Cultivating Capsicums

When you decide to grow your own chilli peppers you should not have too much trouble, provided you have a sheltered sunny corner in the garden or a greenhouse. Chilli peppers are less tolerant of northern climates, where they can only be grown in a greenhouse. If the capsicums are to be grown outside, harden off the plants in a cold frame before planting out in late spring, after the danger of frost has passed. Choose a sheltered sunny spot against a wall and plant seedlings about 2 feet apart in well-drained, well-manured soil with some super phosphate raked in. But remember that too rich a soil may encourage leaf, not fruit, growth.

The seeds should be planted during spring in pots or trays of sterilized seed compost, and maintained at a temperature of about 20°C/70°F. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into 3-inch pots of potting compost. Pot on as necessary taking extreme care not to damage the root system in any way, as damaging the roots will seriously retard the plant’s growth progress. The larger the pot, the larger the plant and obviously, the larger the crop. Stand the pots in good light to ensure sturdy, short jointed growth.

Pinch out the growing tips when the plants are about 6 inches high to encourage a bushy growth. Support the plants and keep the roots moist. Feed once a week with mild liquid fertilizer such as a seaweed based fertilizer.

The flowers will appear in late spring to early summer. Nip out the first ones to encourage fruiting. The fruits should be ready for picking in mid to late summer, and remember, the more fruit you remove, the more fruit the plant will produce. Start picking the fruits just before they start to ripen fully or don’t appear to be getting any larger.

If the peppers are to remain in the greenhouse, the seedlings should be potted on into 6 inch and then 8 to 10 inch pots. They can also be planted in gro-bags. Nip out the flowers as for the outdoor plants, stake them where necessary and syringe the leaves daily during the flowering period to encourage fruit setting.

Water the plants regularly and feed at 10-day intervals once the fruits appear. Keep the atmosphere fairly dry with a minimum night temperature of 18°C/64°F and lightly shade the glass during the hottest months.

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