The peppers belong to the family of tomatoes and potatoes. They are vegetables that require sunny positions and very fertile, loose and well-drained soils. They love humidity and high temperatures, even if with the appropriate protections they can withstand even a more rigid climate.
After fertilizing the soil in autumn with manure or compost, place the seedlings of peppers in May-June, at intervals of 50 cm, while the rows will be separated by 70. During the growing season, keep the soil free of weeds and tucked in the plants when they are 30-40 cm tall. Irrigate abundantly, bearing in mind that moisture will make the fruit sweeter.
Even if they do not need stakes, peppers have a fragile stem and for safety it is better that they are tied to a short barrel. The peppers grown outdoors are harvested from June onwards, those in greenhouses even from May. To understand the degree of ripeness, observe the color of the fruits: until they are ready, in fact, they all have a green color, then the yellow and red varieties take on their typical color.
The cultivation of peppers
The peppers are part of the family of the solanaceae and generally belong to the species capsicum annuum. In general they are plants selected for their particularly sweet taste, as opposed to others with a more marked spiciness. These cultivars produce fruits of different colors that can range from red to yellow to orange. The fruits, however, can be consumed even when they are immature and therefore still green.
These are plants originating from the Americas and in particular from Mexico. In Europe they arrived in 1500, just after the beginning of the exploration of the New World. They spread with an impressive speed thanks to their adaptability and their unmistakable taste. The first to be a huge success, in reality, were the spicy ones. The sweet varieties, on the other hand, became well known to all only from the seventeenth century.
Climate of peppers
The pepper is a plant that comes from warm or tropical countries and absolutely does not tolerate low temperatures. In order to develop at the best it is necessary to reach at least 25 ° -28 ° C during the day, at night it is not necessary to go below 16-18. However the sultry heat cannot be said to be beneficial. In fact, when 30-35 ° C is exceeded, especially in the presence of high wind, it is possible that a floral drop may occur or, if they are already growing, a deformation or loss of fruit. Too much sun can also cause burns on both the leaves and the fruits. If they grow then in a very exposed area it is good, especially during the months of July and August, to prepare a slightly shading cloth above.
These plants have a very poor root development especially in proportion to the foliage. To give their best, therefore an abundant production, they will need a well-worked, medium-textured, deep, but well-drained substrate. Soils with large amounts of calcium are particularly welcome. The ideal pH ranges from 6.5 to 7. All soils with high salinity should be avoided.
To have an abundant harvest with tasty fruits it is necessary to dedicate oneself in a special way to fertilizing. Before planting it will be good to enrich the soil with an organic soil conditioner (in particular mature manure) to the extent of at least 35-40 kg per square meter dedicated to this cultivation. It also requires in particular some microelements such as manganese. If our soil is deficient (and in any case in any case) it is good practice to assist it by distributing specific supplements. In addition to this, the distribution of slow release granular fertilizers that have high levels in phosphorus and above all in potassium (very important for giving flavor and juiciness) is always appreciated.
Peppers have huge water needs. If the water is missing, the setting can be stopped, but you can also reach the fruit and flower drop. This is why it is customary to insert the plants in deep furrows in which to make abundant water flow even three times a week (especially during the hottest months). Of course, irrigation from the top is always to be avoided because it could cause cryptogams.
If instead we have set up an automated irrigation system with dripping wings, make sure that the water flow in that area is very abundant compared to others and remember to intervene several times during the week. Everything can be easily assisted by the use of mulching sheets. These, in addition to reducing weed removal operations, help to avoid excessive evaporation.
In any case, the best times for getting ready for irrigation operations are always early or even evening (although, in this case, there is the risk of encouraging the appearance of root rot or collar).
Other cultivation treatments
Once the plants have been planted, it is necessary to dedicate themselves to hoeing around the foot to prevent weeds from becoming established and to air the soil.
A few weeks after planting, especially if we do not use plastic mulch, it will be necessary to dedicate ourselves to tamping operations that will stimulate the emission of new roots from the collar, important to give more stability and vigor to the plants. This practice will also significantly help fight cryptogams that could occur on the foot of the peppers.
For almost all varieties it is necessary to use a brace at least 50 cm high (but it is also preferable to a meter). It should be inserted very deeply and you should tie the plant as it grows with raffia or string that is not too rigid. It is very important to protect the stems from the wind and heavy rain as they could seriously damage the entire plot.
Sowing pepper or buying seedlings
At our discretion we can choose whether to buy the plants from specialized retailers or dedicate ourselves to the sowing operation.
Much can depend on our experience and the time we can allocate to it. However, we keep in mind that there are often selected plants at nurseries and usually hybrids with proven resistance and productive capacity are used. There are also available grafted specimens that combine the strength of the roots of some particular varieties with the productivity of the foliage of others.
Due to the high water requirements, sowing in the open field is not widespread. In addition, in order to have plants in time, it is often sown in a greenhouse in order to have the fruits already in the month of July, in the open field.
Depending on the environmental conditions the seeding in lettorino (or in alveolar trays) is practiced from January-February (in the South and in the islands) at the end of February (in the Center-North). In lettorino it is done in sparglio with lines distant about 10 cm. If alveolar jars are used, instead, two or three seeds are inserted for each single alveolus. The ideal substrate is a mixture of peat and agricultural vermiculite.
For 100 square meters of surface in general 2-2.5 grams of seeds are sufficient.
Usually, with temperatures around 18 ° and high humidity, germination is quite fast. Once the plant has reached the third true leaflet it can be gently extracted and placed in a larger jar. Of course, only the strongest and most vigorous plants will be chosen and the others will be discarded. Subsequently, the trimming will be carried out several times to stimulate a well-balanced growth.
If we want to try sowing directly at home we will, after carefully preparing the soil, place 2-3 seeds at a distance of 50 cm.
If you want to speed up the germinative process you can make a pre-sowing by placing the seeds in water for 12-24 hours. Then they will have to be moved to a warm room for at least a week. By carefully monitoring them you will notice that at the end of this period the first radicle will surely be checked. At that point they can be moved into jars and, waiting about 8 weeks, we will have the fifth leaf clearly visible. At that point it will be able to be definitively planted.
The right time for full field transfer is closely linked to the climate. In the southern regions it is usually possible to proceed already in March. On the other hand, from Lazio upwards we do not usually dedicate ourselves to this work before the end of May-beginning of June.
Sowing distances in peppers
Speaking of large peppers (and therefore not of hot or round peppers to preserve) we can say that the ideal distance between the rows is about 65 cm. Between one plant and another, it is good to stay at 50 cm.
This plant is characterized by the gradual ripening of its fruits. As we have said, even according to our tastes, you can still decide to collect them even if they are not completely ripe. The taste will certainly be less sweet though. Usually this procedure is carried out with cultivars that are yellow or tending to white. The red peppers on the other hand, more valuable, are usually harvested when they reach full maturity.
On average, if cultivated in compliance with all the rules, about 2.5 kg of product per square meter of land can be obtained for this cultivar.
Pests and adversities
The peppers in this aspect are particularly sensitive.
They are affected quite frequently by corn borer, especially if cultivation takes place in the vicinity of cornfields. It can be fought with specific insecticides or using Bacillus Thuringiensis.
It also becomes a frequent target of anthracnose and downy mildew.
The first can be prevented with careful irrigation and through the distribution of copper-based products. If it appeared, instead, it would be necessary to use specific synthetic products.
Downy mildew, unfortunately quite common, is fought by applying the rotations of the soil, using properly treated seeds and immediately eliminating heavily damaged fruits and plants.
The peppers can be divided according to their shape (there are elongated, cylindrical, cigarette, triangular or square), depending on their color (yellow, green, red) or depending on the intended use (for conservation, from drying, from fresh consumption).
Here are some very common Italian varieties divided according to their shape.
Square type pepper
Dolce di Nocera, Square of Asti, Braidese, Topepo, California Wonder.
Elongated type pepper
Bull horn, along Marconi, Lungo di Chiasso, Verticus, Pepper of Senise, elephant trunk, Bergamo cigarette, Lungo di Nocera
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