Leaves, Flowers, Fruit Falling off My Peppers?

kazvorpalJune 23, 2006

I have about ten pepper plants, each of a different variety (big early, blue, mild halepeno, california, et cetera). All of them look like they're growing normally, though perhaps slightly leggy.

But I come out in the morning, leaves -- which look perfectly healthy -- are lying severed on the ground. Not enough to kill the plant, just one or two every once in a while...but enough to keep the plants from really getting big and bushy.

Likewise, the flowers fall off, though they look healthy. Not all at once, just every once in a while, but it's enough that very few reach the fruiting stage.

Those which do usually end up falling off before they are large enough to harvest.

In all three cases...leaves, flowers, and fruit...the part which falls off looks PERFECT. Firm, healthy, the right color, et cetera.

In all three cases, the stem looks like it's been neatly severed. As if I took a razor and carefully cut around the stem in a perfect circle and let it fall off on its own.

I don't know whether this is a nutritional problem or an insect. I blamed cutworms at first, but it happens even with cans around the plants, and it's now past cutworm season anyway.

The neatness of the "severing" could be due to the plant developing a junction specifically to lose the falling part, I suppose, so I would blame overwatering (it seems to always rain right after I give up and water them) or nutrition (too much fertilizer -- I use Miracle Gro for tomatoes, just slightly less than the instructions say -- or too little of some specific nutrient), but I'd think in either case there'd be some evidence of the falling parts being unhealthy.

What's going on?

Anyone know?

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willardb3

For one thing, use 20-30% of recommended fertilizer.....the instructions are written by the producer and he wants you to use more than you should.

High day temps >95F or low day temps

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 3:45PM
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kazvorpal

OK, so less fertizer. The weather was, until this last week, perfect. This problem has gone on since I planted, regardless of how warm or cool.

Would either of those things cause the leaves to fall off, gradually and while looking healthy, as well?

These plants are now as tall as they should be, but are very slim, probably more because of the slow loss of leaves keeping them from looking bushy. They are not getting as much light as I'd like, but they're getting as much as the tomatoes planted next to them, which are thriving, and not looking leggy at all.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 5:04PM
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organic_nut

the cut worm season never ends. they are always out there. but this is not a cutworm problem.

could be some kind of bug that chews off the leaves.

does the leaf fall off exactly where it joins the stem. thus a natural place for a leaf to fall off. or does the little leaf stem get chewed off along its length. not a natural place for the leaf to fall off. this clue will help.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 8:10PM
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Newt(z7/MD)

Hi Kazvorpal,

Here are a few ideas. Keep in mind that it could be a combination of things.

Not enough magnesium in the soil can cause leaf, bud, flower and fruit drop. Usually you would see yellowing of leaves, but if the mag. level is not too low, and you've had swings in temps, then you could see this happen. Try adding 1 tsp. of Epsom salt to a quart of water.

If you have had swings in temps with nights below 55*F and days over 85*F to 90*F, peppers will shed as well.

Poor pollination will cause flower and bud drop. Maybe you could plant marigolds or some other brightly colored flower with a flat landing pad like zinnias to encourage pollinators.

Drought will also cause flower and bud drop. You said, "...so I would blame overwatering (it seems to always rain right after I give up and water them)...". Maybe you are causing stress by waiting to water.

You might also find this helpful.
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic_Gardening/1988_May_June/About_Peppers

Does any of this sound like it fits?
Newt

    Bookmark   June 24, 2006 at 2:31PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

TOO MUCH nitrogen can cause leaf and bud drop

How much are you feeding the plants??

    Bookmark   June 24, 2006 at 5:35PM
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kazvorpal

I think -- I'm no expert on this -- the leaves, flowers, and fruit are falling off right where they would naturally do so, certainly it's not something obviously wrong, like halfway down the stem.

Mainly I fertilized them with tomato fertilizer, which is usually low in nitrogen for just that...hey, I have beans growing near them, could this be putting too much nitrogen in the soil? There's a gap of two or three feet between the patch of peppers and the thin row of snow peas and pole beans growing up the back fence.

Newt:

OK, if I can figure out where to get epsom salts, I'll add a little in case that'll help.

The temps have not been falling much below seventy, so that's not an issue.

I have seen places claiming peppers cross-pollinate, which seems logical, but I've also seen ones saying they self-pollinate, and thus don't need help. I take it this is false. Will simply tapping the flowers help, the way it does tomatoes?

The ground around the peppers has not really gotten dry, which is why I was slow to water them. I am under the impression that it should start feeling dry when you stick your finger in it, or else you'll over-water. Was I mistaken?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 1:07PM
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kazvorpal

OK, I've just applied two tablespoons per gallon of magnesium sulfate to my plants, via foliar spraying, with the leftover into the ground. It sounds like I'll only need to wait about 48 hours to see results, if this is the solution.

Having done some research on the 'net in response to the epsom salt idea, it really does seem like it's likely to solve the problem, and like it absolutely would be a good thing for me to do either way.

Does anyone have any suggestions regarding the beans and peas along the fence about three feet away from the peppers? Could they be "fixing" too much nitrogen in the soil, or is three feet far enough. There's one tomato plant between the peppers and beans, and it's thriving.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 1:58PM
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kazvorpal

It seems to have worked well; the leaves stopped turning yellow and falling off, new leaves are growing, the less damaged plants are already hugely bushy, and there are larger clusters of flower buds forming on most of them.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 1:35PM
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organic_nut

well that is really good. finding the problem and fixing it. makes even me happy. I will be remembering this and if I have the problem i hope to remember to try epson salts. which I do have.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 9:22PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

Does anyone have any suggestions regarding the beans and peas along the fence about three feet away from the peppers? Could they be "fixing" too much nitrogen in the soil, or is three feet far enough. There's one tomato plant between the peppers and beans, and it's thriving.

These plants make nitrogen fix nodulas that absorb nitrogen from the air and delivers it to that plant only, It doesn't load the soil with nitrogen

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 8:52PM
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