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Growing the perfect pepper

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Jeff Wilson had a hunch he could make good use with one of the idle greenhouses at Patterson Farms Inc. this fall.
After a lot of research and with cooperation from a seed distributor, Wilson arrived at a way to grow a viable fall pepper crop.
These are no ordinary peppers ó the seeds are bred and developed in Canada. Emulating Canadian growing conditions is important because of our reduced sunlight during the winter months.
Wilson chose yellow and red peppers because of their great demand. Large colored bell peppers are retailing for nearly $4 per pound at local retail outlets.The peppers are grown using a system similar to greenhouse tomato production. The pepper plants were planted in late August in plastic containers. These plants are grown under extremely clean conditions in an effort to reduce insect and disease pressures.
Since fall pepper production in this area is uncommon, Wilson must do a bit of experimenting and extreme record-keeping, guaranteeing the success of the crop. Plant tissue samples are examined on a weekly basis to determine nutrient uptake.
As with greenhouse tomato production, sterile bumble bees are used to pollinate the plant. At a cost of $2 per bee, the bees are worth their weight in gold for the amount of work they produce. Bumble bees are routinely used because they work tirelessly, constantly going from flower to flower ensuring proper pollination for the pepper and other greenhouse crops.
The red pepper variety grown is Fascinato which begins as a very ornate, dark green pepper. However, as the fruit matures, its fruit turns dark chocolate, eventually fading to a bright red fruit.
The yellow variety, Tenato, turns yellow from the tip back as the fruit matures. Both varieties are very large, smooth and well developed on the plant with few culls. The plant’s growth should peak near 4 feet.
Since it is a new crop, Wilson is unsure how long the peppers will viably produce. Greenhouse tomatoes are scheduled for this greenhouse in February, so they should have a crop for another six weeks.
Harvest begins in earnest next week with most of the crop already sold. However, some of the peppers will make their way to Patterson Farm Retail market on Caldwell Road just off N.C. 150.
Contact Darrell Blackwelder at 704-216-8970.

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