Grow Your Own

Peppers

Sweet peppers – also known as bell peppers – are so versatile in cooking. They can be used raw in salads and cooked in stir-fries and casseroles.

Peppers will grow well in a greenhouse, but will also thrive in pots outside if you place them in a warm, sunny spot.

Sweet peppers

Sow

Sow from mid-February to early April indoors in pots or seed trays of seed compost. You will need to keep the temperature around 18-21°C (65-70°F), so use a propagator or place on a warm windowsill, with plastic bags over the pots to keep the heat and moisture in.

Young plants are available from garden centres in spring as an alternative to sowing.

Grow

You can grow peppers in containers or in growing bags or in open ground, as long as it is a sheltered, sunny spot (at the base of a wall for instance).

Transplant into 7.5-9cm (3-3.5in) pots when two true leaves have formed.

Further transfer plants to 30cm (12in) pots of good compost once the roots fill the 9cm (3in) pot in late April (if growing in a heated greenhouse), mid-May (if in an unheated greenhouse) or late May if growing outside.

Pinch out the growing tips of chillies when they are about 20cm (8in) tall to encourage bushiness; sideshoots (the shoots forming between the main stem and leaves) can be further pinched back if you want lots of smaller fruit.

You may need to stake and tie plants in if they produce lots of heavy fruit.

Water regularly and feed with a high potash liquid fertiliser once the first fruit has set.

Common problems

Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite

Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite: Leaves become mottled, pale and covered in webbing, on which the mites can be clearly seen; leaves also drop prematurely.

Remedy: They thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly. Use biological control in the greenhouse.

More info on Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite

Aphids

Aphids: Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.

Remedy: Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.

More info on Aphids

Blossom end rot

Blossom end rot: Dark blotches appear on the ends.

Remedy: Water regularly and not sporadically and never allow the soil to dry out.

More info on Blossom end rot

Harvesting

Pick the fruit as required when it is green, swollen and glossy. Alternatively, keep the fruit on the plant to turn red; this affects both flavour and heat. However, leaving fruit on to mature does reduce yield.

Recipes

Gregg Wallace tempts us with his grilled vegetable terrine.

Varieties

‘Gypsy’ AGM:This is an early-cropping, bright red sweet pepper with good flavour.

‘Gourmet’ AGM:A beautiful bright orange sweet pepper with a long cropping season. It is well-suited for growing outdoors in containers, or in a greenhouse.


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