Do you cage or stake your peppers?

countrysmiths(7)May 10, 2007

I caged my tomatoes after debating whether or not to let them sprawl. I used to let them sprawl when I gardened in Colorado, but they never got as big there are I heard they can here.

Now that I am done, I was wondering about my peppers? Will they need the support? I planted bell peppers and some different kinds of hot peppers.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Mark,

With peppers, staking or caging is optional. A lot of people do not stake or cage their peppers and the plants do perfectly well. It is probably a matter of personal preference more than anything else, unless you live in a high-wind area and/or your garden site is pretty exposed to the elements.

In making the decision about whether to cage or stake peppers, I consider the usual mature size of the plant for me in my garden. If the plant gets over 18" tall, and most do, I will stake it, using wooden stakes and zip-ties or the green velcro plant ties available in a roll at some nurseries or big box home building supply stores.

If the plants get over about 24" to 28" tall, I will cage them using small cages about 2' tall. If the plants get over 36" tall, I will cage them inside one of the smaller tomato cages I have made from wire fencing. There aren't many pepper plants that get 3' tall or taller, but there are a few.

The main argument for either staking or caging has more to do with how brittle the plants themselves are. We get a lot of strong south and west winds in our part of the state during the summer, especially with severe thunderstorms. When a pepper plant that is loaded with almost full-sized sweet bell peppers starts blowing during those strong winds, the limbs can snap off quite easily.

Of secondary concern to me is the need to protect my peppers from sunscald. If your pepper plants get more than 6 hours of sun a day (most of mine get at least 8 to 10), you may have blistering or sunscald of any part of the peppers exposed to direct sunlight for most of the day. In a perfect world, the pepper foliage would cover most of the peppers and keep this from occurring, but that tends not to happen. I have found that pepper plants in cages tend to stay a little more 'bunched up' which helps keep the foliage over the peppers, protecting them from some of the sunlight at least. Pepper plants that aren't caged or staked tend to sprawl A LITTLE BIT, but that little bit is often enough to allow the fruit to burn and blister. It seems like more of a problem on sweet peppers than on hot ones, perhaps because of the larger size of the fruit.

In times of extremely brutal sunlight (say about mid to late-July to mid-August) , I can attach either sheets of newspaper or pieces of shade cloth, whichever is available, to the tops of the cages, or to the west or southwest side of the cages, to provide shading if sunscald is still a problem. I generally use clothespins to attach the paper or cloth to the cage. (If sunscald becomes a problem on tomato plants, you can protect them in the same way.)

A third consideration is whether any wild or domestic animals or young children will be wandering around in the garden. My cats are in the garden a lot and the dogs are allowed in every now and then. At this point in time there are few young children wandering through the garden since my DS is grown up, but sometimes the children of friends and neighbors are around. Before the garden was completely fenced it, it was common to have armadillos, possums, etc. roaming around it at night. If you are going to have a lot of animals/young children walking through the garden, staking or caging helps protect the plants. It doesn't take much effort for a foraging animal, or an excited dog, or two fighting cats, to snap a branch or two off a pepper plant.

So, there you have it--some of the reasons you might want to cage or stake. After considering the degree of wind movement and hours of sun exposture in your garden as well as whether or not your plants might be bumped/trampled, you can decide what is best for you and your garden.

I hope this info is helpful and I hope that your garden is growing well.

Happy Growing!


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 8:54AM
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I had to cage mine already. Well, with hardware cloth cages to keep the darn bunnies from eating them off.

Looks like I got there just in time, the plant the bunnies ate almost all the way off is recovering.

I hope to take all cages off in a few weeks, when the plants are more mature.

Actually I have to do this with most edible plants... specially beans or the bunnies eat them faster than they sprout.

My bunny trap only caught a possum so far. :(

But I do stake my tomatoes. I used to use cages, but stakes take up less space for storage over the winter.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:20AM
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windsurfgirl(Z6 OK)

I use those small tomato cages on my peppers. It's mostly because I'm in a high wind area with no protection. It just helps hold them up...


    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:29AM
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