My bell peppers are always tiny

ceridwin13(6)January 29, 2008

Please help! I grow several different kinds of bell peppers every year and the plants always seem to do well, but the peppers never get any bigger than 2" to 3", maximum. I get plenty of them, but I'd like to get some that are big enough for stuffing. They get lots of sunlight and they aren't planted near hot peppers (which I heard can cross pollinate), so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Peppers are heavy feeders and need lots of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. They also need a lot of sun and heat, so don't plant them in an area that gets shade. They are usually started indoors about 2 months before the soil is warm enough to plant. Once the seeds have a few leaves, pinch or cut all of them down except one. Don't pull up or you'll disturb the roots of the one you're keeping.

The soil will need to be 70-85F (21-30C). Peppers don't like anything about cold air or soil.

Mulch heavily to keep the water content of the soil stable. Peppers hate soil that keeps changing from soggy to dry. Some people say not to mulch them, because the plants need the sun to heat the soil. That doesn't work for me, as even here in a humid area, the soil keeps drying out. When I started mulching them, they improved dramatically.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 2:35PM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Choose a variety known for growing to a large size in your area. Some varieties never will get very big.

"I get plenty of them" could be somewhat of a problem, too. Plants with fewer peppers tend to mature each one to a larger size. You could try thinning when the peppers are young and see if that helps. (I am not good at that. I hate to take any off the plant before they are mature.)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 4:43PM
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So, what's your climate like? I agree with belgianpup that peppers need more moisture than is often assumed. Lots of sun, mulch, and some thinning is the magic combination for big ones that don't take forever to ripen.

That much said, I really like the smallish sweet peppers like 'Lipstick' because they're so fast, dependable and delicious.

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 5:22PM
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Hello all! Thanks for the quick replies!

Usually I buy starter plants, but last year I decided to start my own indoors. If memory serves I started them in late February and transplanted them outdoors at the end of April, so I doubt the soil was 75 degrees yet, although we do leave black plastic over the soil over the winter and spring to warm it up sooner. I'm also suspicious that there aren't enough nutrients in the soil. I add compost every year and water them with a little Miracle-Gro every so often instead of plain water, but my family has used these veg beds ever since I was a kid and I think we may have exhausted the soil by this point (we do rotate the location of the various plants, however). Any thoughts on that? Can it be redeemed? I bought a soil test kit so when it warms up outside, I'll give it a whirl.

I sympathize with naturegirl, I hate to pinch off or thin anything either, I feel like a bad mother! But this year I will have to close my eyes and do it. If nothing else I can try it on half the plants and use the others as a "control group".

I'm in Baltimore so it's Zone 6/7ish, I'm never quite sure because on every zone map that I see, it's right in the middle! But last frost is usually mid April, and dependably by the end of April for sure.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 2:20PM
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crabjoe(z7 MD)

I live in Cecil County and I did bell peppers for the 1st time last year and didn't have any problems.

My soil was all clay and stone, so removed the stone and amended lots of compost to it. I planted started pepper during Mother's day weekend and also put seed down directly. The started plants produced about a month before the directly sowed peppers. Size wise, they were all pretty much the same as store bought. The seeds I used was a Bell pepper seed mix so I did get small black bell peppers. I just assumed these peppers were supposed to be small.

BTW, I have no idea what they tasted like because I never tried any. All my bell peppers were taken by friends and family.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 3:15PM
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"Peppers are heavy feeders and need lots of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash."

What do you recommend? I use 16-16-16 to get them started in the ground then switch to 10-20-20. How often should I fertilize and how much per plant?



    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 3:08AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I just amend the soil with homemade compost and alfalfa meal, with some bonemeal and wood ashes added.

We are having a real problem with the weather here in western WA, and all my warm-weather plants are shivering.

I just bought some clear plastic bags yesterday, and today I am sticking some of those useless 3-ring tomatoe cages over them, putting two or three large rocks around the bases of the plants (to collect heat for release at night), and covering them with the plastic bags (perforated for ventilation). I don't know what else to do, but we aren't getting much above 50F.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 1:51PM
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