Summer's rainbow harvest

Owen Pidgeon
Heat's on ... Habaneros thrive in hot weather. The origins of these plants are in Central and South America
Heat's on ... Habaneros thrive in hot weather. The origins of these plants are in Central and South America Photo: Supplied

Create a riot of colours over summer by planting capsicums. As summer progresses, the colour changes from green to red, orange, yellow or purple, depending on variety.

Like so many other foods of distinction, these plants come from Central and South America and were introduced into Europe by Christopher Columbus.

You must have a sunny location as these are sun-loving plants and grow well on the long hot summer days. They take more time to produce a crop than tomatoes and need higher temperatures for the seeds to germinate, but there is still time to plant your own seeds now.

Water lovers ... Rocoto manzano.
Water lovers ... Rocoto manzano. Photo: Supplied

Allow three months for a seedling to grow into a bushy plant and begin flowering, which means harvesting at the end of summer, unless you have already propagated some seeds in a glasshouse or on a sunny windowsill.

Capsicums need to be watered regularly over summer. Mulch around the little bushy plants to keep the moisture in and give them a fortnightly watering with a seaweed solution.

The fruit will become quite heavy for the bushes, so provide support with wooden stakes and tie up the branches with twine.

Capsicums taste best soon after harvest, so leave in the garden until you're ready to eat them.

The sweet bell-shaped capsicums have good thick, fleshy walls. If you leave them until they turn a rich red you will gain maximum supplies of vitamin C.

Californian wonder is the best-known bell-shaped capsicum, with a sweet fruit of about 10 centimetres. The related golden calwonder produces fruit that turns from medium green to golden yellow.


Sweet chocolate has a fruit that turns into a rich dark brown. This was very productive when we grew it last summer. Purple beauty is another distinctive-coloured capsicum. It will produce fruit to 13 centimetres and they will be deep red to purple when ripe.

Marconi red is an Italian heirloom variety with medium-thick flesh and a mild, sweet flavour. The fruit is long and slender, growing up to 17 centimetres. Corno di toro is also an Italian heirloom variety. It grows long, tapered, curved fruit that is stunning yellow or red when fully ripe. It is a good variety to grow in cooler areas.

One very good thing about these members of the solanum family is that you can keep them growing through two or three years if you can keep them protected through winter. This means potting them up and moving them inside in winter, but will give you an early start-up next season. You might need to choose a few of your strongest plants to carry over if you 

This week

■ Plant open-leaf lettuces, rocket, tatsoi and mizuna for summer salads. Plant silverbeet, beans, carrots and radishes directly into your garden.

■ Prepare garden circles of 80-90 centimetres with raised rims for planting jap, jarrahdale and cinderella pumpkins, sugar baby and warpaint watermelons, and hales best rockmelons. Fill the centres with lots of well-prepared compost and cover with a thin layer of soil. Plant three seeds in each circle and water well.

■ Plant out tomato seedlings. Use a new garden bed that hasn't grown potatoes, capsicums or tomatoes for the past two years to avoid soil-borne diseases. Transplant seedlings, allowing at least 30 centimetres between plants - they can become quite large and bushy. Stake when planting to avoid root damage later. Plant basil alongside your tomato rows.

■ Cover your large-leaf and other frost-tender plants at night when the forecast is for cool nights. This will help the plants to keep growing and begin flowering earlier, as you are trapping some daytime heat.

■ Compost all garden weeds, vegetable scraps and grass clippings, except couch grass.

have grown a number, as they need to be in quite large pots.

>> Owen Pidgeon runs the Loriendale Organic Orchard near Hall.