Growing Capsicum in South Australia
Also known as bell peppers and sweet peppers, these colourful, mild peppers are a beautiful addition to the summer garden. Almost all varieties bear green fruit which ripen to their specific colour. They love the warm South Australian summers, but need some afternoon shade to prevent their delicate fruit from getting sunburnt.
Be sure to provide enough shade. Capsicums love the warmth of summer, but direct sun in the afternoon can burn them in the heat of summer. They are happiest in a spot which receives some shade in the afternoon.
Capsicums love warmth and sunlight, but plant them in a spot where they’ll get some protection from the harshest afternoon sun.
Prepare your soil with compost and well-rotted manure. The extra organic material will feed your capsicums and help with water retention over the heat of summer. They can develop blossom rot if your soil is low on calcium. Add some bonemeal to your soil to improve the calcium levels. It’ll also help your plants develop strong root systems to support them right through the season.
Capsicums need excellent drainage. So, if your garden is prone to waterlogging, then rather grow them in pots or raised beds.
Seeds can be started indoors (usually on heat mats) in August or September. Peppers need quite high temperatures to germinate, so if you want to make the most of the long growing season, it’s usually better 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.
Plant seedlings into the garden once all danger of frost has passed and its consistently warm.
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.
Potted plants can be overwintered indoors or in a sunny spot. Prune them lightly in winter.
Larger varieties need to be staked. Tomato cages or a simple stick or bamboo pole work well.
Capsicums have deep root systems, so they need regular, deep watering. 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.
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.
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.
Peppers 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 peppers can really be eaten at any stage. The flavours change and develop quite dramatically as the peppers mature, so pick them at the right stage for your culinary needs.
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.
If you see the eggs or caterpillars appear on the plants, remove them by hand. Spraying with horticultural soap will also be helpful.
Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often if it’s a particularly rainy winter.
Milk spray or baking soda solution work well and can be sprayed on affected plants.
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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