Name: capsicum, sweet pepper, bell pepper, Capsicum sp.
Foliage: perennial plant with evergreen foliage that is usually grown as an annual in cold and warm temperate climates.
Climate: capsicums grow in all climates, from cold temperate to the tropics.
Soil: a soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure. Do not plant in soils that have had eggplants or tomatoes in the previous season.
Position: full sun.
Flowering and fruiting: in cold and warm climates, capsicum is grown through spring and summer, while in warm and tropical areas, it can be grown almost all year round, usually fruiting 12–15 weeks after sowing or planting.
Feeding: apply lime at planting and top dress with manure monthly. Do not disturb the roots.
Watering: water deeply less often. Periodic soakings are best, with frequency depending on your soil type (plants in sandy soils or potted plants will need more frequent watering than those in clay or improved soils rich in organic matter).
Capsicum is a sturdy, compact bush, usually laden with fruit for several months. Green fruits are more “grassy”, while red, yellow and orange fruits have a rich, sweet flavour. Capsicums need warm weather to germinate and grow.
Always pick the fruit using secateurs to prevent damaging the plant’s weak branches. Pick the fruit when immature (green) or fully ripe, but do not leave it too long, as overripe fruit attracts pests and disease.
Capsicum also grows well in pots. Seeds can be sown directly in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
Regular watering is essential to good fruit development and plant growth. Water once or twice a week during hot dry weather, or more regularly in pots or sandy soils. Mulch to conserve soil moisture and avoid wetting the foliage. In improved soils (enriched with compost, manure and lime), capsicum requires very little additional fertiliser; a fortnightly application of seaweed solution during fruiting or a monthly application of decomposed manure on the soil surface will help to keep plants healthy and productive.
Snails and slugs can cause problems for young seedlings. Protect with pet-friendly or organic snail and slug pellets or traps. Generally pest-free once established, capsicum can suffer fungal problems if planted too closely or crowded in the garden, especially in humid climates. Space at a minimum of 50cm to allow adequate ventilation and airflow.
Capsicum can suffer sunburn or flower drop if temperatures hit more than 38°C. Shade if possible when extreme weather is expected. Naturally healthy plants will be more abundant and leafy, subsequently shading the developing fruit. Apply a seaweed solution fortnightly over the fruiting season for improved plant health and vigour.
Blossom end rot can be an issue with capsicum if soil is low in calcium. Adding lime at planting helps to prevent this from occurring, as does regular watering and mulching.
Capsicum is propagated by seed collected from inside mature fruit.
Chillies: the spicier members of the capsicum family.
Tomato: plant at the same time as capsicum for a bumper harvest.
Eggplant: popular in Mediterranean cuisine, and the ideal partner to peppers.
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