It has been a fantastic season for growing Capsicum this year. I have had the best crop in six years of growing them in the Hunter region. After having a series of failures in the past I made some serious changes, and it worked. This is my winning formula.
The preparation of the soil has proven to be the key for success. I selected a garden bed that I have never planted any Capsicum in before. Into the bed I added some chicken manure, cow manure, and some mixed fertiliser and I left it for a couple of weeks before I planted. After I planted them, I spread sugar cane mulch 5cm thick over the bed.
When it was time to plant I put two rows of 4 plants 30 cm apart in the centre of the bed. Into each hole I put a desert spoon full of Epsom Salt and then covered it with soil so that I did not burn the roots. I planted young seedlings when they were 8-10 cm in size, gave them some slow release fertilizer and let them be.
In an effort to counteract previous difficulties with heat damage, I chose to plant my Cherry Tomatoes in two rows on the outside of the bed to provide some shading. This strategy proved to be a winner. The soil was a bit too high in nitrogen from the manures I threw into the soil and the Tomatoes grew lots of leaves and not as many tomatoes as I would hope for. However, they provided all the protection I needed for the Capsicums.
When I removed all the Tomatoes in early January, the Capsicums were 1m tall and already had some fruit about the size of golf balls. The foliage was thick, a healthy dark green and there were heaps of flowers. With their protection now gone I thought that they would be subject to some scorching, but I was concerned for no reason. They flourished, grew as tall as 1.8m and the fruit grew fat.
The first fruit I harvested was the Chocolate Coloured Capsicum. A sweet, medium sized fruit that has got thin flesh in comparison to what I am used to eating. The plants are not as vigorous but they did OK. These were soon followed by the rest of the crop. I had also planted Californian Wonder which produced a thicker fleshed fruit and are rather sweet too. I could have picked some green but I waited until they all turned red because that is when they are at their sweetest.
In past years I have had a lot of issues with pests. Fruit Fly is a real enemy of Capsicums so I placed a trap either side of them this year and I have not had an issue at all. The trap has dozens of dead flies in them though. Other pests have included spotted mites, caterpillars and soil nematodes which were not around this season, but I have just suffered an outbreak of aphid. They have been sprayed with Neem Oil and are hopefully back under control.
During the growing season I fed them with Fish fertilizer every 3-4 weeks at the recommended dosage. I also gave them 3 serves of Epsom Salts dissolved in water to keep them lush. 3 heaped soup spoons into a watering can did the trick. Each time I poured all of the fertilizer onto the soil, not the plants.
I kept them as dry as possible so I used drippers to deliver the water to the roots. They received some water every day. The reason I did this was because in previous years I always lost most of the foliage a fungus attack. To reduce the chance of a fungus attack I did give them a preventative spray of Neem fungicide every 3-4 weeks.
Here are the crop facts:
Sown: 1 August into pots in a greenhouse.
Transplanted: 19 September.
Harvest: Mid February until the end of March.
Seed source: The Chocolate Coloured – from a generous backyard veggie grower. Californian Wonder – A pack of seed from Bunnings.
So that’s the method that I used this year. I reckon that I’ll do it the same next season. The big question is, can I do it all again……………..