Peppers, sweet peppers, bell peppers
Sweet peppers come in a good range of fruit colours when mature - red, orange, yellow and even purple. This makes them an excellent ornamental vegetable to grow - even in mixed flower borders or in pots on the patio. Although they tend to crop better when grown under cover - such as in a greenhouse or grow frame - they are reliable croppers outside in warm, sunny summers.
How to grow peppers
To ensure a good, reliable crop, peppers need a warm, sunny position outside, or they can be grown in a greenhouse, grow frame or similar covered structure. Although they can be grown in well-prepared, rich, moisture-retentive soil, they usually crop better and more reliably if grown in containers.
The following are all good, reliable varieties: Ace, Bell Boy, California Wonder, Gypsy, Mohawk, Redskin.
For greenhouse growing, you can sow from mid-February to early April. For growing outdoors, sow in mid- to late March.
Sow seeds at 18-21C (65-70F) in pots of good seed sowing compost. Transplant the seedlings individually into 9-10cm (3-4in) pots when two true leaves have formed, and grow them on at around 16-18C (60-65F).
Gradually harden off the plants for 10-14 days before planting outside.
How to care for peppers
Plants are ready to put into their permanent cropping position once the roots fill the 9-10cm pots.
Pot them up into 23-25cm (9-10in) pots of good compost in late April (if growing in a heated greenhouse), mid-May (unheated greenhouse) or late May/early June if growing outside. They can also be grown in growing-bags, but will need very careful watering. Support them with bamboo canes or similar and tie them in as they grow.
Pinch out the growing tip when plants reach about 20cm (8in) high to encourage bushy growth and better cropping.
Water regularly and feed with a balanced general feed, switching to a high potash feed when the first fruit has set.
Mist the foliage regularly, especially under cover, with tepid water to discourage red spider mite and to improve flower set and cropping.
Pick the fruit as needed when it has reached a good size, is green, swollen and glossy. Or you can keep the fruit on the plant to change colour, but this may reduce the overall crop.