Growing Peppers Vertically – “Poor Man’s Hydroponics vs Large Commercial Hydroponics

Q.  Can I grow peppers vertically – like I do my tomatoes?  How do you do it?
 
A.  Some information from the University of Florida Extension division at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HS228 is fascinating – if you are interested in doing “The Poor Man’s Hydroponic Method” of growing peppers vertically.  Pictures of the two common commercial growing methods – the Dutch V and Spanish methods are posted at https://photos.groups.yahoo.com/group/MittleiderMethodGardening/lst.  Key paragraphs from the article are duplicated at the bottom of this article.
 
The Dutch V method prunes the plant to two main branches, and then guides those up strings in a V shape.  Little pruning is done in the Spanish system of growing.  Pruning to two or four main branches is common practice, and thereafter no pruning is done.  Vertical support is provided by poles and strings, or by large tomato cages. 
 
When a pepper plant is carrying the maximum weight of peppers the plant can support, it will stop flowering and fruiting even though there may be weeks or even months left in the growing season.  Removing green fruits as soon as they mature signals the plant to continue flowering and setting fruit, and the result is fruit being set throughout the growing season, and obviously more fruit per plant.
 

“Greenhouse pepper cultivars generally have an indeterminate pattern of growth. Because the plants can grow up to 6-ft tall during a growing season of 250 days, they need to be supported vertically. Pepper plants can be trellised to the Dutch “V” system or to the “Spanish” system ( Fig. 8 ).

“Trellising plants with the “V” system consists of forming a plant with two main stems by removing one of the two shoots developed on each node and leaving one or more adjacent leaves per node. The pairs of stems are kept vertically by the use of hanging twines that are wound around the stems as they grow. The “V” trellis system is used by Dutch and Canadian growers.

“Some of the commonly used cultivars are Parker, Triple 4, Cubico, and Lorca for red; Kelvin, for yellow; and Neibla, and Emily, for orange fruits. New pepper cultivars for greenhouse production are introduced every year by seed companies

“When comparing cultivars for those with the highest yield and fruit quality characteristics with low amounts of culls or other disorders, the best red cultivars were Lorca, Torkal, Triple 4, and Zambra; yellow cultivars were Pekin, Kelvin, Neibla, Bossanova, and Taranto; and orange cultivars were Paramo, Lion, and Boogie
 
“Greenhouse pepper crops in Florida are grown in soil-less culture. Thus methyl bromide is not needed, yet problems with soil borne diseases, and insect and nematode pests are avoided. The plants are grown in containers filled with soil-less media such as perlite, pine bark, or peat mixes. The media can be reused for several crops (two to three) if disease contamination does not occur
 
“Pepper plants in soil-less culture are fertigated (watered and fed) frequently with a complete nutrient solution. Nutrient solution concentrations are similar to those used for tomatoes grown in soil-less culture. In plants at full production, the nutrient concentration levels can reach N: 160, P: 50, K: 200, Ca: 190, Mg: 48, and S: 65 ppm, respectively. The irrigation solution also provides the plants with micronutrients.
 
“The pH of the irrigation solution is maintained at values between 5.5 and 6.5, and the EC, depending on the nutrients concentration levels, will have values between 1.5 and 2.5 mS per cm.”

Types of Sawdust to Use

To all Sawdust users:
 
Some folks think that because Cedar or other kinds of bark are used to keep weeds down, sawdust from those sources will be bad for plants.  This is not the case.  Bark and other types of mulch inhibit weed growth primarily by denying light to emerging weed seedlings. 
 
On the negative side, mulches also encourage garden pests and diseases by giving them a cool damp place to live and multiply.  We recommend you keep your garden clean, clear, and dry, except at the root zone of your plants. When you plant according to the Mittleider Method the close-planted vegetable plants will quickly shade the ground and minimize water evaporation, without any need for other ground cover.
 
Walnut sawdust is the only material – at least in North America – that we have found to be a problem for vegetable plants.