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.”

Planting Sweet and Hot Peppers close – Affect the Fruit?

Q.   If you plant sweet peppers next to hot peppers will you have sweet hot peppers?
 
A.  Plants are cross-pollinated by bees and other insects, and the thing that is affected is the seed, which produces the next generation of plants.
 
If you were to eat the seeds that had been cross-pollinated you may notice the heat, but the mother fruit should not be affected.

Choosing What to Plant

Q. It is time for the annual sale of this year’s seeds in the US. Could you give some ideas on what would be good to buy for planting next year?  I would like high nutritional value if possible.  What would you suggest?  My goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible. 
 
A. The first rule is to buy and plant what you enjoy eating!  The second consideration should be what makes sense economically, and third, consider varieties that do well in your climate and at certain times of year.  The Garden Master CD, available at www.growfood.com, has a wonderful database of vegetables, with lots of information you’ll want to know to make a wise decision for your family.
 
My family eats almost no broccoli or cauliflower, so I won’t grow them for the home garden.  We all love tomatoes – both large (Big Beef is the favorite this year) and small (grape tomatoes have really captured our hearts!)  And spinach is great in salads as well as cooked, grows fast, and can be grown early and late in space not yet able to be used for warm weather crops, or after other crops are harvested.  Peppers and eggplant are also favorites, and we eat them at least once per week.  You get the idea. 
 
Some crops that produce the most “bang for the buck” include tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and yellow crookneck, and perhaps cantaloupe or other climbing squash or small melons.  The key is that these are everbearing, and most can be grown vertically, so they take relatively small space in your garden.  Single crop varieties like cabbage and carrots can also be good, but most of them should be harvested in a short time, before they become over-ripe and/or infested with pests and diseases, and this causes waste unless you have a good cool storage place, such as a root cellar.   If you enjoy red beets, I recommend Cylindra as one that holds in the garden for a long time without getting tough and woody.
 
I would avoid growing corn in the small family garden, because it takes so much space and produces very little.  For example, a single corn stalk takes basically the same space as a tomato plant, but only produces one or two “fruits”, while an indeterminate tomato plant may produce as much as 15 to 20 pounds of fruit.  And in many places in the western USA potatoes are about 1/10th as expensive as tomatoes, so if space is limited, that may not be a high priority.  However, potatoes (along with winter squash, cabbage, carrots, etc.) will store for many months if done properly.
 
The third criterion is finding things that grow well in your climate, and choose the right time of year.  For those in the cooler climates with shorter growing seasons, it is wishful thinking to try and grow sweet potatoes and peanuts.  And there are a few other crops that require long growing seasons and/or hot weather.  Look on the seed packet, or a catalog, or in several of the Mittleider gardening books or CD’s.  The large watermelons come to mind as examples.  And particularly for those of you in the hot climates, grow spinach and brassica’s at the beginning and end of your growing season.
 
The Mittleider Gardening books and Manuals teach all you need to know about this subject, and can be purchased in the Store section, or as digital downloads.
 

A digital copy costs 30-40% less, and is available instantly!  I HIGHLY recommend you look here https://www.hightechhomestead.com/Products.htm for the best gardening books available anywhere!  Get one NOW and be gardening TODAY