“Green or orange, yellow or red,
Of this wholesome veggie, there’s much to be said”
Capsicum, also known as bell peppers or sweet peppers, are fruiting veggies that are always in demand! They are relatively easy to grow and make a pretty sight in any urban farm!
SEASON: This is a perennial plant but production dips after a year. So it is practical to treat it as an annual.It grows well in temperate zones and will cooperate with you in Mumbai through the year, provided you don’t have unnaturally high expectations of it during our summers.
PROPAGATING: Capsicum is easily propagated by seed. Buy capsicum seeds from your garden shop, or prepare your capsicum seeds from scratch. Take a fully ripened capsicum and dry it thoroughly in the sun. This may take a few days. Slit it open carefully, separate seeds from plant flesh, and store seeds, in a cool, dark place.
GERMINATING: The monsoons are the best season for planting capsicum so it has a full run of growth until the next monsoons. You can also plant it at the start of every season. Capsicum is best germinated in germination dishes/seeding baskets prepared with a mixture of compost and peat moss. Seeds can be shown in shallow, 1/4 inch deep holes or scattered on the surface with a sprinkling of soil above. Place in semi-shade and spray water evenly. Spray your sown seeds daily until seedlings emerge in 7-10 days.
PLANTING OUT: Your capsicum seedlings will be ready to be planted out when sturdier after 2 weeks, or after the first true leaves appear. Plant them in slightly acidic to neutral, well-drained and well-composted, virgin and disease-free soil in a warm, but not sunny spot. Space out your seedlings at least 18 inches apart to allow room for growth. Capsicum is well suited to container growing but will also grow on open plots.
NURTURING: Place mulch around the soil to reduce evaporation and water each day, preferably in the mornings. As your plants grow they may need support for their weak and brittle stems, so mid-way anchoring to a stick is a good idea. After a month of growth, pinch off the top stem to encourage branches. Thereafter maintain 2 to 4 branches, and prune remainder lateral branches to encourage fruit growth. If your plant growth is hindered and you estimate that excess soil acidity is the issue, then add crushed limestone to your soil mix to reduce the acidity level and encourage growth. Capsicum is prone to white fly disease, fungus and verticilium wilt. For that reason, virgin soil was recommended for growing it, with a strong dose of organic supplements like wood ash powder and neem leaf powder in your soil mix, to prevent soil-borne diseases. Under good soil and weather conditions your plant can grow swiftly and will start producing fruit after about 1 month. Capsicum plants grown under a shade net in tropical climates tend to produce more fruit (unprotected exposure to extreme heat causes flower drop, and with fewer flowers you get fewer fruit!) Watch your plant for fungus on the lower side of its leaves and check periodically for leaf-eaters. Prune affected portions immediately. If the entire plant seems diseased overnight due to verticilium wilt (and not for lack of watering) then uproot entirely and destroy. Do not compost.
HARVESTING: You can harvest your capsicum while the fruit is still tender and green, or allow the fruit to ripen fully and change color (in colored varieties). Use a pair of scissors while harvesting, to prevent damage to the plant. This is a bountifully producing plant, and each healthy plant will give you at least 1 dozen capsicums in season. Your plants will produce all year long. When productivity declines after a year, uproot, compost, replenish your soil and use that space for growing leafing or rooting veggies.
Dried capsicum seeds, and the fruiting plant at two months
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