No two years in farming are ever the same, NEVER. Even the most seemingly reliable crops have fallen prey to viruses, ground squirrels, heat damage and root rot due to unexpected summer rains. Just as crops falter there is usually one crop that exceeds expectations every year. This year the standout veggie was the Pepper.
Early this spring I seeded four different types, Heirloom Red Bell, Fresno chili, Heirloom Corno di Giallo and Shishito. They have all met my expectations as far as production, but the Red Bells have had an outstanding season.
I grow them primarily for the SunnysideLOCAL Fresno Pepper Jam. This year the bells are sweet with amazing thick walls. The plants have grown tall and sturdy and even as we near the end of September they show no sign of quitting.
My goal with this post is to share my success with others. Our increasingly intense summer heat is changing the way I grow and recent water restrictions have made farmers become creative with resources.
So, as always, everything starts with the soil. Compost, compost, compost! The Bell Pepper bed was loaded with a 4 inch layer of aged organic compost in February and turned under. This was well ahead of the early April planting date. I adhere to an annual crop rotation schedule, so the space was new to peppers this year. Irrigation lines were put in place with a drip line for each pepper plant. Our water usage has been significantly diminished by installing drip lines and timers.
Don’t rush to plant pepper transplants early. They like warm soil. In a spot that receives 6-8 hours of sun each day plant pepper transplants 12 inches apart. One book I read says, “they like to rub shoulders with each other”. In each planting hole I place a handful of bonemeal and general purpose organic fertilizer (EB Stone). Dig in plant and water in.
This particular growing area has 30 pepper plants. They grew strong during April and May then in June it was time to bring out the secret weapon, SHADE CLOTH. Most of my summer crops grew under 30% Shade Block through the 100 + degree days. It decreases stress, water evaporation and prevents sun scald which often plagues pepper walls.
Now plants are 2-3 feet tall and will continue to produce until frost. Fruit is heavy and needs to be tied up to stakes as the plant grows taller. Throughout the season plants need consistent water. Our timers are set to irrigate for 10 minutes every other day.
Well, this is what worked for me this year. Can’t wait to see what the standout crop will be next year.