Summer is the perfect time to get in your Chilli and Capsicum seedlings. Once the fruit starts to set there is nothing better than seeing splashes of bright red, orange, yellow and green dotted throughout the vegie patch. There are so many great summer salads and stir fries to use them in… what are you waiting for?
Capsicum and chillies require the same growing conditions as each other as they are all from the same family. They require heat to grow well, so in Melbourne they are planted in spring and harvested during late summer and into autumn. It is advisable to start seedlings growing indoors or in a greenhouse and plant them out as advanced seedlings once the last frosts have passed. To avoid transplant shock you can use peat pots or toilet rolls to grow your seedlings in and then the whole lot can be planted without disturbing the roots.
In warmer areas capsicum and chillies are a perennial plant; with some dedication and a frost free area you can keep them going over winter in Melbourne, but generally they are regarded as an annual.
Cultivate the soil beforehand using plenty of compost, well-rotted manure and add some dolomite lime for magnesium and calcium.
Plant in a sunny spot with good air circulation, as they are prone to fungal problems, and avoid planting where tomatoes and eggplants have grown in the previous three years.
Although they love the heat, it is worth shielding them on days of extreme temperatures to prevent flower loss.
Harvest capsicums and chillies regularly to increase vigour and productivity
Growing capsicums and chillies at home offers you a much greater choice of varieties, especially if you grow from seed. You will find that they fall into three main categories.
These are the blocky capsicums that you find at the supermarket, usually green, red, orange or yellow. The green ones are simply unripe red ones! They are not hot.
If you grow your own you can choose from a range including purple, white and black.
Long sweet capsicum
These capsicums are long and slender and sweet tasting and often used for frying.
Hundreds of chilli varieties exist and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. The most popular types are habanero, jalepeno and cayenne. Habenero are the hottest, then cayenne then jalepeno.
Photograph by Liz Pye. (Used with permission)
Liz runs a wonderful produce gardening blog at http://suburbantomato.com… head there and get inspired!