Capsicum Chili Peppers and Ginseng in South Africa
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: G. McNeal
Posted on: June 7, 1999

I have just over one acre of ground with over 400 herbs, my favourite being peppers of which I have some 20 varieties and I am adding another nine from you. I eat or give away less than 1% as I grow purely for decoration. The purity of the varieties is therefore not of great importance, however, I would like to keep them as pure as possible. As they are all or mostly the same species they must cross-pollinate fairly easily.

1) Is it possible to grow 30 varieties in an acre without too much cross-pollination & how far apart should I grow them? (Two to three varieties are grown indoors.)

In general the recommendation to avoid cross-pollination by bees is to space the plants 175 meters ( 500 feet) or more apart. I suppose this number is influenced by the number of beehives in your close vicinity and the number of other food sources the bees find between the plantings in question. I doubt that you can keep 30 varieties anywhere near pure on one acre.

2) What is the approximate seed viability? I normally repack after vac. and keep them in the vegetable drawer under the fridge. Would keeping them cooler help?

Seed storage temperatures are a relatively unexplored subject and research is underway by Dr Norman Deno at this time (1999). The general belief was that most seeds keep better at refrigerator temperatures, but this has been found to not be universally true. Some seeds need to be stored at room temperature and some do better if kept frozen. We keep chili pepper seeds at cool room temperatures and find that they keep very well this way. We have a drop of about 10% per year in germination rate, but find that no matter what we specify, we occasionally do not get the seeds from the current harvest and therefore do not start out with close to optimum. We compensate by using more seed per packet, so that our customers still get the usual number of seedlings per packet.

3) Approximately how many seeds are in a packet?

For varieties that we do not sell in bulk, we put enough seeds in a packet for one oe two dozen plants. For large seeds, the packet may contain as few as 5 seeds. For varieties that we sell in bulk packets usually contain substantially more seed. The exact quantity is determined by the price we had to pay to have the seed grown for us.

I am going to try growing ginseng from seed; I would keep seed in fridge until ready to germinate.

1) Approx what temperature should I use?

The recommended stratification temperature is 5 degrees Celsius.

2) Putting seeds in the fridge in September and sowing in March would mean germinating for our winter in Durban, South Africa, however it never gets very cold here and would probably be the best option to try first. Would keeping the seed colder longer and planting out in our spring about September be better? Our summer gets very hot for the young seedling.

I assume trying to get the plants as large as possible before facing a hot summer would be the best option. All of the ginsengs we offer are only rated for zone 8, while you are in zone 11. I don’t know if they will survive outdoors in your summer. Also they may need frost or at least temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius to be ready to break dormancy in the spring. I would keep them in pots and try summering some of them in the fridge, thus reversing the seasons and bypassing the hot summers.

3) What is seed viability like and approximately how many seeds per packets are there?

Seed viability drops rapidly after the second spring when seeds should be germinating. By the summer there are probably no seeds left alive.

There are about 50 seeds per packet.

Apart from those plants reguiring very cold weather, I sow many perennials and annuals all year round. Durban by the sea has a high relative humidity (average 72% in winter to 82% in summer). Rainfall 1 inch (25 mm) to 5 inches (125mm) average for winter & summer. Monthly average temperatures in summer range from 62 to 87F (31-17C) and in winter from 44 to 83F (7-28C)

4) I intended to try Panax quinquefolius first. Which is the easier to grow in South Africa?

Both Panax quinquifolius, the American ginseng, and Panax ginseng, the Chinese or Asiatic ginseng, require cool temperatures. They are highly susceptible to disease when the temperature exceeds 15 Celsius for prolong periods. In addition, they both cannot tolerate high humidity and high rainfall. It is unlikely that either species would thrive or even survive in your area.

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