Growing Sweet Peppers
Sweet peppers are a member of the capsicum family. There are several types, shapes and flavours to choose from. Peppers are of tropical origin, so require warmth and a good deal of sun if they are to do well. They are not the easiest of vegetable to grow but home-grown ones have a much better flavour than those you can buy in the shops so are well worth the trouble. If you have a greenhouse or you live in the south with a sheltered, sunny spot on a patio, then they are an excellent crop to grow. They are delicious stuffed with minced lamb, grilled, fried, roasted, and raw in salads or used as a garnish. Their vibrant colours can improve any dish; they are wonderfully juicy and sweet. The fruits of sweet peppers can be picked and eaten whilst still green or they may be left to ripen before use.
Sow the seeds in trays in John Innes seed compost in February to March at a temperature of 60 to 70 deg F. (16 to 21deg C.). After germination the temperature should be maintained the same. Prick out seedlings when they have developed several leaves into 3 in. pots containing John Innes No 1 potting compost, where they will grow on until they are ready to be transferred into larger pots. The February sowing should be ready to transfer in May and these will then go into 7 in. (177mm) pots containing John Innes No 2 potting compost; allow 18 in. (45cm) between each pot. You can use grow bags instead of pots if you wish but one bag can accommodate only two plants.
If the plants are to be transferred outside they will need to be hardened off first therefore the temperature should be gradually decreased. Wait until June before putting them outside, then all chances of frosts should have passed and the days should be warmer.
Keep the plants well watered; this is imperative during warm weather, as dry conditions especially around the roots encourage the development of blossom end rot. By the time they have reached 10 – 12 in. (25-30cm) tall, they will need to have the growing tip pinched out to make them send out side shoots. The plants should be given a weekly high-potash liquid feed. A suitable feed to use is one used for tomatoes though it must be given at half the strength. Mist them twice a day to encourage them to set fruit, it will also prevent attacks from red spider mite.
Peppers can be picked when they are full size but still green for they will change to red, however if they are allowed to remain and ripen on the plant they will be sweeter and have a higher vitamin content.
Always cut the fruit from the plants never attempt to pull or twist them off as this generally results in them tearing the stem and damaging the plant.
Best Varieties to Try
There are some fabulous varieties to try, some are exclusive to certain seed producers, one in particular is from Thompson & Morgan a very unusual sweet pepper, ‘Sweet Chocolate’, a gorgeous rounded pepper the colour of dark rich chocolate and which is tolerant to cold.
‘Sweet Banana’: is a large, juicy, sweet fruit, one of my favourites.
‘Mohawk’: Small, sweet, with orange fruits and one, which has been bred, to be grown in containers.
‘Rainbow’: Thick walled, sweet and juicy with fruits that come in a range of colours, including cream, yellow, orange, red and purple which look wonderful in salads, a visual treat.
‘Pimiento Elite’: Big and juicy full of flavour.
‘Early Prolific’: This one will perform fairly well outside being tolerant to cold.
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