Sweet peppers are a gardener’s favorite, producing a nutritious and delicious crop that can be included in a variety of recipes. Thriving in sunny vegetable patches and well drained soil, sweet peppers don’t need much room and are good companion plants for beets, garlic and radishes. These versatile veggies can be enjoyed both fresh and pickled. Roasted red peppers are often canned and used in salads. All colors of sweet peppers contain a high concentration of vitamin C, but the red and yellow varieties have much more than the common green bell pepper. Grow and enjoy any color, shape and flavor of sweet peppers for a fantastic source of nutrients. Best Soil for Growing Sweet Peppers Your sweet peppers will need well drained soil to thrive. Add a generous amount of coconut fiber to help lighten the existing soil and be sure to mix in compost for necessary nutrients. Keep the pH level between 5.5 and 6.8. The well prepared soil needs to be in a warm, full sun area that has about eight hours of sunlight each day. When to Plant Sweet Peppers Since cold is not a friend to the sweet pepper, you need to keep seedlings warm until the proper time. Be sure that all chances of frost has passed and the soil is maintaining a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Grow them from seed in your greenhouse or under specialty grow lights and your peppers will have an edge when it comes time to plant outside. How to Plant Sweet Peppers Place sweet pepper plants in a row with about 18 inches between each plant. You can easily plant two or more rows as the pepper plant doesn’t spread out very wide. Make sure to leave enough room between the rows to weed and harvest. Usually between 24” and 36” is decent spacing. If starting from seed sow them between ¼ and ½” below the surface and place three seeds in each hole. Thin out to encourage the healthiest plants. Plant your seedlings out when the air and soil temperature is warm enough and the pepper plant has grown to at least 4”. Sweet peppers can also work in patio pots - generally one pepper plant needs an 8” pot. This method allows you to control the temperature your sweet pepper plant is exposed to, but be sure to keep the pot watered or the plant will dry out quickly. Proper Care of Sweet Peppers These plants will need plenty of water, but don’t appreciate being soaked. Keep the soil evenly moist and use a layer of mulch for the best retention. Many gardeners claim that plastic mulch works well for peppers – likely the heat and sun reflection helps the plant thrive. Weed your sweet pepper patch regularly, but be careful around the plants. The root system is shallow and can be easily damaged by an eager weeder. Mulch should also help to keep the local weed population away. When to Harvest Sweet Peppers Plants are ready to be harvested 60 to 95 days after the seeds are sown, depending on the variety of sweet pepper. Red sweet peppers will grow as green fruit and then turn red when they’re ripe. You should wait until the peppers have reached the proper size as well, and again that will depend on the variety. How to Harvest Sweet Peppers Always cut the ripened sweet pepper from the plant, don’t pull them off. You risk pulling the entire plant out of the ground as the roots are not very deep. Some sweet peppers will detach with a gentle twist, but by always assuming you need to cut the pepper off of the plant you will avoid unnecessary damage. Common Sweet Pepper Pests and Diseases Insects and diseases like sweet peppers as much as we do. The plants are especially prone to aphid, flea beetle and thornworm attacks and have been seen suffering from mildew, blossom end rot and bacterial spot. If you leave your sweet peppers on the plant too long or don’t keep a clean vegetable bed, you’re inviting disease and pests right in. Cutworms may also visit your pepper plants and can be discouraged with transplant collars. Thornworms will need to be removed by hand and aphids and beetles are chased away by a good organic pest control product. Keep leaves and debris out of your garden to ward off disease. Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Sweet Peppers The most important thing to remember about growing sweet peppers is to maintain the heat, but don’t let the plant get too hot. Ideally, a sweet pepper’s world will be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant warm, the soil moist and well fed with fertilizers and compost. Don’t give a pepper plant too much nitrogen and use a slow release fertilizer or mix in aged compost every few weeks. Once your sweet peppers are growing well and you can enjoy the first harvests, all of the work will be well worth it. You are bound to enjoy having this versatile, nutritious plant in the kitchen and in your garden.