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Selecting the site

There are several important points to consider in choosing the site, field or plot where the young pepper plants will be planted when they leave the nursery.

These points, or requirements, must be given equal importance or attention in coming to a decision.

The site should have an open aspect and receive sunlight throughout the day.

Isolation and rotation

The considerations here are similar in principle to those stated above for the nursery. The site should be at least 200 yards (approximately 200 meters) from any existing or planned related crop such as tomato, potato, tobacco or other pepper crop. This is to minimize the risk of insect pests and their transmission of virus diseases.

Crop rotation should be practiced to ensure that the selected field has not grown a pepper, potato, tomato or tobacco crop for at least two years. A plot that has been fallow for two years would be ideal provided it has all the other requirements listed here. In some pepper production regions farmers are advised to have a four year rotation for crops in the pepper family.


Although peppers will do reasonably well on most soils there are some important points to appreciate. The top soil should be deep and well drained; a soil that becomes too wet or waterlogged is likely to cause leaf drop. The crop needs a good nutrient supply which can be helped by the addition of organic materials such as manures, compost and decomposed mulches. Materials such as old crop straw or residues will use some of the available nitrogen during their break down unless they are rotted or decomposed first. The addition of bulky organic materials will improve the soil's moisture holding capacity, especially in the long term.

Selecting the site

Drawing: isolation distances by other crops

The soil pH should be between 6.0-7.0, ideally 6.0-6.5. The pH of the field should be tested from typical soil samples and a liming material added if required during preparation. The soil's nutrient levels should also be checked from the soil samples. The optimum N:P:K ratio is 1:1:1.5, an excess of nitrogen will delay the start of flowering and therefore result in later fruit production. In those areas with a frequent high rainfall which can result in nitrogen being rapidly leached (washed out of the soil), approximately half of the basic nitrogen requirement can be applied later as top dressings, but not after the start of flowering except in long term crops.

FIGURE 9. Ploughed plot at start of site preparation

Growing on ridges also showing drip irrigation

Preparing the site

The land selected for the pepper crop should be ploughed in advance of surface preparation (see Figure 9). This increase in surface area will allow some natural weathering and drying out to take place which is especially important in poorly drained soils. It will also allow birds to feed from some of the soil-borne pests. If the field has poor drainage it is preferable to grow the crop on mounds or prepared ridges (see Figure 10).

The ridges should be prepared 36-40 inches (approximately 90-100 cm) apart and 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) high. If possible the ridges should slope down the field to improve surface run-off and drainage; this is especially important in areas which are likely to have heavy rain storms with surface run-off. However, if the slope is too great there is a greater risk of the soil being washed away when this occurs. Some farmers allow grass to grow in the gullies, trenches or drains so as to minimise soil erosion but this cannot be done if a contact weed killer is going to be applied between the pepper plants during crop production.


Select a well drained site with no shade.

The selected site should have satisfactory isolation from related crops

The site should have been included in a suitable crop rotation programme. Have the soil sampled for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels.

Plough to expose soil to weathering.

Add liming materials and NPK as required.

Prepare final planting surface, prepare mounds or ridges if necessary in time for the hardened off plants to be planted without delay.

Transplanting the seedlings

This job should be done as soon as the plants raised in the nursery have been hardened off. This involves acclimatizing the plants to field temperatures and usually starts when the young plants are about 3 inches (7-8 cm) high. If the seedlings have not been produced in modules but in boxes it is helpful for the hardening off and field establishment processes if blocks are cut with a knife so that each plant will come out with a root ball when planting later.

The field, or plot, should meanwhile have received its final preparation and be ready to receive the plants. A sticky soil surface should be avoided if the plot has to be irrigated before planting otherwise soil structure will be damaged.

FIGURE 11. Transplanting of seedlings

A cool time of day should be used for planting. In The Bahamas the afternoon or evening is often considered to be the best time for planting, ideally following rain or irrigation (provided that the soil is not too sticky). The seedling boxes should be watered before planting out, and watered again if any boxes start to dry out before planting is finished. The advantages of this watering are that the plants will come out of their modules with the minimum of damage to the root balls and any immediate wilting after planting as a result of disturbance will be reduced.

The spacing between the rows and within the rows will depend on the vigour and growth habit of individual varieties being grown. The wider spacing is also more commonly used where leaf, stem and fruit diseases are likely to occur. Unless planting on ridges or mounds the young pepper seedlings are planted in rows five feet (approximately 150 cm) apart and three feet (approximately 90 cm) within the rows. This spacing will provide a final plant stand of almost three thousand plants per acre; a spacing of four feet (120 cm) between the rows and three feet (approximately 91 cm) between the rows will give 3 630 plants to the acre; (2.47 acres equal one hectare).

Every care must be taken to keep the root ball of the module unbroken when removing the seedlings from the modules or trays and also when planting them, otherwise undue root damage and wilting will occur which will give the plant a setback or check before it recovers (see Figure 6, page 9).

The holes to take the young plants should be sufficiently deep and wide to take the root ball or plug without damage. The seedlings should be planted at the same finished depth as they were in their modules, cells or trays; that is to say the finished soil level after planting should be the same as when the plant was growing in its nursery container.

Any plants that show symptoms of virus, stunting or any other undesirable character must be discarded. Virus infected and/or any other diseased plants should not be handled during the planting operation but be disposed of as soon as possible by burning. Some viruses are passed from one plant to another by sap transfer during handling and attention should be given to this point. The newly planted seedlings should either be watered in or irrigated immediately after planting. When planting large areas the newly planted blocks should be irrigated before they start to dry out, especially under drying conditions.


Complete the preparation of the planting site by the time that the plants have been hardened off.

Ensure that the site has sufficient soil moisture before planting commences.

Water the seedling containers before planting out.

Unless furrows have been prepared in advance, decide on the correct plant spacing between and within the rows, according to the variety and conditions.

Burn diseased or virus infected plants and discard any which are weak or damaged.

Plant the seedlings at the same depth as they were in their nursery containers.

Water or irrigate the seedlings soon after putting in their final quarters, and before they start to wilt, especially if conditions are hot and sunny. If the plants are likely to wilt in the prevailing conditions irrigate in batches or strips. Figure 13 shows a typically satisfactory pepper plant three weeks after planting.

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