Adding More Fertilizer to Peppers

by National Gardening Association Editors

Peppers, eggplant, and okra are fairly big eaters, but they don't like their nourishment all in one dose. Sidedress them a few times during the growing season. Side-dressing is working a small amount of fertilizer into the soil three inches from the plants' stems to provide them with a steady diet. It's very easy to do, and the reward is a good crop.

Types of Fertilizer

Use a fertilizer such as dried manure, cottonseed meal, or a balanced commercial fertilizer such as 5-10-10. When you're selecting fertilizer for these crops, be sure it doesn't contain too much nitrogen. The lush foliage nitrogen encourages is great for plants like lettuce, but when other plants are putting their energy into making greenery, they're not making fruits. It's better to have the food on the table!

Peppers, eggplant and okra should get their first side-dressing around blossom time, usually a month after they've been put outside. Sidedress again about a month later, after the first fruits have developed. This helps the plants keep producing by giving them a little extra boost after all that work.

Sidedressing

To sidedress, dig a trench around the plant about one inch deep and three to four inches away from the stem around the drip line of the leaves (see below). Put a handful of manure or compost or two to three tablespoons of a balanced fertilizer in a band in the trench. Cover the fertilizer with soil. If the plants are in rows, dig a shallow trench, one to three inches deep along either side of the row, again at the drip line of the leaves. Then sprinkle a band of balanced fertilizer in the trench, using about 1/2 cup per 10 feet of row, or a layer of manure about one inch deep along the length of the row. Cover that with soil, too.

No matter whether you use the circular-trench or row-trench method, be careful not to sprinkle any fertilizer on the plants as it will burn them. Next, water the soil to send the fertilizer down to the roots.

What's a Drip Line?

When water falls onto a plant, it drips off the leaves. The circle on the ground made by water dripping off the plant's outermost leaves is called the drip line. Its diameter will vary with the size of the plant: the bushier the plant, the bigger the drip line. You can also determine the drip line by the plant's shadow. When the sun is right above the plant, look at the shadow on the ground cast by the leaves. The outer rim of the shadow will be about the same as the drip line.



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