Fertilizing Eggplant, Peppers, and Okra
by National Gardening Association Editors
Eggplant, peppers and okra are heavy feeders, but they are also picky eaters. They like small amounts of food all season long. Too much nitrogen will produce lots of foliage but not much in the way of fruits.
So, before planting, add some organic fertilizer, like dehydrated chicken manure, or any other type of animal manure. You can also work two to four pounds of a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, into each 100 square feet of soil. The numbers 10-10-10 refer to the percentages, by weight, of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in the bag of fertilizer. For an extra boost at planting time, put a handful of compost or a teaspoon of 5-10-10, mixed with some soil, into the bottom of the hole and then cover the fertilizer with one to two inches of soil. This protects your plants from getting burned if the roots come into contact with the fertilizer.
The Match Trick
If you've tried to grow peppers in the past and you've been disappointed with the results, try this trick. Peppers like a pH that's a bit on the acid side (5.5 to 6.0), so take a few matches from a matchbook and mix them with the soil and fertilizer in the bottom of the transplant hole. Then cover this mixture with two to three inches of soil. The roots of the transplants must not come into contact with the matches because the sulfur can damage them. The sulfur in the matches lowers the pH around the roots, and the peppers seem to love it.
A variation of this trick can be done by buying sulfur powder at the drugstore, mixing a pinch of it with the soil in the bottom of the hole and covering it before planting.
Try the match trick. It just might give you the largest pepper crop you've ever had.
Careful with the Fertilizer
You also need to be careful when fertilizing. Sometimes pepper plants will have lots of blossoms but not enough fruit. This could be due to extremes of heat (temperatures above 90 degrees F) or cold (below 55 degrees F). Under these conditions, blossoms will drop off the plant rather than set. A lack of magnesium can contribute to the problem. To restore magnesium, buy some Epsom salts at the drugstore and add about one tablespoon to an empty spray bottle. Then fill the bottle with lukewarm water, shake it up so the Epsom salts dissolve and spray the solution on the leaves and blossoms of your pepper plants. If you do this a couple of times during the blossom period, you should have plenty of peppers.
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