Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Hamishmac, Feb 27, 2009.

  1. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Hi Folks,

    A couple of the permies to whom I sent some chillies asked me for some growing tips. As well as putting down my ideas, I'd like to invite tips from anybody about what works and what doesn't, given that my experience relates to the subtropics in SE Qld, where most chillies will grow as perennials, and we have a decent warm growing season. I've got around 70 varieties on 150 bushes, and learn mostly by trial and error, and I grow them for fun. Chillies generally do quite well with little looking after. My "getting a yield/ return the surplus" is getting good conversation or meeting new people when giving them away or talking about them, as I can't possibly eat several hundred chillies a day!

    Varieties

    5 common species, a couple of dozen wild, and 3000-odd varieties described. Family is solanums (also includes tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, tobacco).

    Capsicum Annuum: nearly all shop bought chillies, and all capsicums (bell peppers) are Annuum. Most grow well here.

    Capsicum Baccatum: include the South American Aji's. Also do well.

    Capsicum Chinense: the habaneros and scotch bonnets. Do OK. Growth not as prolific as the above.

    Capsicum Frutescens: includes the Tabasco chilli. Variable success.

    Capsicum Pubescens: (means "hairy") includes the Roccoto chillies. Black seeds, more vine-like and sprawling. Original habitat I think was at higher altitude in Peru/ Bolivia. Struggles here. First fruit just coming through on 30cm bushes after 3 years in the ground.

    Propagation

    I've only done it from seed. Haven't heard of tried any forms of striking cuttings, layering or grafting. Would be interested to try if anybody else has info.

    Germination

    The hardest bit. Fresh seeds germinate much more easily than dried. Methods depend on whether you've got a plentiful supply of seed, and how keen you are to get a particular cultivar. They do self seed, but not prolifically. Can take a few days up to 3-4 weeks. Need warm temps, over 25 degrees best. In temperate areas could start indoors, and transplant out as seedlings.
    If plentiful supply, easiest is to grab a pile of fresh chillies and scatter them under a bit of dirt or mulch, crush underfoot first if you feel like it, water, and walk away. Little clusters of seedlings emerge, wait a few weeks and thin out to strongest.
    More controlled is to germinate in trays or pots. I've had good success putting a bunch of whole chillies into a mix of compost & aged horse manure, just covered and no more, in a broccoli box, and transplanting and thinning out later.
    If limited supply of fresh chillies can scrape out the seeds and put a dozen or two into seed trays or pots. Germinating mediums I've tried include wet paper towels, standard seed germinating mix, potting mix, compost, manure, and more recently sterile seed raising mixtures in take-away food containers. Medium needs to be kept moist, but not waterlogged. I usually put the tray/pot in a plastic bag or cover with clingfilm till germination starts, then give them some light. Seeds just buried by no more than 5 mm, only just covered will do. I keep out of direct sunlight to avoid day/night fluctuations, but in temperate areas where cooler direct sun might help (?).
    Dried seed very variable & depends on supplier, age of seed, and variety. I soak the seed overnight first.


    Transplanting

    Seedlings are very delicate post-germination, handle as little as possible, and keep just moist. Adequate light so that they don't grow spindly and fall over, and if in a nutrient poor mix, watering with dilute worm or compost tea once a week seems to help. Can transplant when able to handle, usually when first true leaves have developed. I pot them on first, then into the garden later.

    Soil & Aspect

    Tolerate and like full sun as long as well mulched, although scattered and filtered light OK. Don't like windy areas, large plants fall over, laden branches snap. Staking helps. Some of my plants are 2 metres by 2 metres, and laden with 100-200 big chillies can need 3 or 4 stakes on the main branches. The better the soil the better the plant, like tomatoes, although I've a few plants that like the clay.

    Watering, Feeding & Deficiencies

    I've read that the chillies are hotter if you let the plant dry out completely, and they will tolerate a dry spell. I prefer to keep roots just moist tho' and if no rain give them some water a couple of times a week. The big established bushes only need water when drooping.
    Like tomatoes, they love compost, aged manure or worm castings. I've used organic extra or blood and bone for sickly looking ones and also fish or seaweed extract, but I think it is all down to the soil. If you overdo the nitrogen you get lots of soft green growth and leaves but no flowers and fruit.
    Quite a few of my plants show chlorosis, or yellowing of the leaves between the veins, which remain dark green. This is mainly on the older leaves; the new growth is OK. The soil PH to start with was an acidic high 5/low 6, and it was really crappy soil. I used dolomite and lime for PH control (and the calcium & magnesium may help flowering & fruiting), and scattered some crushed rock dust around. I think things are improving just with improving soil nitrogen and structure with compost, aged manure and worm castings. I haven't had a formal soil analysis done (yet!)

    Fertilisation

    They generally do just fine on their own. I've read that they will cross-pollinate between the same species and produce chillies not true to type. If this is really important to you then you may need to just grow one type, or plant at opposite ends of the block. I've also tried to help things along by brushing fingertip on the stamens of a flower, then brushing onto the other flowers on the same plant.

    Pruning

    When they've stopped producing and we're coming into our dry spell (April-Nov) I prune back the spindly leggy stuff, but it is not essential.

    Pests/ Diseases

    Generally pretty good. Not much trouble with aphids but grasshoppers and caterpillars will happily munch on new seedlings.
    The odd bush will sometimes get rot on all the fruits, and drop the lot. Might be some kind of blight or viral/bacterial cause.
    Main issue is Queensland fruit fly, which preferentially goes for the bigger fleshier varieties and leaves the little ones alone. First sign is rot in the flesh, though sometimes a black spot round the egg injection site. Put affected fruit in a plastic bag in the bin, don't compost or bury, as this is part of the fruit fly breeding cycle and leads to more problems next year. On bushes where I know there have been problems in the past I tend to pick the chillies earlier at the green, or just a hint of red stage. I wonder if the brush turkeys that do so much damage to sweet potatoes etc actually help reduce fruit fly problems by eating the grubs in the soil?
    I haven't used any sprays/insecticides or pesticides at all to date.

    Cooking/ Eating

    That's a whole new area...no time to write a book now!

    What tips have all you other hot-heads and chilliphiles got to share?


    Hamish

    PS still plenty to give away. PM me.
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Was there a "best" method to get them to germinate in trays? In fact, can you suggest a sure fire never fail best germination method for any seed type? (say she who has just spent up big at Eden seeds and is itching to see little green shoots come up)

    Is there a best time to plant chilli / capsicum?

    I have nothing to add as a newby - but I'd be happy to see you write something like this for every plant I hope to cultivate in my garden :idea:
     
  3. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Very good advice (above)
    See also the Australian Book The Fragrant Chilli, out of print now, but your libary may have a copy or you can write to the author who has copies.. The propagation method in The Fragrant Chilli is to put the seeds in sandwich of vermiculite on sterile seed raising mix. I have raised thousands of seeds successfully with this method. Vermiculite is a water-holding, sterile rock. You must keep it damp with a fine mist all the time until seeds germinate

    This is important if the seeds are organic or your own. I would not use any manure near any seed because of potential fungal problems. Although commercial seed is treated with fungicides and you may get away with it.Sunlight is also a trigger to germination as many are rainforest- 'floor' plants.
    The Manzano (Apple) Chilli is uncommon in Oz and really gets into its stride in about three years It is a massive vine with large,almost- apple -sized, very hot chillies.
    [​IMG]
    The orange Manzano/Rocoto/Apple Chilli
    I start planting seed in spring and have just planted some old, orange Manzano seed that I found buried in my junk/'stuff'. However they don't look like coming up- although they are said to take up to two weeks- so maybe I'm just impatient!
    I had no vermiculite so used peat and seed mix instead. So I would appreciate someone saving me some Manzano seed if anyone can.
    They grow well in a Mediterranean climate and should take a bit more cold than most. Like most hairy leaved plants it is best not to water the leaves (The hairs are their to collect water and protect against cold).

    Theoretically all Chillies are perennials. However many can die in winter anywhere south of warm, coastal Newcastle NSW

    Some of the 2,000+ Chilli varieties.
    [​IMG]
    https://www.iskcon.net.au/kurma/discuss/msgReader$4867
    The Aztecs and Mayans were hybridising them for maybe 2,000 years.

    The hottest Chilli I have ever encountered was a chocolate habanero in high summer ( not as hot in Autumn, and its shape changed -became more elongated!)

    I have grown chillies from cuttings. This is the only way to stop good hybrids from reverting-otherwise I think many are more vigorous if grown from seed, fresh each year.

    The yellowing of leaves could be a lack of iron look to PH, or add some iron chelate or old, used steel-wool-pads.
    Could also be a lack of magnesium.

    The biggest seed collection/bank of chillies is in Taiwan. This is odd really, for apart from Szechwan most of China is not into chillies.
     
  4. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    eco4560,

    It starts with the quality of the seeds. You won't have any worries with your seeds from Eden (or Greenharvest), but I've had very some variable & disappointing results from seeds bought from Ebay. Young & fresh definitely better than old.

    My best germination successes have come from using compost or sterile seed mix. Michaelangelica hit the bullseye by saying you've got to keep it moist: I think compost & sterile mix stay moister for longer than the ordinary seed mixes or potting mix, where I could come home late in the afternoon and find that trays I had watered that morning were virtually dried out on hot days. I'm also gaining the impression that the standard seed trays are not deep enough & dry out too quickly unless filled to the brim with mix, or kept in a shadehouse, so recycled polystyrene broccoli boxes work for me. Again, covering the box with clingfilm till germination acts to keep humidity constant and high, and reduce evaporation. Not so essential further South, but I think helps a lot here. In fact, as mentioned I'm now trying sterile seed mix in take-away food containers in which I sow the seed into the moist mix, then just seal the lid on and leave, adding no further water at all till after germination. The same keep-them-moist principal applies in the garden where under a hot sun the top layer of soil can dry out very quickly, so when I'm direct sowing I scatter just enough mulch to barely cover the seeded area, thus creating a humid micro-layer between the mulch and soil, which has helped a lot.

    Sowing too deep is another issue, and chilli seeds generally only need just covered. For your other seeds I think the general rule of thumb is about 1 & 1/2 times the diameter of the seed is the required depth, but I'll stand corrected by anybody more knowledgeable.

    In temperate areas I'd definitely aim to germinate in Spring for a summer fruit crop, but where it is warmer, I tend to get good results from Spring to Autumn, although late seedlings won't fruit till the following year as they go quiet over winter. Quite variable from bush to bush; some do a one-month dash in summer then no chillies for a year, whereas I've got a Siam variety that has fruit for 9-10 months and only stops in winter.

    Michaelangelica,

    Thanks for your advice and the really useful germination info on this method, and also re propagating from cuttings, and considering iron/ magnesium. It is so helpful to hear from other chilli growers on what works for them. I'll give the vermiculite sandwich a shot and report back.

    If you want a couple of fresh Roccoto's to replace your Manzano I'll send fresh to you, when a bit more ripe. Or indeed a selection of others. I've got most of the varieties displayed in your pic.

    Hamish
     
  5. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Thanks for the offer hamish I will wait a couple of weeks and see. The seeds are three years old but were in a sealed jar. What colour is you Manzano?
    I am retired so if my memory saves me I can mist them whenever I think of it. I do have a problem of snails and cockroaches eating seedlings. I just lost a little apple tree :( I was given a beaut, sturdy, little greenhouse-box for Christmas but forgot to put the lid back on one night.


    My wife is allergic to most chillies, so I find that me not eating them for a while negates your immunity to their heat! :violent3:
    I mostly give mine away or make medicines with them. I used to have a huge collection but now have a pretty shady backyard so only grow some different types each year.
    I did see a beatiful VERY dark, very shiny red Chilli about 8" long, thin skinned in a Rista. I was given one but never managed to get it up. I would love to grow it. But I have not been able to identify it in any of the books.

    Have you tried the Chilli list group? :director: :computer:
    It is amazing. Good way of wasting most of your life- hundreds of posts per day!!
    There are some real chilli-nutters out there (but all fun people). :angry4:

    Your comment
    is also spot on.
    Seedling trays are designed for nurseries with automatic misting systems.
    Not for someone who disappears at 8am and comes home at 6pm!

    Warmest wishes :)
     
  6. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Thanks all - this is great info.
     
  7. JoanVL

    JoanVL Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    They self-seed in our very clay-y, SEq garden, and one chilli bush has grown through a crack in an old concrete slab where we have a wrought iron table, and upwards through the gaps in the iron table top. So we sit there having our evening cuppa, with a natural red and green centrepiece on the table.
     
  8. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Good to hear this JoanVL as the next area of bush I want to reclaim from the Lantana & Spear Grass has a band of clay about 10cm down. Do you get pests or fruit fly in your neck of the woods?

    Dunno. I'd say a 50% chance red, and 50% chance orange/yellow :) .It has been 3 years since I planted them, so I've forgotten. I keep telling myself to write down what I plant, what variety and date, but can never be arsed going to get a pen & paper when I'm down on the block covered in soil, compost & mosquitoes. One of the two bushes finally has 2 immature green plum-sized chillies on it. I'll let you know in a few weeks when they mature & ripen.

    M-A, what is this chilli list you mention?

    Hamish
     
  9. JoanVL

    JoanVL Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Yes, we do get fruit fly and other pests. I use pyrethrum against grasshoppers, but I'm currently looking up a method against qld fruit fly that involves hanging plastic bottles in the fruit trees. The bottles have a small hole in the side, and a mixture in the bottom, then the lid is screwed on. I haven't worked out what mixture it is though. I seem to remember one involving vegemite ( a good use for the vile stuff) but don't have a recipe yet. My mangoes survived OK - except the odd one got eaten by either fruit bats or possums. Same with paw paw, but the beasties leave enough for me. Cockatoos get a few passion fruit, but again, they leave enough behind.

    Other control methods: I planted wormwood around the chook pen, and that deters flies. I interplanted basil with my tomatoes, and so far both are unscathed. Nasturtium, which also seems to like my clay soil, seems to protect spuds. And finally little clumps of feverfew near brassicas seem to keep the nasties away.
     
  10. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    It is, or was, a very active Listerv group.
    I have tried to find it on the web but get the Rock band or country
    Wait a minute the book. :idea:
    Who said books were dead?
    :arrow: :arrow: :arrow:
    . . .
    https://www.netimages.com/~chile
    It is many years since I subscribed so I don't know how active or if that address is still current.

    Manzonos are usually orange or red or a cherry colour (rare). The immature fruit is of course green. manzanos have black seeds.

    Fruit Fly.
    You really need everyone in your area to use traps. Dak-pots have been shown to be extremely effective used ringing a whole farming valley/community.
    There are a few tips for fruit fly in The Fragrant Chilli as they do seem to love them
    You can use alcohol as a trap, but it needs to be strong (sherry? port) and you need to replace it frequently as the alcohol evaporates. (The sweetness attracts, the alcohol kills, as we know from our studies of Homo sapiens)
    You also need to hope you don't live close to a winery as those fruit fly (like the Irish? :drinkers: :) ) have a genetic ability to cope with alcohol.
    Failing that, move to Tasmania, the lucky baskets don't have fruit fly and grow all sorts of fruit everywhere. :butthead:

    I have a lot of slides (pics.) of chillies i have taken over the years One day slide=computer file scanners will become cheap enough for me to buy and I will show them to you!
     
  11. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Hi, to germinate chili seeds, perfectly, appart from needing fresh seed, they need bottom heat, no sunlight or heat above
    unil they do germinate.
    so a heat pad is essential for chili heads, before I got one I used to just leave them on top of the hot water tank
    which is around 24deg give or take and work ok except the wind knocks 'em around.

    Rocoto's don't really grow to apple size, they look like apples on a tree though, maybe your confused with the bell chili,
    grows big like an apple but looks like a bell, but having said that, if you were to thin out a rocoto to just a couple fruits,
    maybe they will grow to apple size.

    a rocoto, germinated like now, autumn, potted up until spring, then planted out will be in fruit by summer.
    and infact will not stop flowering until winter again, here's two I have in tubs, which were germinated march last year.
    a few weeks ago we had a heat wave, the 3rd day I wasn't around and the sun burn about 50 chili's on each plant,
    within a week, the plants just threw out 50 more flowers :)

    anyways, rocoto's are my thing, there's so much to do in the garden every year that I just have no time for other types of chili, rocoto lives for a good 10 years, provides more chili's then anyone could ever need on just one tree so I see no point in fiddling with other varieties much in the little space I have, except from a good drying chili as rocoto ain't good for drying really.

    worm tea is good, comfrey tea is great when in flower and fruit, but yeah, it's about soil preperation.

    here's the rocoto's I have growing on my driveway in them blue barrels cut in half, so the're 100lt.
    being in tubs they need hard pruning otherwise they sprawl out too much and it's very hard to support fruit laden branches.
    these two are my mothers plants, just for picking choice fruits for their seeds, my aim is to see a rocoto in front of every house around me, and seeing as though so many have trouble growing from seed, i'll do it for them.

    I think growing heaps of varieties of chili's is a great hobby, if I had space i'd do it too, but for now i'll stick to rocoto
    simply because you get so much bang for your buck, a nice fruity chili is a good companion to rocoto when making sauce.
    habanero like taste but without as much heat would be a nice blend.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Manzano = apple in Spanish. In 1492 apples were a little smaller than today.
    Your are right about the role of Temperatures in propagation
    from The Fragrant Chilli
    Germination most varieties 20-30C
    Soil temp of 15C seedlings take up to 25 days to emerge
    At 25C seedlings emerge in eight days days (P.32)

    The longer they take the more that go wrong.

    If you want more 'bangs for you buck' mix a Manzano and a Habanero with a hot C. annum variety (Tepin?) to make a hot chilli sauce :tongue8: :violent3:
    It will lay out most chilli heads. :drinkers: :lol:
     
  13. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    manzano still relates to the look of the chili, not the size.
    a banana chili isn't so 'cos it's the size of a banana :)

    the bang for your buck refference was about quantity of produce, not the heat.
    if you want hot then you can't beat Bhut Jolokia [​IMG]
     
  14. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Hi,

    @ FREE permaculture...wow, hubba hubba etc. Great looking plants. I didn't know all that about rocotos. I never even thought about the top of the hot water tank for germination. It is under the house, sheltered and wind free, and I could use it as a spring starter spot. I've dug out my box of seeds and found some red rocotos, so will give them a shot even tho' 3 years old.

    https://www.rocoto.com/ has more growing info.

    My rocotos are in clay-ish soil in full sun. I wonder if I should dig them up and pot them instead in a semi-filtered sun area? Might try that.

    What is the fencing wire/grille at the base of the bush for? Is it support, or for pests?

    I read that rocotos are about 50,000 SHU's. Does that mean you can use them in cooking/recipes/sauces much the same as jalapenos, siam and serrano's, or are they a good bit hotter?

    They look really fleshy so may be an ideal target for fruit fly. I'll put bags round my two precious fruits today.

    Lastly, anybody, stupid question perhaps :oops:. How do you insert pictures directly into your posts?

    Hamish
     
  15. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    you need to load your pictures onto a website, like photobucket, from there your pics will have three codes for different applications, to post in a thread you use the "IMG code" which looks like
    Code:
    [IMG]https://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f13/civon68/behindbars7.jpg[/IMG]
    that you copy and place into your post, the picture will then show up when the message is posted.

    I think heat ratings vary a lot, depending on climate and time of year, a rocoto could go from mild to quite wild at different times of the year.
    https://ushotstuff.com/Heat.Scale.htm shows rocoto to be very hot, I rate them 6/10 generally, so quite hot.
    hotter than jalepeno 5/10 but i've also had rocoto that was almost heatless so who knows for sure.

    The wire is just for birds :)

    I'm happy to send you a couple fresh red ones off my tree, just short of ripe yellow variety at this stage, just pm a postal addy.
     
  16. Tezza

    Tezza Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    heres my attempt to post pics in here

    Tezza
     
  17. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Hamish,

    Have you had any problems with spider mites? My capsicum plants are under siege. The mites attack most things including strawberries, peas and beans, pumpkin, and eventually they got to the capsicum. One capsicum is bearing fruit but the leaves are losing their chlorophyll. I've tried spraying water and basil tea (they don't touch the basil) on the undersides of the leaves, but this is labour intensive and only slows them down.

    Cheers,
    Tim
     
  18. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    Yay for learning how to insert pics!

    Here's a selection of what I've got.

    [​IMG]

    @ Tim,

    Thankfully, we're not (yet) really bothered much by spider mites. I think the aphids, caterpillars and fruit fly ate them all 8) . Dipel (contains Bt- a naturally occurring bacillus) might not help as it targets caterpillars more, but would Derris Dust (rotenone) help as a last resort? Both I think are naturally occuring and act by targeting the bugs that actually consume the leaves, not as a surface spray, so relatively speaking spares the good bugs. Still a pain in the backside to have to go round and dust everything tho'. And it is guaranteed, along with irrigating the garden with vast quantities of precious water, to make it rain within 24 hours!

    Hamish
     
  19. FREE Permaculture

    FREE Permaculture Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    wow, now that's a collection :)
    quite stunning to look at, them red ones up the back, scotch bonnet? what's their story? easy to grow?
    would be a huge hit at markets ect,

    for what it's worth, for milder things like capsicums, letting things like nasturtium sprawl underneath plants will
    help to host predatorial insects that eat things like spidey mites, also garlic/chives & turnips will help too, chili's don't have much insect problem, actually some say that the more the're attacked, the hotter they get.
     
  20. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: Tips on Growing Chillies (and Capsicums)?

    spider mites seem to come when plants are not getting enough water

    A professional strawberry grower friend, got rid of them by watering/spraying (under leaves and on top) with Seaweed fertiliser !
     

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