9) Growing sweet peppers

In this tip:

  • Sowing date and storage
  • A)# Sowing and germinating
  • B)# Transplanting
  • C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer
  • D)# Plants outdoors, in the garden, planting out
  • E)# In a mortar bucket
  • E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers
  • F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers
  • G)# Removal (breaking off) of first flowers or flowerbuds
  • H)# Aphids
  • I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse
  • J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.
  • K)# Small and big bell peppers
  • L)# Small snails on sweet peppers
  • M)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)


Sowing date and storage

Sweet peppers are sown in early March (late winter, early spring).

But you better sow some earlier (my experience of 2013 with a cold cloudy spring). When you sow in January or February (mid to late winter), you can have sweet pepper plants of 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) high, in April (mid spring). Further in this tip you can read how you can take the plants with big root balls out of flower pots and put them in a box in a layer of compost.

And you can store and ripen the peppers in a tray on 3 or 4 lays of kitchen paper. On the tray is plastic foil with a small air opening. More info in chapter J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers.


A)# Sowing and germinating.

You can sow sweet peppers in a plastic margarine box with sieved potting soil. You can sieve potting soil through the bottom holes of a plastic flower pot. In this margarine box 15 plants can grow up.

  • Fill a (250 grams) plastic margarine box with sieved potting soil.
  • Flatten the top side of the potting soil.
  • Use the bottom of an other margarine box to press on the potting soil.
  • Spray cold tap water on the potting soil.

  • Lay dry pepper seeds (uniformly distributed) on the potting soil.

  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sieved potting soil.

  • Put the original lid (or another well fitting lid) loose on the margarine box with potting soil. Or click the lid on the box at 1 short side.
  • In this way you make narrow air openings between box and lid.
  • The seeds get fresh air but the soil does not dry out so fast.


  • Put the margarine box with lid indoors on a warm place. For example on a central heating unit or above a radiator. Sweet peppers germinate well at a temperature between 20 and 25 C (68 to 77 F). After 7 to 14 days, first pepper plants are above the soil.
  • Regularly remove the lid to check the germination;
    • When you see small water drops hanging at the lower side of the lid, the sowing soil is moist enough. When needed (no drops) spray some cold tap water on the soil.
    • Are no plants visible above the soil, put the lid on the box again.
    • Put the box with lid on a warm spot again.

  • Are pepper plants visible (above the soil), do not put the lid on.
  • When the lid is too long on the box, you get thin, long pepper plants.
  • Put the box with plants on a light place at about 20 C (68 F).

  • You can put a transparent (plastic) box over the margarine box when first plants are visible. This transparent box is used to pack mushrooms.

When the pepper plants are about 1 to 3 centimeters (0.4 to 1.2 inch) high, remove the transparent box. Let the peppers grow bigger before a window at about 20 C (68 F). You get firm pepper plants then.

Are the pepper plants thin and long, then they grow too warm and/or too dark. Put them at a lighter and colder place.

Let the plants in the margarine box grow until they have 4 or more leaves. Then each plant is big enough to replant in a flower pot.


A1) Sowing tip 1: use a mat

  • Lay a piece of sink mat on the potting soil. Drop each seed in a mat hole. After sowing, remove the mat. When using the mat, you can lay the seeds on equal distances. More info about the mat in    tip 29    .


A2) Sowing tip 2: shove drop tray

You can use tweezers or pick pepper seeds between thumb and index and drop into the mat holes. But sowing is also very easy when using a shove drop tray (shift fall tray). This tray is described in    tip 33)   .


A3) Sowing tip 3:  lowered big margarine box (450 grams)

In a big (450 grams) margarine box you can grow more plants: 24 instead of 15.

  • It is useful to cut the upper part (the wide edge) of a 500 grams margarine box and use this lowered box for sowing seeds. The original lid or a transparent mushroom box fits well over this lowered box.

  • Here the original lid has been put on an empty lowered margaine box of 450 grams. The whole has been turned upside down to make this photo.
  • The lid fits well on the margarine box, see red/white arrow. The lid is not stuck. There are narrow air slits between box and lid.

Below photos of using this lowered margarine box.


A4) Big lid, small lid

  • When you don’t have a fitting lid?
  • Then you can put on a “too big” or “too small” lid. That works well too. The lid and the box form narrow air openings and the potting soil does not dry out fast.
  • At a small lid, you better cut off the little tab first. So it better fits on (in) a big margarine box.


A5) Sowing dry pepper seeds

When you sow “dry pepper seeds”, as described above, some plants do not crop up.

On the photo above you see small sweet pepper plants in 7 margarine boxes. In each box, 15 sweet pepper seeds have been sown. In some boxes there are 14 pepper plants, in other boxes only 8 or 9 plants.

In some boxes there are pepper plants with “the first leaves still in the seed”. It is hard to set free these leaves. Most of these plants will die.

When you sow dry seeds in a few boxes with sowing soil, you get dozens of pepper plants. Mostly enough plants for you. When sowing dry seeds in big margarine boxes you get more than enough plants. This procedure works well.


A5) Germination test

To find out if pepper seeds will germinate well, you can do a test. Lay a sheet of toilet paper in a margarine box. You can fold a grey plastic plate in the toilet paper; the germinating seeds are better visible then. More info in  tip 2)   , No  73.

Spray water on the toilet paper in the box. Lay sweet pepper seeds on the toilet paper. Put the original lid (or another well fitting lid) loose on the margarine box. Or click the lid on the box at 1 short side.

  • Put the box with lid indoors on a warm place.
  • Regularly check if the paper is moist. Keep the box (without lid) oblique askew. Check if a little water appears at the lowest corner after a few seconds. When water visible, paper is moist enough. If not, spray some tap water on the paper.
  • Check if the seeds germinate; at a germinating seed, a tiny root grows. The photo above shows some germinating pepper seeds.


A6) Putting lids under the box when too warm

Sweet pepper seeds germinate well at a temperature between 20 and 25 C (68 to 77 F). When the temperature in the box gets too high, you can put 1 or 2 lids under the margarine box. This lowers the temperature in the box.


 A7) Not too dry?

  • The air in the box above the seeds is moist enough when there are small water drops on the lower side of the lid. (The pepper seed on the lid was needed to focus the camera).


A8) Germinating not covered with soil (very illustrative)

Pepper seeds germinate well when they are not covered with soil. That is not so weird. In free nature, seeds fall on the soil and stay there (and are not covered with a layer of soil or so). Seeds fallen on moist soil, between plants or in the shadow, do not dry out so fast. At a good temperature and with some rain, most seeds germinate. After a short time, many mini plants grow in the soil.

Below there is a description of how to germinate sweet pepper seeds when not covered with soil. Very illustrative and educational. Make shallow sowing holes of about 0.5 centimeters (1/5 inch) deep. Seeds in sowing holes do not dry out fast.

  • After a few days, remove the lid and check if the seeds are germinating.
  • After about 10 days, most seeds have a tiny root.


  • You can cover the germinating seeds with a layer of sieved potting soil. Put a lid on and put it indoors at a warm place. To continue germinating..

  • Or put a transparent box over the tray and let the plants grow bigger, not covered with soil.


B)# Transplanting

Replant the sweet pepper plants when they have 4 or more leaves.

Use compost or potting soil as planting soil. My experience; pepper plants grow  much faster in compost than in (bad, cheap) potting soil. Mix the planting soil with agricultural lime (Dolokal); about 1 part of lime on 20 parts of planting soil. Compost or potting soil is a little acidic; agricultural lime makes the soil less acidic.

Fill each flower pot with planting soil. Plant a sweet pepper plant deep (until 2 lower leaves (seed leaves)  are just above soil. In this way plants will make more roots and will not fall over that easy.

Place the pots with pepper plants on a light, warm place, 20 to 25 C (68 to 77 F). For example before a window at the south (sunny side). Add water when needed. Turn the plants when they grow against the window.


Remark 1 (many leaves):

A big plant has a big root ball with much original soil hanging at the roots. After transplanting, the plant will grow on easily.


Remark 2 (toppling):


When a pepper plant has a thin stem it “wiggles” in the pot. Replant it some deeper. Don’t add too much water. Let the plant grow bigger. More info on the internet;     here  and  here   .


C)# Pepper plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer

When pepper plants are about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) high, the pots will be too small.

Fill a low tray, or a window box liner (both with holes in the bottom) or a shopping crate with compost or potting soil. Layer thickness about 10 cm (4 inch).

Take each pepper plant out of the flowerpot. Taking out can be done easily according the next procedure;

Put a flower pot with plant upside down on a glooved hand (better use a gardening glove). Tap against the bottom of the flower pot until the root ball is loose from the flower pot. Tap with a garden shovel or a spoon. Remove the flower pot.

Turn the plant at the normal position again.


Here a description of planting in a layer of compost;

  • Make a planting hole in the layer of compost.
  • You can strew some agricultural lime in the planting hole before replanting.
  • Put the root ball of the tomato plant in the planting hole.
  • Shove some compost against the root ball and against the stem of the plant.
  • Spray water on the layer of compost (around the plants).


  • You may use potting soil instead of compost. But (cheap) potting soil has less nutrients than compost. In cheap potting soil (even when mixed with agricultural lime), the sweet pepper plants grow much slower. Compost (homemade or bought) works best.
  • Put the plants far apart in the compost, not too close. The pepper plants can grow big and form large root balls.


C1) In a shopping crate or a low tray with holes in the bottom

Put sweet pepper plants in a layer of compost in a shopping crate. Distance between the plants is about 20 centimeters (8 inch). You can use plastic “rings” (cut of a plastic lid) around the stem to indicate the colour of the pepper.

Or put plants in compost in a tray or small basket with holes in the bottom.

Put the shopping crate, tray or laundry basket with plants at a warm, light place. Or put it at a warm spot in your garden by day. And indoors during the night.

Or put the tray or crate or basket with plants in a greenhouse by day, when you have one. On this photo you see sweet pepper plants in my “deep greenhouse”. Put the tray or crate indoors during the night or at cold weather.

Water the plants and the compost sufficient. Excess water flows out of the tray (crate, basket) via the holes in the bottom.

Do not put the plants in the full sunshine for a long time. Put the crate (tray, basket) with plants (temporary) in the shadow. By putting the plants outdoors and indoors, the plants can get used to the outdoor temperatures.

You can put a white sheet over the greenhouse. Even better; fix (tighten) the sheet slanting above the greenhouse, as shown on the photos above. There is a sun screen, but the plants in the greenhouse get enough light to grow well.


C2) In a window box liner with compost, under a tunnel of transparent corrugated plate

You can put sweet pepper plants under a tunnel greenhouse.

Fill a window box liner with compost Put sweet pepper plants in the compost, distance 10 centimeters (4 inch) between the plants.

Dig a furrow in the garden soil and put the window box liner with plants in the furrow. You can put a window box liner with tomato plants next to it in the furrow. Shove garden earth against the liner.

Put the tunnel of transparent corrugated plate over the plants. Close each side of the tunnel with a plate (for example made of plexiglass). Against draughts and aphids.

At warm, sunny days put a white sheet at the sunny side of the tunnel. Otherwise temperature in the tunnel gets too high. You can fix the sheet using (bamboo) sticks and clothespins. At cold weather and during nights, put the box liners with plants indoors.

After mid May (mid spring), put the liner with pepper plants deeper in the garden soil; deepen the furrow, put the tunnel over again.

End of May (mid-late spring): window box liner with pepper plants under a short tunnel. At the left side of the tunnel there is a plastic plate to overcome draughts.

End of May (late spring): tunnel removed. The liner is deep in teh garden soil.

At the end of May there are big pepper plants in the liner.


D)# Plants outdoors, in the garden, planting out

Put sweet pepper plants in the garden soil at the end of May, beginning of June (late spring). Below 20 C (68 F), pepper plants do not grow (fast).

Planting in the soil:

Loosen the garden soil. Dig a hole in the soil. Width and depth about 15 cm (6 inch). Fill the hole with (self made) compost. Sprinkle some agricultural lime on the compost and mix it with garden earth.

Plant the pepper plant. Put a (bamboo) stick next to the plant in the soil. Fix the plant to the stick using a strip. Water the soil with cold water.

Twelve sweet pepper plants in the garden soil. The soil around the plants is deeper than teh surrounding soil (up to now).

You can put a watering pot (cut out of a plastic flower pot) in the soil.


E)# In a mortar bucket

You can grow sweet peppers in a mortar bucket (with drilled holes in the bottom) filled with 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch) compost. More info in tip 2,  nr 17.


E1) Support for big plants or branches with heavy peppers

Pepper plants can grow slanting. Branches with heavy peppers can break off. In   tip 2  there are tips to support plants and  the branches, nrs 10,  17,  55.


F)# Seeds from ripe sweet peppers

In summer you can take seeds out of ripe sweet peppers. Spread the seeds on a piece of kitchen paper in a margarine box. Write info on the paper before laying seeds on. Dry the seeds for 2 weeks. Then you can put a lid or another margarine box on.


G)# Removal (breaking off) of first flowers or flower buds

At the end of May (mid spring), sweet pepper plants can have flower buds or flowers already. Click on the photo above for wide screen.

At each plant you better remove the first 5 to 10 “things” (flower buds or flowers or tiny peppers). After removal of these, the plant can use all sun energy to make new stems and new big leaves. Later on, when the plant is much bigger, you can keep a few buds and flowers at the plant. And you can have 3 to 6 fruits growing on each plant.


H)# Aphids

Pepper plants can be attacked by aphids. This is due to draughts (air currents) in the greenhouse or tunnel. Take care of only one air opening. Put a white sheet over the greenhouse or tunnel at warm, sunny days; otherwise it gets too hot.

After a few weeks in the open air, there are no aphids on the big plants anymore.

I)# Sweet pepper plants growing in the open air or in a greenhouse

You can put sweet pepper plants under a roof with side plastic. More info at tip   25) Plastic foil at…

Or in the open air when you live in a “good” climate.


J)# Ripening and storing sweet peppers

Lay (almost ripe) sweet peppers in a tray on 3 lays of moist kitchen paper. Put plastic foil (with a narrow air opening) on the tray against drying out of the paper. Fix the foil with cloth pegs.

In tip   15) Storage tips..   there is more info about storing and riping bell peppers.


K)# Small and big bell peppers

You can grow small or big sweet peppers.

A big sweet pepper grown in my garden

The same papper after 11 days of ripening on moist kitchen paper (and removal of a small rotting piece of the stem).

Below some photos of preparation in the kitchen.

Usable pepper material left (for cooking or freezing in).

Unusable pepper material.

Moist sweet pepper seeds.


L)# Small snails on sweet peppers

Peppers can be attacked by snails. A bell pepper with these small holes can start rotting soon. You better prepare the peppers for a meal or to freeze.


M)# Growing egg plants (Aubergines)

You can grow egg plants on a similar way as sweet peppers.

Sow in potting soil in a margarine box. Put lid on. Remove lid when plants are visible. Let the plants grow big until they have 4 or more leaves.

Put each small plant deep in a flower pot with a mixture of compost, potting soil and agricultural lime.


Put each big plant in the garden soil at the beginning of June (late spring). Planting info at chapter D)# of this tip.

During growing, many flowers can fall off. End up with 2 or 3 growing fruits per plant. You can remove the “suckers” that grow between the stem and a branche.

Big plants in the open air in the garden soil. Let 1 or 2 fruits grow at each plant. This photo show plants with fruits at mid September (end of summer).

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2 Responses to 9) Growing sweet peppers

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