Capsicums & Chillis Capsicum annuum, Sweet pepper, Chilli pepper

Capsicums and chilli peppers are tasty and eye-catching members of the tomato and potato family suitable for a pot or a bed in a warm and sunny spot. Their fruits come in all shapes and sizes from squat and boxy to slender bananas and the classic heart-shape. Colours are just as varied, all start out as green and then mature to a range of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, chocolate browns and blacks.

Companions Basil, tomato.

Quantity 1 capsicum plant per person. 1 chilli plant per 4 people.

THE GROWING LIFECYCLE



Capsicums & Chillis

  • Warm sunny spot
  • Rich fertile soil
  • Shelter from wind
  • Colourful fruits
  • Can be grown in pots


Our Top 6 Varieties

Chinese Giant heirloom variety and a prolific producer of massive ‘boxy’ green fruits. Plants need to be staked.

Chocolate Beauty a hybrid that produces fruit with a stunning rich chocolate colour.

Californian Wonder Golden heirloom variety, produces a mass of fruits that mature to a rich, golden yellow.

Anaheim Chilli heirloom variety producers a milder chilly, harvested green

Tabasco Chilli heirloom variety with classic fiery, smoky pungency.

Bhut Jolokia the hottest chillis in the world, 2 t0 3 times hotter than the hottest 'Habanero' chilli - not for the faint hearted!.

Getting started

When

October to January
In warmer areas sow indoors or under cover in August and plant out mid to late October as long as it is warm.
In cooler spots sow indoors or under cover in August and September and plant out when all risk of frosts has passed.

Capsicums and chilli peppers are intolerant of cold temperatures and cannot handle any frost at all so wait until all risk of frost in your area has passed – this normally means at least after Labour Day – before you plant your seedlings in the garden. In colder parts of the country you may find you have to wait until December or plant in a greenhouse.

Where

A site that gets plenty of sun and has shelter from strong winds (which can damage these slightly brittle plants) – perhaps a spot against a warm north-facing fence or wall that can reflect heat of the sun throughout the day. If you are planting in a container then this might give you the flexibility you need in choosing the best location. Plants grow to an average of about knee height.

Soil

Capsicums and chilli peppers are hungry, ‘gross feeders’. They need a nutritious soil that has been well dug through with rich rotted compost. Soil should also drain freely and not hold onto surface moisture for more than about a day after hand watering or a dousing of rain.

SOW & PLANT

SOW

Sow indoors or in a greenhouse: Sow seeds as deep as they are wide in loose, free-draining seed compost, spread out in a seed tray. Water carefully and keep compost moist as seeds germinate (usually within 10 days). Grow until seedlings have formed two true leaves (the slender, veined leaves that will appear after the initial seedling leaves have developed). The seedlings are now ready to be transplanted into separate small pots around the height of a coffee mug and grown on until they have reached the same height as the pot they are in.  At this stage they should be large enough to go into the garden or greenhouse. This will normally take about four weeks in total if all goes well.

If you are in a cooler part of the country you may need to ‘harden off’ your home-sown seedlings before you plant them This involves gently acclimatizing them to outdoor temperatures over a period of weeks. A cold frame comes in handy for this – seedlings go into the frame with the lid shut for a day or so and then with lid open for a day or so but shut at night. Then seedlings are placed outdoors during the day and back inside the frame over night for a few days until eventually they are accustomed to the cooler temperature outdoors and ready to plant.


If this all sounds a bit fiddly then you can simply purchase individual seedlings from a garden centre. These will only appear when conditions for planting are right in your area and at a few dollars a piece they still make the whole exercise of growing capsicums and chillies economical. I do this so that I can grow a variety of different capsicums and chillies to suit my mood without having heaps of unused seed from packets that I have only taken a few seeds from.

PLANT

Capsicum seedlings are planted from Labour day onwards and, whilst this can be brought forward by using cloches in warmer areas, care should be taken in colder areas to ensure all risk of frosts has passed before planting outdoors. Seedlings should be spaced about a full arm’s length apart and can be planted deeply so that soil is pushed up against their stems – but not over the leaves. Push in a sturdy bamboo cane just behind each seedling for support. Cover seedlings with a plastic bottle cloche and remove once foliage has outgrown its confines and reliably warm summer days have become constant.


Capsicums and chilli peppers can be grown in pots which means you can position them where your garden will offer them the best growing conditions. Ensure you fill your pot with a nourishing mix of rich vegetable planting compost with kitchen compost, worm compost, chicken poo, sheep pellets or rotted horse manure mixed into it. Should look like a meaty muesli once you have added the ‘goodies’. Stake plants and feed each one with half a watering can of liquid seaweed, comfrey or worm juice every fortnight once flowers have opened.

MAINTAIN

As your plants grow, tie them carefully onto bamboo canes to support their stems. They are brittle and can be damaged by wind and, later  on, the weight of their fruits can cause them to become unsteady. Old stockings are traditionally used to tie in stems but you can get foam-covered wire from garden centres – specially designed to do the job. These important ties should be supportive but not so tight that they squeeze and damage the stems. Tie round the cane first and then round the stem below leaf joints.
As soon as flowers start to open give plants at least half a watering can of liquid seaweed, comfrey or worm juice every two weeks.
Good ventilation, removal of any damaged foliage on a dry day and regular and even watering are all important factors in producing a good haul of healthy fruits.
Aphids can be a problem. Treat any visible infestations with Neem oil, Garlic oil spray or Tomato leaf spray.
Green and black Shield bugs may turn up in numbers and start eating holes in fruits. These can be removed by hand in the cool of the morning before they become too agile.

HARVEST OR PICK

Cut fruit from plants to prevent breaking or damaging any branches by pulling. Chillies can be dried for use through the winter when their warmth might well be appreciated.
Remember, chillies become hotter as they mature.

Alert: The heat of chilli peppers comes from their concentrations of capsaicin oil which can easily be transferred to hands and anything they then touch. So, when harvesting or preparing chillies be mindful of their heat. Milk is a good soothing agent for any unpleasant heat due to contact or consumption of chilli peppers.