The Q&A Archives: Peppers Don't Set Fruit

Question: My sweet pepper plants have healthy, strong foliage and many blossoms. The peppers set and form small fruits, but they tend to drop after reaching the size of peas. What's wrong?

Answer: Your problem sounds like either heat and moisture stress or excessive nitrogen fertilization. Peppers are very vulnerable to high temperatures and low soil moisture. If the temperatures get into the 90s and water is lacking, peppers abort any fruit and flowers and put their energy into vegetative growth. Since it's tough to control air temperature, the best solution is to work on the water. Mulch with three to four inches of straw or a layer of black plastic and apply a supply of water daily with a drip irrigation system. Avoid planting in hot sports such as in front of a south facing wall. If you have an area of your garden that's partly shaded in the afternoon, plant your peppers there to relieve some of the heat stress. Excessive nitrogen fertilizer can also cause the plant to return to vegetative growth and abort flowers and fruit. We recommend fertilizing before planting with one pound of ammonium nitrate fertilizer or 30 pounds of composted manure per 100 foot row.

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