Pepper is a tender and easy-to-grow vegetable or spice crop that is suitable for garden farming. Pepper is also one of the easiest plants to grow in urban space as you can easily grow peppers in containers. Pepper (Capsicum spp.) belong to the family Solanaceae, and there are very many varieties. Popular varieties of pepper are Capsicum annum (bell pepper), C. chinense (bonnet pepper), C. baccatum (chile pepper), C. frutescens (chili pepper) and C. pubescens (rocoto pepper). If you urban gardener or organic gardener, you will find growing pepper very easy for organic urban gardening.
Adaptation: Pepper is adapted to a variety of climate and soil. It can grow both under shade and sunlight conditions. It is however best under sunlight conditions. Sunlight helps the quality of the pepper because the ascorbic acid content is higher than those produced under shade. Peppers are cultivated in many countries of the world.
Location: The choice of location is important in growing pepper. An optimum warm climate of about 27oC is necessary for proper seed germination and growth, but they can survive in lower temperatures. Starting peppers indoors and transplanting them outdoors when they pop up is the best method for growing peppers but there is nothing wrong with starting the growth process outside.
Soil requirements: A moist sandy-loam soil with high organic matter content is required for optimum growth. The pH of the soil should be around 6.2 – 6.7. Pepper is susceptible to root-knot nematode infection and thus, should not follow other crops such as cowpea, pepper, okra, garden egg, which are also susceptible to root-knot nematode.
Planting: Pepper is cultivated using seeds or transplants. Seeds can be extracted from ripe pepper fruits and dried. Seeds germinate readily and lose viability also very quickly. Seeds germinate within 14 – 21 days. The seeds should be established in a nursery before transplanting to the field when seedlings are 4 to 6 inches tall from 6 to 10 weeks old. Transplanted seedlings perform better than direct sowing. The optimum plant spacing for most pepper cultivars is approximately 18 to 24 inches.
Fertilizer application: Application of fertilizer is required when the soil fertility is low. Pepper needs Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium to enhance growth and fruit development. A good slow-release fertilizer to use is NPK 20-20-20. However, as the plant develops, much Phosphorous and Potassium is needed than Nitrogen. Excess of Nitrogen reduces fruiting. Fertilizer application is done two weeks after planting.
Weed management: Weeding must be done regularly within 2 – 3 weeks.
Pest management: Pests and diseases must be managed intensively. Pest and disease of pepper include nematodes, fungal diseases, fusarium wilt, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. Check your pepper plants regularly against pest infestation. Apply organic pesticides to get rid of pests.
Harvesting: Ripe fruits are harvested by hand picking, and the yield obtainable depends on good management practices. Most pepper cultivars ripe in about 60 – 90 days and hot peppers can be up to 150 days. Fruits could be harvested full green, half ripe or fully ripe depending on its utilization. Due to perishability, fruits should be harvested when half ripe.
Storage and processing: Harvested pepper is packed in wooden boxes/crates and taken to a processing industry or market as fresh produce. The fruits should be refrigerated to preserve it for more extended period. A temperature of 5 – 10°C and relative humidity of 80% are best for storing pepper.
Pepper goes well with a lot of dishes. If you are fond of using peppers, or like peppers very much, it is a wise idea to grow peppers in your home and save money on this vegetable crop. Just 10 pepper plants can provide an endless supply of produce for the family of 4. Therefore, if you cons do urban gardening, terrace gardening, or container gardening, you should definitely start growing peppers. You can also harvest peppers multiple times, and you can continuously harvest peppers for at least 3 months. The best months for growing peppers is June to November, however, you can easily grow peppers all year around.