Crops

Bell or chili, hot or sweet peppers—it’s time to plant

Peppers grow easily in a well-drained spot. But what makes peppers easier to grow in Zambia is the beautiful sun that shines on our land. Most sweet peppers mature in 60-90 days. But hot peppers can usually take up to 150 days. This, however, doesn’t include the days before transplanting. Germination can 8-10 weeks. So, whether you’re planning to grow hot or sweet peppers, here are some tips to help you get started.

Adequate water and fertilizer

Peppers love plenty of water. They need a good supply of water from the time they sprout. On the other hand, it’s important to note that too much water waterlogs the roots. The soil must drain well while keeping enough moisture. Manure can enhance moisture retention and mulch can reduce excessive evaporation.

Too much fertilizer can will give you healthy looking leaves but fewer peppers. What you need is 5-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil before transplanting. You can give them a little boost later but only if it’s needed.

Growing your peppers

If you like to companion plant, then you can plant your peppers around basil, tomatoes, carrots and basil.

As difficult as it might be- especially if you’re growing on a very large scale, pinch off any early blossoms that appear on your plants. This won’t harm the plants but will help them direct their energy into growing. This then gives you lots a higher overall yield unlike a few small peppers.

Also, peppers can easily get damaged when they start to have fruit. So, try to tie the plants to stakes using old nylons. Furthermore, avoid using wire or twine which can choke off or even snap the pepper plant stems.

Dealing with pests and diseases

Peppers are usually not plagued with insects and diseases. But tomato diseases and pests can plague peppers if you don’t take a few precautions.

  1. You can prevent most common pepper diseases by growing disease-resistant pepper varieties.
  2. Try not to work in your field just after it rains. Diseases spread rapidly among wet pepper plants.
  3. Use organic pesticides to eliminate common pests. You can easily controls destructive caterpillars such as tomato hornworms, borers and cutworms with Bacillus thuringensis (BT or Thuricide). Rotenone and will readily handle leaf miners, pepper weevils and maggots , aphids and flea beetles.
  4. Lastly, don’t forget to weed your field. Weeds can provide a refuge for pests and also spread fungi and viruses to nearby healthy plants.

The harvest

You can harvest the peppers at their immature green or purple stage. However, you get a sweeter flavor  if you wait for them to turn their mature color—usually red, but sometimes golden yellow or orange. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut peppers from the plants, leaving a short stub of stem attached. Pulling peppers by hand can cause entire branches to break off.

Happy planting!

 

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