Early summer is the time to plant sweet peppers and hot peppers. They’re fun to grow with so many different colours, shapes and sizes to choose from. All are variations of the Mexican native, Capsicum annuum and they all thrive under warm conditions in humus rich, well drained soil.
At least three months of warm summer temperatures is needed. In warm climates, capsicum growing is easy, as long as you don’t leave planting too late. In cooler climates with a shorter summer, plants can be started off in a glass house or purchased as large sized seedlings in pots. They can be grown in their pots all summer, or at least until the risk of frost is over, so they can be kept in a warm sheltered place until it is safe to plant out in the garden. But don’t delay planting until mid summer. Fruit may not set if temperatures are too high or the ground too dry.
Plant in a warm sunny position, in well-drained soil with compost and fertiliser mixed in. Protect young plants from slugs and snails. As soon as fruit appears, feed with a balanced fertiliser.
Capsicums are ideal if you like to grow veges in containers. Choose a good-sized pot (at least 25cm diameter for one plant) and keep it well watered.
Peppers and chillies ripen quickly in autumn. Harvest them at any stage from green to red, depending on the required flavour. Sweet bell peppers (capsicums) change from a tangy pungent flavour when green, to a sweeter, mellower flavour when red, orange or yellow. Chilli peppers increase in hotness as they ripen from green to red. Harvest frequently as peppers deteriorate very fast when past their peak ripeness.
Hot chillies are used fresh or dried. Sweet peppers are superb in salads, they take on a whole new delicious flavour when roasted or barbequed. All capsicums are great for pickling and preserving so you could never grow too many!