Fertilizer Application: Boosting Pepper Plant Growth

Choosing the right rich loamy soil for your pepper plants is the first step. Loam soil tends to have the highest organic matter content among the other soil types. Hence, it is the ideal choice for growing pepper plants. However, it may provide the essential nutrients and minerals our plants may need; a good dose of fertilizer throughout its growth stages can provide an additional boost that the soil can’t give.

Read more on How To Grow Peppers: Tips and Tricks here.

Similarly, we take in specific vitamin supplements daily; crops like hot peppers also require supplementary nutrients based on their growth stage. Various macronutrients and micronutrients all play a role in a plant’s development, whether during germination, flowering, or fruiting. So come on and let us find what hot peppers need in general.

What you need to know about a fertilizer

Before we dive in on how and when to apply fertilizers on your pepper crops, it’s a must to have a good grasp of what you are putting in your plants first and foremost. So fertilizers, in general, have three main minerals, Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium (N-P-K). These three macronutrients are what all plants typically need in large amounts to grow and develop healthily. And these are three magic numbers you’d see in any fertilizer pack, which indicate their amount in percent. For example; a complete fertilizer (14-14-14) contains 14% Nitrogen, 14% Phosphorus, and 14% Potassium. 

Now, take note of this crucial point when it comes to applying fertilizers. As your soil already contains a certain amount of nutrients, finding out just how much of these minerals remaining in your soil via a soil analysis is your first step. Once you’ve seen the exact amounts of each mineral, it’s time to compute just how much N-P-K you should add-in that will provide the optimum amount for your hot peppers growth. So that means don’t just grab the first sack of fertilizer you see in your local agriculture store.

Fertilizer Application Procedure for Hot Peppers

PRE-SOWING

Since hot peppers are normally sowed and germinated in germination boxes or seedboxes and then transplanted afterwards, adding fertilizer before sowing is unnecessary. An excellent loamy garden soil mixed with some compost or manure is more than enough as a starting medium for your pepper seeds, or you can also use TS3. However, some growers recommend adding complete fertilizer (14-14-14 or 10-10-10) a week before sowing if you chose to sow directly on the ground. This will serve as base fertilizer and will provide a balanced amount of nutrients for peppers once they have germinated. 

Complete fertilizer
14-14-14 Complete fertilizer

TRANSPLANTING AND VEGETATIVE STAGE

Once your seeds have germinated with the appearance of their first set of true leaves, then they are ready for transplanting. After transplanting, there are several starter fertilizers solutions that you can add to the soil as long as they contain higher amounts of Phosphorus with the general N-P-K ratio of 1:3:0. The most common starter solution used for hot pepper production is the 10-34-0 fertilizer. Dilute the said fertilizer in water, with the amount depending on the instructions given on its label, and spray half a pint around your seedlings. You can also use fish emulsion or fish and seaweed fertilizer as an alternative.

Fertilizer for seedlings
Use phosphorous rich fertilizer for seedlings. Photo by Amber on Unsplash

A week after transplanting, you can add a 12:24:12 N-P-K fertilizer to your seedlings. Add in 28 grams of the said fertilizer per plant and placed it in a circular band 2 inches away from the seedling base. As the vegetative stage progresses, you can add in a 12:12:17 fertilizer three weeks and then six weeks after transplanting, respectively. Just 56 grams per plant is enough, and again placed it in a circular band, but this time about 4 inches away from the plant base.

Seaweed fertilizer as alternative starter solution for seedlings.

You are also given the option of applying foliar fertilizers rich in Calcium and Phosphorus once a month or every three weeks to your pepper plants. The most common foliar fertilizers which you can use are Miracle-Gro, Phostrogen, or Calmax.

FLOWERING AND FRUITING STAGE

About forty days in, more or less, your hot pepper plants are now getting ready to enter the flowering stage. One thing to remember is that it’s recommended to slow down with Nitrogen application during this time up until the fruiting stage and instead boost up Potassium. That’s Potassium is an essential macronutrient for flower and fruit development.

Use potash-rich fertilizer for flowering and fruiting.

Place a 16:8:24 fertilizer ratio application nine weeks after transplanting, and then every 14 days after that up to fruit development. Place 28 grams per plant of the fertilizer mix in a circular band method once again 8 inches away from the base.

A Good Reminder

Fertilizers are a hot pepper plant’s best friend and one of the best support systems they can receive. However, take heed that the recommended fertilizer ratios mentioned above are simply a recommendation, and they should not box you. Again, the amount and percentage of N-P-K that you must apply to your plants will still largely depend on your soil’s nutrient state and the type of hot pepper you are planting. Furthermore, other macro and micronutrients may be needed if signs of nutrient deficiencies are observed. 

Different varieties and species of hot peppers also have slightly varying nutrient requirements, hence consulting an expert is still a must. You can always rely on other seasoned hot pepper growers for advice, especially if you are still a newbie. That’s why we value the ever-growing hot pepper growers’ community because planting hot peppers is more fun together after all.

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