How to Grow Capsicum
Capsicums (aka peppers) and the closely related chillis are warm season crops and really need to be left to mid spring before planting in cooler climates. Although they are technically perennial plants (go dormant in winter and regrow the following season) they are generally less productive in successive years and are best replaced each season with fresh seedlings. There is a wide range of varieties of both chillis and capsicums. intensity. Capsicums vary in size and colour with taste varying in sweetness to a slight peppery taste.
Capsicums like a well fed soil, full sun and regular watering and perform best in hotter temperatures. Their requirements are very similar to those of tomatoes, but don't need as much phosphorous as tomatoes. They do however love calcium and as such, you need to treat the planting area accordingly. See the bed preparation guide The fruits start from white flowers develop initially green fruit which then ripen varying to the variety grown. (eg. in capsicums green to red, yellow, orange, black/dark burgundy or lighter green with purple). Where generally chillis vary in size and most importantly "heat" and colour doesn't necessarily represent heat.
Capsicum/Chillis can be direct sown in the bed or grown from seedlings transplanted out approximately 30cm apart. The plants as they start to fruit will become top heavy and will need to be staked to keep the plants upright and the fruit out of the soil. If you live in a cooler area like I do, you're best to either raise seed in a greenhouse or buy seedlings. Because the growing season is shorter, the plants will not have enough time to germinate, grow and fruit. Raising seedlings inside in late winter/early spring will give you a good head start. If you live in a hot area, the plants can suffer from flower drop if the temperature exceeds 38 degrees C (100 f), so some shade is necessary. (No flower=no fruit!) There may also be times that the developing fruit needs some shade protection as it can be sunburnt in extreme summer temperatures.
Heirloom Capsicums come in many varieties
Unlike the commons Capsicum varieties, the colour of these Heirloom Capsicums results from their gentics, not just the stage of ripeness. The common green capsicum, or 'bell pepper' if left to mature, will ripen through green/orange to red. These varieties start green then mature to the colours you see here. The yellow and chocolate varieties have the same flavour as red capsicums, where the Italian varieties range from sweet to slightly peppery as they are more closely related to the chillis.
Position: Full Sun to partial shade, protected from strong winds
Plant: Can be grown in pots or planted out as seedlings in spring when the soil
Frost Tolerant: No. Heat tolerant: Yes - but protect from extreme summer heat to prevent sunburn of the fruit
Feeding: Well composted soil, liquid feed weekly when the plants are mature to ensure good fruit development. Require less phosphorous than tomatoes, but like calcium. See general description above.
Planting group: These are both Solanums and are grouped with Chilli, Eggplant and Tomatoes.
Pests: Main pests are birds/slugs/snails. If you experience higher humidity levels, good plant spacing is essential to ensure air flow and help minimise a number of potential mould problems.
Harvesting:Capsicums are brittle plants. Although fruit can be picked by twisting, you are likely to take a branch off the whole plant, so best harvested with scissors or secateurs.