Farmers’ Diaries: Eric Maubane

Vegetables – Eric Maubane, Tarlton, Gauteng

We are harvesting green, yellow and red peppers, also known as ‘robot peppers’. There are also chillies, jalapeños and green beans, which we grow in tunnels all year round.

Our current harvest is from crops we planted in September to November. In December, we started harvesting green peppers planted in September, and in January the first yellow and red peppers were ready.

I’ll carry on harvesting these for about 13 months (the norm for most farmers is nine months). The chillies and jalapeños I harvest every two days.

We conduct soil and leaf tests when plants are 8 months old, so that we can adjust our fertilising programme to prolong the plants’ lives. The leaf tests, which are an even better indicator than the soil tests, will tell us whether we should increase certain elements.

We work with four agronomists from four supply companies. Our golden rule on the farm is if I buy something from you, you give me the after-sale service free of charge. I got this advice from my mentor and neighbour, Vito Rugani of Greenway Farms.

We grow vegetables throughout the year because we do it under cover, and we use a heating system in winter so the crop lasts longer. We follow a specific fertiliser programme for the peppers and green beans: on Mondays we give the plants calcium nitrate (1kg/1 000ℓ litres of water); on Tuesdays we water (2ℓ/plant); on Wednesdays we provide potassium sulphate (1kg/1 000ℓ of water); on Thursday it’s plain water again, on Fridays we use a hydroponic mix with various elements; and on weekends we spray a foliar mix directly onto the leaves.

We’re currently busy with assessments and planning the conversion of production from planting directly into the soil to a hydroponic system.

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