HOW TO GROW CHILLI PEPPERS

Hot peppers are a good product, they don’t give a lot of stress, whether harvested green, or left on the farm to turn red, you will still get a buyer. If you don’t get a buyer soon, you can harvest them, dry them and sell them as dried chilies.

Either way, chilies won’t stress you much as compared to your other highly perishable produce. One thing before you start your Chilli farming venture you ought to understand is that Chillis do well in hot weather. The warmer it gets the hotter and better the growing conditions for your chillis however this does not rule out its viability in other areas as long as the temperatures do not fall below 15 degree Celsius.

Chilli Farming

 Ecological requirements

  • The crop can grow at elevations from sea level to 1500m above sea level
  • The crop thrives in areas with medium rainfall about 600-1,200mm per annum.
  • Excess rain can causes leaf shedding and cause rotting
  • Extreme water deficits can stunt growth and cause flower abortion and fruit drops hence irrigation is recommended where rainfall is insufficient.
  • Chilies are warm seasoned crops hence sensitive to frost. The optimum temperatures for growth and fruit set are 20-300C.
  • Night temperatures below 16oC and day temperature above 320C can however prevent/reduce fruits set.
  • Low humidity and high temperatures cause abscission of buds, flower and fruit.
  • Light loamy, non-acidic, well drained soils are ideal for capsicum growth but with proper soil management, chili can grow in a wide range of soil types. Soil pH of 4.3-9.7 is well tolerated. However the optimum is pH is 6.0-6.5.

Land Preparation

The production site should be cleared of crop, weeds or secondary vegetation. On sloping land the residue should be placed along the contour to form a soil and water conservation barrier. Either conventional or minimum tillage can be used.

Minimum tillage is preferred. On flat land and gently sloping areas, the soil should be ploughed to a depth of 30 cm (12 inches). To improve drainage on flat land which is prone to water logging, raised beds should be constructed to accommodate two rows of peppers.

It is strongly recommended that on sloping land, contour ridges with a width of 60 cm (24 inches) should be constructed to accommodate one row of plants. This could be done with the use of the A-frame.

Planting and spacing

When seedlings are about 15cm tall (6 inches), about 5-7 weeks old, they are ready for transplanting. This should be done

Peppers need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with 3 to 5 inches of compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.2 to 7.0.

Space the chilli pepper plants 18 – 36 inches apart with about 2 -3 feet between rows. The plants will eventually grow to nearly 3 feet high.

Irrigation and fertilizer application

Red hot pepper requires a lot of high-quality water to flourish. The water consumption ranges 25 to 30 inch of water throughout the growing season or 2-3inch per week.

This is again the reason why you need to make use of drip technology as well as mulch your crop.

Ensure to water or irrigate the peppers infrequently and yet deep enough.

Before transplanting the seedlings, apply 30g (1 oz) of 11-22-22 fertilizer in the bottom of the hole and cover with 5 cm (2 inches) of soil. Fill the hole with soil mixed 250g of well-rotted organic manure. When it comes to fertilizer application, make a feeding recipe based on a soil analysis report.

Take your soil samples to a soils lab near you to check which nutrients are deficient or otherwise.

Diseases and pest control

Chillis are not special, just like with any type of plant, chillis are prone to pests and diseases. The most common types of pests are the thrips, mites, Aphids and white flies. These however can be prevented by using the recommended insecticides, soil treating and weeding out in advance the host plants.

Chillis also suffer disease attacks such as bacterial wilts, cucumber mosaic virus and Anthracnose to name but a few. Remedial measure such as crop rotation, elimination of the infected plant and using fungicides and chemicals can help prevent the spread of these diseases.

Harvesting

Some peppers turn red, yellow, or other colors at maturity. Others are ready in the green stage, but will turn red if left on plants. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut peppers with a short stub of stem attached. Pulling peppers by hand can cause entire branches to break off. Fruits store longer for fresh use if you don’t remove the stem, which can create an open wound that’s ripe for spoiling.

Storage

For maximum flavor, eat peppers on the same day they are picked. You can also leave them on a kitchen counter for a day or two to ripen further. Do not place peppers in the crisper drawer or in plastic wrap or bags in the refrigerator. Peppers are warm-weather fruits and do not store well in cold temperatures. If you have too many peppers, consider the following storage options.

  • Freezing
    this is the easiest storage method, but the peppers will be soft when thawed. The flavor is retained, however, so use frozen peppers primarily for adding ‘spice’ to soups, stews, and sauces. If you stuff the peppers before freezing, you’ll have a ready-made dinner, perfect for the microwave.
  • Pickling
    Peppers can also be preserved by canning them, but they’re low-acid fruits and thus require canning under pressure. It’s easier to pickle peppers as you would cucumbers in a crock filled with a simple brine of four cups of water, four cups of vinegar, and 1/2 cup of pickling salt. Add a clove or two of garlic and some fresh herbs for added flavor.
  • Drying
    This method works best with the thin-walled hot peppers, particularly the smaller varieties that can be dried whole right on the plant. The key to drying peppers is doing it slowly to retain their color and flavors.

 

 

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