In the glasshouses, row upon row of flowering green plants stretch as far as the eye can see, a sign that winter’s coming to an end and spring is just around the corner. At Tangmere, 75 acres are devoted to peppers – the equivalent of 60 football pitches. 

Tender loving care

Over 65 million sweet peppers grow on the nursery every year. A tremendous amount of passion and effort goes into growing Tangmere’s peppers. We plant in a hydroponic system, where the pepper plants grow in a recycled, nutrient-rich, water solution. “We analyse the water daily to make sure our plants get the right nutrition,” says production manager Andy. “Coming out of winter, the new season is always a challenge but exciting. The plants are developing all the time — they can grow 1cm a day, we have to work hard to keep up,”  he says.

The crops need a lot of attention and care. Each pepper plant is supported by carefully twisting the stem around a string by hand –and removing side shoots to focus the plant's energies and help fruit set. An incredible 10,800km of string is used – that’s enough string to stretch to Boston, USA and back!

Extreme care is taken when the plants are young as they are very responsive to change. “We use a computer to regulate the conditions inside the glasshouse, although, of course, you can’t predict the weather.”  Light throughout the lifecycle of the plant is essential at this time of year. “We use roof washers to clean the glass externally and maximise light transmission,” explains Andy.  

The glasshouses are kept warm using water heated by an on-site electricity generation plant. The waste gas (CO2) from the power generation goes back into the glasshouses to enrich the air. “It’s the perfect climate for the peppers to develop and grow.”

In just 3 weeks, green peppers are ready to be picked by hand and from late March, the glasshouses will burst with colour: orange, yellow and red.

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