Bell peppers add a splash of color to a square-foot garden, but it’s not the only reason the veggie plants are popular with gardeners. Along with the sweet and crunchy taste, bell peppers are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
Growing the vegetable plant in a square-foot garden isn’t difficult. It’s a great option for beginning gardeners.
While bell pepper plants are relatively easy to grow, there are a few steps to follow to ensure the veggies thrive in a square-foot garden.
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Square foot gardening is the invention of Mel Bartholomew. The retired construction engineer created the grid-like framework to simplify gardening.
The raised boxes require less time and maintenance than traditional gardens, and the practice quickly became popular in the United States.
It is now used around the world as a space-saving alternative to in-ground garden beds.
Square foot gardening is the practice of using raised boxes that are covered with lattice.
The lattice helps to protect tender shoots, and it also provides support as the bell pepper plants grow above the boxes.
A square-foot garden bed uses wood boards to construct the boxes. The type of wood used can affect the health of the bell pepper plants.
Square foot gardens can be any size. While the most common measurement is 4 x 4 feet, gardeners can also go larger or smaller.
Gardeners with limited space may want to stick with a 2 x 2 feet. Larger yards can handle square-foot beds that measure around 4 x 12 feet.
The size of the bed determines how much wood is needed for construction.
Avoid using treated wood. The chemicals can leach into the garden soil.
Retreated wood is environmentally friendly but can also come with unknown chemicals. It’s best to use untreated wood in a raised garden bed.
Woods like redwood and cedar are naturally water-resistant. The downside is the price. Pine is an inexpensive option, but the wood deteriorates rapidly.
Hemlock is a little pricier than pine. However, it also lasts longer when exposed to the elements.
Instead of measuring and cutting the wood at home, ask the lumber yard to cut the boards into 4-foot pieces. Most will do the work for free after the purchase.
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The amount of soil needed to fill the square foot garden bed depends on its size. For example, a 4 x 4 box requires around eight cubic feet of garden soil.
An easy way to determine the amount of soil is to multiply the box’s width and divide the total by two.
The soil is also mixed with organic material. The material not only provides additional nutrients but also helps the raised garden bed retain moisture. It means less work during the growing season.
Adding either coco coir or organic compost to the soil is preferred over using peat or vermiculite.
Vermiculite will improve aeration, but the material also has a large carbon footprint due to the mining process.
Peat is a natural material mined from bogs. The material is beneficial for plants in square-foot gardens, but it also serves a vital purpose in nature.
- The organic material acts as a natural barrier against greenhouse gasses. It can take 25 years or longer for a bog to replenish the depleted peat.
- Coco coir is a sustainable option for square-foot garden usage. The lightweight fibers are produced from coconut husks and sold in blocks.
- The fibers retain moisture and boost soil structure. Most garden centers sell bags of coco coir at a relatively low price.
- The least expensive option is organic compost. Some gardeners maintain a compost pile throughout the year.
- Apartment dwellers can also create compost with an indoor unit.
- Organic compost provides necessary nutrients, retains moisture, and improves soil structure. It’s everything bell pepper plants need to thrive in a square-foot garden.
Building a square-foot garden is an easy DIY project, especially if the lumber yard takes care of cutting the 4 x 4’s.
Drill holes at the ends of the boards. It’s best to drill three holes. It helps to ensure the bad has plenty of support.
Place the boards in a square and attach the ends using wood screws. Look for six-inch wood screws to ensure they go through the ends of both boards.
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Positioning a square-foot bed depends on available space and the type of plants. Some prefer full sun while others like a little shade.
Bell peppers are sun-loving vegetable plants, so position the raised garden bed in an area that receives plenty of sunlight. Look for a spot receiving around six hours of sunlight per day.
After positioning the bed, lay some newspaper or cardboard across the bottom.
It will help prevent weeds and keep the soil inside the bed.
Before adding the garden soil, mix in the compost or coco coir. It’s typically 1/3 organic material, and the rest of the mixture contains garden soil.
Make sure the soil and organic matter are blended to ensure the nutrients are spread evenly throughout the square-foot garden.
Add the soil mixture to the bed and spread it evenly to all four of the box’s corners.
Water the soil down to the bottom to ensure it is hydrated.
To create the grid, or individual garden boxes, divide the square-foot garden bed into sections. The sections should measure one foot.
Old wood slats from mini blinds or dowels work great. Any thin strip of untreated wood can create individual planting boxes in a square-foot garden.
Finally, it’s time to start planting the bell pepper seeds.
Whether it’s green, yellow, orange, or red bell peppers, the planting process is the same. To give the square garden added color, try mixing up the bell pepper varieties.
The various colored peppers also have unique flavors that go deliciously with a variety of dishes.
Bell pepper plants are picky about outdoor temperatures. The plants do not tolerate freezing weather.
Start bell pepper seeds indoors around two months before the final spring frost. Gardeners can also sow the seeds outdoors after the last heavy freeze.
After the first bell pepper crop, go ahead and plant more seeds. Bell peppers will continue growing until the first winter freeze.
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These vegetable plants need some space. Bell pepper plants do not like to be crowded close together.
Plant the seeds around a ¼ inch deep, placing a single seed in each one-foot box.
Water the seeds after planting, ensuring the moisture reaches the bottom layer of the soil.
Most bell pepper varieties take around seven to ten days to sprout.
Bell peppers aren’t overly thirsty plants, but they also do not like dry soil. The time of year affects watering frequency.
Gardeners will water more often in the summer than in the spring or fall. Add moisture to the soil whenever the top layer is beginning to dry out.
Try to water the base of the plants. Moisture on the leaves can cause issues with mold and fungus.
Covering the top of a square-foot garden with a lattice is a common practice, but it’s not a requirement.
The lattice is a protective measure. It prevents pets and children from accidentally walking on top of young seedlings.
The lattice can also provide a little support at the base for taller-growing plants.
Bell peppers often require a little more support to keep the plants from falling over from the weight of the growing peppers.
Thin bamboo stakes can provide bell pepper plants with the necessary support. Bamboo is eco-friendly and won’t harm the growing plants.
Bell peppers are ready for harvest when the fruit is between four to five inches in length. Use garden shears or sharp kitchen scissors to clip the fruit off at the stem.
Allowing the bell pepper to ripen on the plant results in sweeter-tasting fruits. The downside is the plant produces fewer bell peppers.
It takes around 60 to 85 days for bell peppers to ripen on the vine.
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Some plants grow great together, and others cause problems for bell pepper plants.
Some plants attract pests that can affect harvest quality or grow taller, shading bell pepper plants from necessary sunlight.
Plants that work well in a square-foot garden bed with bell peppers include lemongrass, marigolds, leeks, and garlic. Carrots, basil, and cilantro are a few other beneficial companion plants.
The size of the square-foot garden also determines which companion plants are best suited for the raised bed.
While most herbs are good companion plants for bell peppers, herbs help to repel insects and other pests.
Some plants attract pests or overtake the raised garden box, out-competing the bell pepper plants.
Avoid plants like beans, kale, cabbage, and collard greens. Turnips should also be planted away from bell peppers.
Bell pepper plants can attract garden pets. It doesn’t matter if the plants are in a traditional or square-foot garden.
Aphids are the most common garden pest, especially in the humid southern United States.
Spider mites, flea beetles, and cutworms are a few other garden pests to watch out for.
Bell peppers are edible, so many common pesticides are unusable in the square-foot garden.
One option is Neem oil. It is effective at preventing aphid infestations, and it is also safe to use on vegetable plants.
The inexpensive oil is sold at most garden centers and is also safe to use on other plants like roses.
A few other eco-friendly pest control options also include orange citrus or eucalyptus oil.
Some gardeners are turning to diatomaceous earth to keep pests off of their bell pepper plants. The power is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and effective.
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Whether you are new to growing bell peppers in a square-foot raised bed or an experienced gardener, questions also seem to pop up. Here are some of the commonly asked ones.
Do bell pepper plants like to be crowded?
Bell pepper plants like to have their space. A good rule to follow is to plant a single seed per foot.
Since most raised bed boxes measure one foot, it can limit the number of bell pepper plants in a square-foot garden.
It’s something to consider before starting bell peppers in a square-foot garden.
Are coffee grounds beneficial for bell peppers in a square-foot garden?
Bell pepper plants thrive on nitrogen, especially during the growing stage. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and will not harm vegetable plants.
Go ahead and sprinkle the coffee grounds around the base of the bell pepper plants. The coffee grounds will break down, providing the plants with a rich source of nitrogen.
Should you add fertilizer to bell peppers in a square-foot garden?
Adding fertilizers isn’t necessary for most square-foot gardens, especially if compost is added to the soil.
The kitchen scraps and garden waste in the compost provide bell peppers with the nutrition necessary to support healthy growth.
Most store-purchased fertilizers also contain chemicals, even those formulated for edible plants. It’s best to stick with organic matter. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
Over-fertilizing bell peppers can also burn the roots, stunting growth and fruiting. It can also kill the plant
Bell pepper plants can grow in square-foot gardens. Using the raised bed simplifies the care and maintenance of the plants.
Remember to mix the garden soil with compost or coco coir, and water the plants whenever the soil begins drying out.
Harvest your peppers when they are around four inches, and enjoy making healthy dishes with your crop.
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I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.