid any sudden decrease until the seedlings have emerged. After emergence they can tolerate temperatures as low as sixty but try to avoid exposure to anything cooler.
When the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall remove all but the strongest looking seedling from each pot.
Planted at Last
The best time to plant the seedlings is about three weeks after the final frost date for your zone. It is always best to allow the plants to harden off before transplanting by placing them outside for increasingly lengthening periods of time for perhaps one week prior to the planting date. During the hardening process avoid exposing the plants to high winds or temperatures below 55 degrees.
Peppers thrive in a soil PH – acid or alkaline – environment between 6.0 and 7.0 on the PH scale. You may not know your soils PH factor but if corn, carrots or tomatoes have in the past been grown successfully where the proposed pepper patch is to be you can be confident that yellow peppers will be at home as well. On the other hand, if these plants have struggled or if this is a first time garden, then a PH test is in order. Kits are available and soil profiles can be done by a County Agricultural Extension to help nail down the PH number.
Once the PH level is known and should a problem be discovered, soil amendments like dolomitic limestone or elemental sulfur can be introduced to raise or lower PH to the proper level for maximum pepper productivity.
Turn the soil that has been resting all winter long and add if you wish, 2 to 3 inches of sifted compost. Plant the seedlings no closer to one another than 15 inches on center, 18 or even 24 inches would be better. Plant the seedlings so that the soil level in the pot matches that of the garden patch as closely as possible. There is no advantage to burying part of the stem as one would normally do with tomatoes.
Keep the pepper plants free of weeds and once the days begin to heat up, weed a final time and cover the soil with mulch an inch or two in depth. If compost made by the fast or hot method is available this will be the ideal choice for mulch. It will suppress weeds, control soil temperature and moisture, and leach nutrients into the soil.
Once flowers begin to appear it can be beneficial to apply a light feeding made from bone meal, blood meal and a little bit of Epsom salt as a side dressing. Apply sparingly, peppers can be over fertilized.
Watering is essential from the time the flowers begin to form until the last pepper is picked if the largest, juiciest and thickest walled pepper is desired.
Peppers are generally free standing plants but they are also brittle, staking may be required, particularly if multitudes of large peppers are forming.
The first thing one may notice about the emerging yellow peppers is that they are in fact green. This is normal; the rich golden color develops as the plants reach maturity, which is generally 70 to 80 days from time of transplant.
Aphids, leafminers and Colorado potato beetles can be problematic but are easily controlled with commercial sprays like Sevin; rotenone and insecticidal soap can also be beneficial. Corn earworms and tomato hornworms may also attack peppers and are best controlled by hand picking when the problem is caught early.
A Little Work, a Lot of Peppers
Producing a bumper crop of gleaming yellow peppers requires a bit more gardening skill than summer squash demands but the result is well worth the effort. Yellow peppers are known to be sweeter than their traditional green cousins and higher in a number of vitamins and nutrients. Yellow peppers add festive color to salads and stir fries and the larger ones make excellent and unusual stuffing peppers.
Attractive and tasty yellow peppers bring a little extra sunshine to the dinner table. They deserve a spot in every garden.