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Colourful Sweet Peppers
Member Name: Niall85
Advantages: Take up little space, little effort, cheaper than supermarket, fun to grow
Disadvantages: Need poly tunnel or greenhouse for good results
Sweet peppers are fun and fairly easy to grow. They also don't take up a massive amount of space, the only downside to them is that they will really only succeed if you grow them in a poly tunnel or greenhouse because peppers like high levels of heat and humidity.
With many different colours, shapes and sizes available these days this is a crop that everyone should try to grow at least once. I recommend seed as buying pepper plants from the supermarket or garden centres works out a lot more expensive than growing from seed.
Like almost all vegetable seeds, you can pick up pepper seeds very cheap (for example as I write this review the first result on Amazon shows a packet of 125 seeds for 50p and free postage!!). There are literally tonnes of varieties to choose from - you will find ones that produce fruit like that in the supermarket, there are also tiny varieties that are the size of golf balls for some extra cuteness, there are packets that come with multiple colours (green, red, yellow, orange, purple and white are readily available in a mixed pack). It all depends on what you fancy.
I have grown the small orange ones which added an unusual splash of orange colour to the poly tunnel last year, the long banana varieties and this year I am growing the mixed colour types.
I don't recommend buying a green variety because all peppers no matter what colour they are start out green and then will change colour as time goes by.
Peppers like it hot and will survive in the highest UK temperatures even if the greenhouse is baking! They can be grown outside and I have seen this happening at some gardens I have visited, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you don't have a greenhouse or poly tunnel. The forecast tonight as I write this at the end of August is 8 degrees overnight and this could kill a pepper plant or at least seriously slow down its progress. The UK weather is so unpredictable that I wouldn't risk putting them outside after the work put into starting them off.
I have heard of people growing peppers inside on windowsills - this shouldn't be a problem but I have never tried it - my only thoughts are they will get less light this way.
The final potting size and positioning of a pepper takes up quite a small amount of space (unless it is a bushy variety and you can prevent it from getting bushy by NOT removing the tip of the plant). Final pot size is around 20cm high and the circumference of a tea cup saucer is sufficient space for it to grow without too many issues. Mine are positioned all in a row neatly with the edge of each pot touching the next one along a windowsill in my greenhouse.
I start mine off in March because Feb is too cold, even in a greenhouse - peppers are supposed to require at least 18 degrees to grow, so keeping that in mind you could start seedlings off inside the house and protect them from the outside elements until the time is right.
I do start mine outside in the greenhouse in seed trays of John Innes seed compost covered with a plastic propagator lid. Germination can take 2-3 weeks and in my experience the temperature when the seed germinates can seriously affect the rest of its life - I sowed some this year in Feb trying to get ahead of the game - the seedlings are still less than 10cm high whereas ones I sowed a month later are up to 1.5 feet...
You can transplant your seedlings when two true leaves have formed; these are not the first two leaves you see as a seedling but the subsequent leaves that grow afterwards.
I transplant my peppers only twice, that combined with the little space they take up compared with everything else makes them one of the easiest veg to grow without much maintaining required.
They like a warm sunny position and that is where I position the seedlings - when transplanted from the seed trays I plant them into a small pot (the ones the same circumference as a coke can (roughly!)). Then once the roots really establish and look like they will emerge from the holes in the bottom, they get transplanted into their final pots - this bit is easy as I fill the final pot with compost leaving a hole in the middle the same size as the other pot. When you remove the pepper plant from its smaller pot the compost and roots will just come out in one big chunk and you place that into the hole in the larger pot. This way there is minimal root disturbance and there will be no hindering growth.
I remember reading somewhere once that you should pinch the tips of a pepper plant when they reach a certain height to encourage bushiness and more fruit to develop. I was always worried about doing this kind of thing to my plants (including tomatoes back in the day - I know better now!) and so I did this to two of my ten pepper plants the first year I grew them - it did make them bushier but it severely delayed the crop compared with the ones I left alone, in fact they were never ready to harvest as the October weather got the better of the plants before they had a chance to get big enough.
Feeding wise, like most other fruiting vegetables you can stick to two simple types - seaweed fertiliser once a week until the fruit has started setting from the flowers. After the fruit is visible switch to tomorite or similar fertiliser once a week instead of the seaweed.
The flowers on pepper plants have a tendency to drop off before fruit has had a chance to set - to avoid this happening, spray the foliage of the plant every couple of days.
As mentioned above, all peppers start out green so if you think one is ready and you have a nice juicy ripe green pepper then I would suggest you leave it for a few more weeks yet! It is likely to change into a much nicer colour which will also produce a slightly different flavour.
There is one positive to this though - you can eat them green so if Autumn is taking hold and you are worried about the plants and the cold, you can pick them green and eat them rather than them going to waste.
Between sowing and harvesting is around 5-6 months from my experience - the packet always says less time but I don't think it takes into account the average British summer... We had that massive heatwave in July 2013 and during that time my pepper plants grew massively, but then slowed down again when the weather went cooler. As I write this now in August I haven't actually harvested a pepper yet although some are close, they are a few weeks away yet. I was harvesting until the start of October last year and the year before and it will probably be the same in 2013.
I have never done this, but you can make fruit ripen faster by removing the plant from its pot and hanging it upside down! This is best done at the end of summer to help speed things along.
To harvest the fruit, use a sharp knife as the way they are attached to the plant can make it quite awkward to remove them using scissors; you may damage the plant if you aren't careful.
Why grow sweet peppers?
The cost of a pepper is around 50-80p from a supermarket, seeds, compost, trays and feed work out cheaper and its more fun!
I love the pepper plants as well; from that tiny little seed you plant they form a fantastic looking plant which is almost like a bonsai with a tiny wooden trunk, masses of roots at the base, great leaves and colourful stems.
They take up little space considering the yield, need not much attention and add colour and style to your greenhouse or poly tunnel (Or windowsill!).
Have I mentioned they taste nice as well? They are very good for you and contain very high levels of Vitamin C and antioxidants.
Thanks for reading, hope I have inspired or helped you and contact me with any questions.
Summary: Sweet peppers are great to grow :)