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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Peppers, Large Yield Crop Focus

In the past peppers were not treasured, but then I discovered restaurants and people who could cook.  The way a pepper is cooked makes 100% of the difference between, “I hate this!” and “I love this.”  While Dan can discuss dishes from a-z and the styles of cooking for each pepper;

I can help you understand what peppers need to grow.  Whatever culinary triumph or disasters you have it won’t be the peppers fault. :)

What Type Fire Blossom Farm Grows
Capsicum annuum
Anaheim 118 Hybrid
65 days to maturity
Fruit will be 8-10” long. Lime green to red fruit with mild flavorful heat.
Best for salsa verde and green chiles.
Ascent F1
85 days to maturity
Thai pepper that grows in a bush.  Fruit is ½” wide and 2” long and ripens to burn your mouth red.
Best used for flavoring spicy dishes.
Peperone de Cuneo
78 days to maturity
A yellow and red sweet pepper, wedge-shaped sweet pepper.
Great for salad, stir fry & Italian.
Poblano Pepper
85 days to maturity
3-6” fruit turns green-red, 2000 Scoville's.
Use for Chili Rellenos, Chili Rellenos, Chili Rellenos, and to make chili powder.

Propagate indoors 8 weeks before transplanting.  It takes 10-20 days to germinate.  Ideal germination temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Push ¼” down into medium; grow plug, soil block, or Rockwool. Transplant peppers when they are 4”-6” tall.  For dutch bucket or hydroponics systems use a 3-gallon bucket or you can grow two peppers per 5-gallon bucket (most varieties).  For soil transplanting space plants 18”-24” apart with rows 24”-36” apart.
Peppers need warm full sun.  Peppers require moist soil but well-drained soil. Slightly sandy dirt can help drain and keep plants at a higher temperature.*  Dry weather is ideal for pepper growth.  PH should be 5.5-6.5.*

Transplant pepper with 2” of compost.   For best results add one gallon of coffee grounds and  1 quart of ground eggshells per wheelbarrow of compost.  (Save egg shells in a mason jar for such occasions.)  Mulch around peppers but leave two inches around the stem mulch free.  A 14-14-14 fertilizer can be used as needed.

Peppers require boron, sulfur, and calcium.  Fish-emulsion will have many of theses and more micro nutrients that peppers require.  There will be instructions on the packaging to how much to spread for each square foot.  Warning fish emulsion is smelly so if you live in warmer climates your neighbors may hate you.  Many growers swear by fish emulsion, however, a study done by Argon Extension of Iowa Sate suggests that increased production in minimal in all crops; -except the one where green mulching was used.

If you are committed to growing lots of peppers and the above just doesn’t fulfill your need to get a perfect formula click here for commercial study.  They found that organic compost worked best for the largest yield of peppers by weight.  Bio Cal-Organic compost was a close second. Green mulching with vetch was significantly less efficient in comparison to conventional fertilizer.   It was stated a footnote that this may have been due to not having a large enough cover crop to put enough nitrogen back into the soil.  Consequently, peas may be a better crop if this is your preferred method of growing.*

Peppers should be provided enough water to prevent wilting, but not too much above that; as disease increases significantly for overwatered peppers.

Soil- Avoid getting foliage wet.  Water as close to roots as you can.  Drip lines buried 8”-10” are the choice of commercial growers.*  An above ground soaker hose is a cheaper solution, just prune foliage that is close to the ground.  This will prevent fungal and wilting diseases.  For soil-bound plants watering in the morning and evening before the sun is at its hottest.

Hydro- There's no fast and easy equation for watering.  We grow plants hydroponically.  Plants at our Zone 4 location must be watered more often, as the greenhouse is not as buttoned up.  Therefore you will have to watch your plants health to see what the right amount is.  Start with 15 minutes every 60 minutes and scale up or down from there.  As a result of the number of variables, some growers only
water for 15 minutes every 3 hours.

Hydroponics Nutrients
I have used a tomato fertilizer for peppers in the past.  The differences are slight between tomato and pepper requirements.  The tomato formula has an NPK of 4-18-38.  Now we are using Hydro-Gardens Pepper/Herb formula for larger yields.  The formula has an NPK of 11-11-40.  The formula allows you to add calcium nitrate and magnesium separately.  The plants will need a different amount of calcium and nitrate at different stages.  Hydro-Gardens catalog details formula for each stage of growth; as will other fertilizer sellers.

I’ve grown peppers and tomatoes on the same reservoir.  I have concluded you can do it and it works fine but for higher yields, it is better to keep the reservoirs separate.  A note to make about peppers to is some varieties take 100 days while some only take 60 days.  The options are to grow peppers with similar maturity time frames or jumpstart longer maturing peppers.  This will prevent young plants from burning from too much fertilizer.  In the case of the varieties I have chosen, I start my anaheim's two weeks later.

What Could Go Wrong?
If pepper has spots, lesions, or leaves start dropping off you plant.  The peppers likely have a fungus or bacteria infection.  Use a foliar spray; which has a combination of chlorothalonil and Kocide, or copper fungicide.*

If leaves are small and distorted, remove plant immediately.  Sterilize the ground.  Aphids pass viruses, which mutates the DNA of the plant.  However, if the distortion of leaves is not accompanied by aphids your seeds or your soil is bad.

Consequently, you should report the issue to your seed provider.  The plants will be unsalvageable.  I would suggest green mulching, covering the ground with black landscape fabric and letting the soil, hot compost for a summer.  The heat and the microbes are supposed to kill viruses and bacterias.  If you have cool summers consider not using the soil the next year.  For dutch bucket systems, plug off water to the infected plant.  Clean bucket and medium with watered down peroxide.  Kill it, kill it with fire.  Biochar the plant or heat compost.  For an entire system that is infected run 2-4 cups of peroxide through 50-gallon reservoir and system.*

Pepper wilts and dies after rain.  There can be two causes.  Crack open the stem of the pepper plant.  Phytophthora stem rot will turn the inside of a stem dark.  This happens in humid or wet areas.  Grow plants in raised bed or transplant into a container that will drain water.

If the inner stem of your pepper is not darker but has white growth and little nodules growing, you are the unfortunate owner of southern blight.*

Southern Blight can be caused for a few reasons.  Lack of ventilation can be a large contributor in greenhouse plants, so make sure you have a large enough fan.  Also, lower leaves being water logged can cause blight.  Prune your peppers leaves and stems that would touch the soil or medium.  A major cause of blight is over watering, so step back watering.  Remove blighted leaves or plant and biochar.  Another reason is compost and organic material are not being buried deep enough or crops were not rotated.

If your luscious green leaves look like a child took a white colored highlighter to the leaves, you have leafminers.  Leafminers are a larva.  They eat the softer parts of leaves.  These pests have a minimal impact on your plant.   Leafminers and plants affected by leafminers are not dangerous.  You can eat the crop with no ill effect.  However, if you are taking the produce to market or you inlaws you can check out these tips and tricks for ridding yourself of leafminers.*

Peppers have translucent or brown spots or leaves are bleached.  The solution is to stop being so mean to you pepper plant; it’s sunburning.  Add a shade cloth for the hottest times of the summer or remove the poor abused pepper from the window.

All the plant is producing is gorgeous green leaves.  Too much nitrogen in the soil.  If you are fertilizing through the water.  Step your nitrogen back by half for a couple days.
Blossoms will not set fruit.  Not enough calcium.  Use a water based solution for quick results.  For organic growers, make a set of boiled eggs.  Allow water to cool.  Pour water on roots of peppers.  You were lost there for a bit.  It’s okay, I brought it back around.  This really is about gardening.  If you are not going to eat the boiled egg you can mash it up and bury it by the pepper plant.  It will provide a larger amount of calcium.

Larger Yield
Use landscaping material or mulch.   Fabric and mulch should not touch the stem of the pepper.   Peppers are not as competitive as crabgrass so keep clear of weeds.

Pinch off first flowers.  The fruit will be deformed and stunt the plant's growth.  Prune any dead or yellow leaves and stems immediately.  If too much of the plant is pruned it will go into shock and die.  It’s a haircut, not a decapitation.

The perfect temperature for peppers to grow in is 75 degrees F.  Below 50 degrees F and the pepper will not fruit.  At 90 degrees F the pepper will loose blossoms and will not fruit.*
Rotate your crop.  Do not grow were tomatoes, and potatoes grew the year before.  These plants are from the Nightshade family.  Hence they are susceptible to the same viruses, fungi, and bacterias.

Harvest & Cure
Peppers can be picked every 10-15 days for 2-4 harvests in a season.  Yield vary significantly from variety to variety.  Commercial growers get an estimated .4 pounds per square foot.  Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, reports and average of .6 pounds per square foot for small urban farmers.*  The University of California estimated .71 ppsq.*

Hybrids are allowing growers to grow more per square foot so production per square foot keeps increasing.  Keep in mind peppers are not tomatoes.  A single pepper may be used in a meal.  Peppers are often sold by the pepper.

The yield estimates are for soil grown peppers.  Before this year Dan and I grew for ourselves only.  A single potted pepper was enough for us with some varieties.  Fire Blossom Farm will be weighing their production this year so we can provide an accurate yield per square foot for hydroponics.

Do not rip peppers off a plant.  Snap fruit or use snippers to remove fruit.  Peppers do not have deep root systems.  It is easy to accidentally damage a pepper plant during harvest.
You can eat the peppers at any stage of growth.  The fruit will have different texture and flavor at different stages.  Peppers that are left on the plant longer will have a higher Vitamin A content.*
Peppers can be frozen, canned, pickled, dry packed, and stored at 45 degrees F.  Peppers will start to change colors and ripen at 50 degrees F.  You can store peppers below 50 degrees F  for 2-3 weeks.  Do not store near apples or other plants that give off ethylene; ethylene will cause the fruit to ripen faster.*

Sources marked with *.  If you are interested in growing peppers for profit check this and this out.  For a fun blast from the past check this fertilizer advert booklet.