How to Grow Bell Peppers in Alaska

How to Grow Bell Peppers in Alaska

How to Grow Bell Peppers in Alaska

Growing bell peppers in Alaska’s short growing season can be challenging, but it is possible with careful planning and preparation. Here are some tips for successfully growing bell peppers in the Last Frontier:

Choosing Varieties

  • Choose short season pepper varieties that will mature within Alaska’s short summer. Some good options include ‘North Star’, ‘Red Knight’, and ‘Orange Blaze’.
  • Prioritize early ripening peppers. Look for descriptions like “early maturing” or days to maturity under 65 days.
  • Try both bell peppers and smaller varieties. Cherry, snacking, and banana peppers tend to ripen earlier.
  • Use grafted plants for earlier maturity and increased cold tolerance. Grafted peppers have the top portion grafted onto hardy rootstock.

Starting Peppers Indoors

  • Start peppers indoors 8-10 weeks before outdoor planting date. This gives them time to germinate and grow strong seedlings.
  • Use a heating mat to maintain soil temperatures of at least 70°F for germination.
  • Once sprouted, provide grow lights or a sunny window for 14-16 hours per day.
  • Transplant seedlings to larger containers as they grow. Move to 4-inch pots after true leaves develop.

Preparing the Garden Site

  • Choose a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Improve drainage by mixing in compost or peat moss if the soil is heavy.
  • Install black plastic mulch over soil a few weeks before planting. This warms the soil.
  • Add a floating row cover over plants for extra warmth and wind protection.

Planting Outdoors

  • Harden off seedlings for 7-10 days before transplanting outside. Slowly expose to sun/wind.
  • Transplant after last frost, usually early June in coastal areas or early July for interior Alaska.
  • Space plants 12-18 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Plant in plastic mulch holes.
  • Place wire hoops over rows and cover with row cover immediately after planting.

Optimizing Growth

  • Maintain consistent soil moisture, especially when fruits are developing. Drip irrigation works well.
  • Fertilize weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer. Look for formulas for vegetables.
  • Pinch off flowers until 4-6 weeks after transplanting. This allows plants to establish first.
  • Remove row covers when plants start flowering to allow for pollination. Replace afterward.

Harvesting

  • Begin harvesting bell peppers 55-70 days after transplanting.
  • Use pruners or scissors for a clean cut. Avoid pulling and damaging plants.
  • Check plants daily once fruits reach full size and begin to turn color. The first ripe peppers are often hidden by foliage.
  • Pick peppers once they reach full color for maximum flavor. Red, orange, yellow, etc. depending on variety.

With strategic planting, protection from cold, and optimized care, it is possible for Alaskan gardeners to successfully grow bell peppers. Pay close attention to maturity dates, start plants early, and provide favorable growing conditions for best results.