Sweet red and yellow peppers are gorgeous to look at, delicious to eat but can be difficult to grow.
Unlike chilli peppers, they have a weaker root system and that makes them sensitive to a whole host of problems; over-watering, nutrient deficiencies, damping off, viruses that cause deformed fruit and more.
That doesn’t mean we can’t grow them in the home garden. Being forewarned is forearmed says Cathy Church of Andermatt Madumbi, developers of natural and safe biological garden care products.
The programme she recommends builds vitality from the start, whether planting out young plants or transplanting seedlings. It includes root care, nutrition, and pest control.
Cathy recommends a three-in-one drench that protects the roots from soil disease, contains micro- nutrients for strong, early growth, and a carbon additive to improve soil health.
- Eco-T contains a natural, beneficial fungus which grows symbiotically with plant roots to minimise root disease. It acts as a fungal inoculant, reducing the risk of root disease, which aids root development and improves germination.
- V12 Initiate is a blend of micro-nutrients, particularly boron (B), silica (S) and calcium (C), that not only boosts growth but reduces transplant stress. Peppers are particularly sensitive to a boron deficiency.
- Humate liquid is a carbon based soil conditioner. Healthy soil has improved water holding and nutrient uptake abilities.
To make the drench mix 2.5g g Eco-T, 50 ml V12 Initiate, and 5ml Humate Liquid into a 5 litre watering can. The dose is1 cup/250ml per plant.
Repeat the drench two weeks after planting or transplanting.
Peppers need good drainage and aeration because they can’t cope with wet feet and water-logged soil. Check the soil before watering. If it feels moist, delay watering by another day. The soil should almost dry out between watering.
Should peppers wilt in the intense midday sun, wait and see whether they revive when it gets cooler. Too much water leads to damping off and other rotting diseases.
Build a strong plant frame
Pinching the growing tips does not stimulate better growth. To get a strong, bushy plant, rather remove early flowers on a plant that is less than 40cm high, because once the plant starts to develop fruit it stops growing. Removing flowers allows the plant to put its energy into growing a taller plant that produces much more fruit.
Once the pepper plant starts flowering feed once a month with V12 Multi as a drench or foliar feed. It is an “all-in-one” plant tonic, containing a blend of nutrition including macro and micro-nutrients that stimulates growth, fruiting and plant wellness. Use 50 ml in 5 litres of water.
It can be alternated with AgriSil K50 a potassium silicate liquid fertiliser. Silica strengthens plant cells which results in improved crop quality. It is also a catalyst’ of natural resistance responses in plants to a range of pests and diseases.
Preventive pest management
Aphids and thrips are the two main pests for peppers and both transmit viruses like the pepper mosaic virus, tobacco etch virus and the tomato mosaic virus that deforms the fruit and leaves. Thrips deforms the leaves as well which reduces the yield.
For quality peppers, pests should be eradicated before the plants set flowers which means setting up a programme of preventive spraying.
The biological contact insecticide Eco-Bb contains spores of the beneficial fungus Beauveria bassiana, which occurs naturally throughout the world. The fungal spores penetrate the pests cuticle, growing and feeding until the pest dies.
Dilute 2g of Eco-Bb in one litre of water, mix well and spray every seven days, making sure to also spray the underside of leaves where the pests rest. Keep up the programme for at least 21 days. It is best to spray early morning or late afternoon.
To suppress caterpillars, use Delfin, a bacteria based bioinsecticide. Delfin needs to be ingested to release the toxins that will stop feeding within hours and cause death within days. Best applied early morning or late afternoon when caterpillars are feeding.
A key benefit of using biological insecticides is that they work ‘with nature’ and do not harm the beneficial insects and natural parasitoids actively working in your garden.
Picking encourages the plant to produce more flowers. By leaving the peppers on the plant to turn yellow or red, reduces your harvest. But you can have the best of both worlds.
Leave the fruit on some plants so that it can mature. On other plants, keep on picking and use the peppers green. Towards the end of the season, let the last set of fruit mature. That way, you will have peppers throughout the season.
Buy online: Andermatt Madumbi Humate Crystals and Liquid, Eco-T root protection and the Plant Vitality range V12 Initiate and V12 Multi can be ordered online. Andermatt Madumbi products are registered by Act 36 of 1947 and may only be used as per the label. Please visit their website for details and to buy online.
TEXT: Alice Coetzee.