On todays episode we are going to talk about pruning peppers or capsicum and the benefits.
Before we get to the pruning lets go through some of the basics of starting and growing peppers.
It is important to start your peppers early enough in the house to allow them to gain sufficient size prior to going outside.
Traditionally with my last frost in early May so I start my peppers in December and January.
Anecdotally I have noticed the hotter the pepper the longer it takes to grow so the earlier I will start them.
Growing peppers indoors can be down a few ways.
I grow my the peppers under florescent lights while indoors. It is generally fairly easy to do with a cost effective grow light set up you can find at any hardware store.
Or you can us an unobstructed south facing window.
Growing with CFL: http://youtu.be/g2UZc1j0rkc
Lighting Technologies: http://youtu.be/CU3NhvUusp4
Using a soil mixture made with a healthy compost or worm castings will provide most of the nutrients your plants required while growing inside greatly reducing any external fertilizer needs.
Potting soil: http://youtu.be/iJ0mPsexOQw
Pruning your pepper plants provides a number of benefits including:
Stronger Larger Plants able to resit damage and disease while holding crops
Larger Crops that are ready faster and produce later in to the season
Growing more consistently in exotic areas like low gardening zones
In my case last year my plants survived unsupported severe storms fully loaded.
I was able to harvest less than 4 weeks after planting that was more than double the crops of unpruned counterparts and I had a very successful bumper crop.
Although drastic pruning is simple
let my plants get to the point where they have hit sexual maturity and is producing flowers or is 15cm or 6 inches tall. You might notice the plant has begun to fork by itself prior to pruning. I still recommend pruning them as it will help improve the plants sturdiness by lowering its centre of gravity increasing its ability to carry more peppers to maturity.
The pruning is simple. Find the lowest pair of true leaves. At the junction of the leaf and the main stalk you will often see the beginnings of new leaves. Using sharp pruners cut 1 cm or 1/4 inch above the joint.
Once you have pruned the plant will be forced to grow two new main stalks from the initial leaves you saw. The main stalk will thicken as a response improving the plants ability to hold additional weight.
The process of being pruned will activate the peppers stress response accelerating its growth and within a week or two you should see strong growth of the two new side shoots.
Removing the flowers will help focus the plants energy into vegetative growth rather then trying to produce fruit.
This process can be repeated as many times as you like to achieve the size and strength of plant you wish.
Make sure to remove any branches that cross back towards the centre to avoid shading issues.
If you live in an area with a season that is much longer than the “days to harvest or ripeness” found on the seed package you can prune them once outside.
I do not prune my peppers once outside. In my area on a good year I have 120 days frost free the recovery time from pruning although short would severely cut into my already short season.
I have noticed medium bodied varieties that are around the 100 day mark to harvest produce well for me.
Generally i will stop pruning 6 – 8 weeks prior to my last frost date. This gives the plant time to put on vegetative growth prior to transitioning into the garden. I have noticed in years past once I have let the plant produce peppers there is very limited vegetative growth.
You will need to harden off your plants before planting outside by slowly exposing your plants to more sun once the threat of frost has past. This process usually takes 2-3 weeks.
Find the place in your garden that gets the most direct sunlight and is unlikely to be shaded. Peppers are tropical plants and will do better with a lot of direct light and a good warm soil temperature.
Soon enough you will be enjoying more peppers faster from your pruned plant!