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Growing Capsicum in The Northern Territory

Introducing Capsicum

Also known as bell peppers or sweet peppers, these colourful, mild peppers are a beautiful addition to any garden. They love the warm Top End climate, but need some afternoon shade to prevent their delicate fruit from getting sunburnt.

Classic Mistakes

Be sure to provide enough shade. Capsicums love the warm weather, but direct sun in the afternoon can burn them. They are happiest in a spot which receives some shade in the afternoon.

Sunlight

Grow in: Full Sun - Partial Sun

Peppers love warmth and sunlight, but plant them in a spot where they’ll get some protection from the harshest afternoon sun.

Soil Preparation

Prepare your soil with compost and well-rotted manure. The extra organic material will feed your peppers and help with water retention during the dry season.

Sowing Seed

Sow seed: April-July
Sowing depth: Simply place the seeds on top of your soil and sprinkle with a very thin layer of compost.

Seeds can be started from seed indoors (or under cover) towards the end of the wet season. Capsicums can be tricky to grow from seed, so it’s usually easier to plant seedlings.

Simply place the seeds on top of your soil and sprinkle with a very thin layer of compost. Place them in a warm place (like in top of the fridge) or on a growing mat until the plants are up. Seeds can be started outdoors easily once the weather and the soil have warmed.

Capsicums are hard to germinate if the soil isn’t warm enough, so it’s much easier to start them from seedlings.

Planting

Plant seedlings: May-July

Try to plant bought seedlings as soon as possible after you get them home and remember to give them a good, deep watering to help them settle in. When you plant your seedlings out, add a small amount of organic bone-meal to each hole. Bone-meal gives seedlings a great start and helps them to develop strong root systems which support a healthy plant.

Care

Potted plants can be moved indoors during monsoon season.

Larger varieties need to be staked. Tomato cages or a simple stick or bamboo pole work well.

Watering

During the dry season, water your capsicums regularly and deeply so that the water reaches all along their deep root systems. If they have a good mulch, then a deep watering twice a week should be fine, but if it’s particularly hot and they look thirsty, then water them more often. During the wet season, the challenge is often to keep water away from your plants. Capsicums really don’t like waterlogged soil. Pots which can be covered or moved during heavy rains are a good option for capsicums is the top end.

Feeding

Feed your plants regularly with compost tea or and organic fertilizer to encourage strong plants and a bumper harvest. An organic tomato fertilizer is also a great option once the flowers start to appear. It helps the plants produce plenty of good-quality fruit.

Mulching

Straw is a great mulch for capsicums. It keeps their roots cool, the water in the soil, and, it smothers weeds that will compete for nutrients. Lucerne, pea straw or sugar cane are all good options. Remember to keep topping up your mulch through the season as it breaks done fast in hot weather.

Harvesting

Harvest: 10 to 12 Weeks After Planting

Some varieties twist of easily by hand, but scissors, a knife or secateurs will help with the more stubborn varieties. Keep picking peppers throughout the summer to encourage production.

Capsicums can be harvested as soon as they are a decent size. Most varieties start out green and then change to their particular colour as they mature, but they can really be eaten at any stage. The flavours change and develop quite dramatically as the fruits mature, so pick them at the right stage for your culinary needs.

What to do about White butterfly?

If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with soap-spray will also be helpful.

What to do about Aphids?

Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often during the wet season.

What to do about Snails and slugs?

If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with soap-spray will also be helpful.

What to do about Powdery Mildew?

Milk spray or baking soda solution work well and can be sprayed on affected plants.

What to do about Root-Knot Nematodes?

Rotate crops and apply lots of compost. If this is a persistent problem in your garden, nematicides can be applied, but it’s best to try sort the problem out using organic methods first.
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