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Gardening advice for colourful capsicums and shining sunflowers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The kaleidoscope of colourful capsicums

Summer is knocking on the door (well it should be), which means it’s now the perfect time to start planting capsicums in your garden.

Capsicums, known in other countries as sweet bell peppers, are surprisingly easy to grow. Their main need is for a warm sunny environment. Once you’ve ticked off that, they’re really plant-and-forget veges - requiring little maintenance.

But what I really love about capsicums is the way they change their colour as they ripen - showing off their kaleidoscope of colour. They all start out green and then change colour to yellow, then orange, and lastly red. And the longer they’re on the plant, the sweeter they will become.

Another great thing about capsicums is that they cope well in confined spaces with little watering. This means they thrive well in a pot. Planting them in a pot also allows you to shift them around to maximise the sun, and also really show them off to your friends and curious neighbours.

At Awapuni Nurseries we have green, yellow, orange, red and purple capsicum seedlings - all available now. And if you want a head start on your growing, we also have a toro (sweet red) variety available as an established plant. The toro (sweet red) has a distinctive horn shape to it. It differs from the classic red capsicum by being thinner, sweeter and taking less time to ripen.

Grab your capsicum seedlings from our online shop and have them delivered direct to your door. We guarantee satisfaction, and if you’re not entirely happy with your plants, we will replace them. If you’re not already familiar with Awapuni, we strive to reduce the plastic we use. Our seedlings come wrapped in newspaper and our orders get sent out in recycled cardboard boxes.

Capsicums like similar growing conditions to your tomatoes. They like a warm, sunny, sheltered and well-drained spot. Before planting, prepare your soil by digging in some compost, sheep pallets or general fertiliser. The richer the soil, the more generous your plant will be with its crop.

Once you’ve prepared your ideal capsicum planting spot, dig holes about 3cm deep, spacing them 40cm apart. Place the seedlings inside and lightly pack down with soil. I like to stake my seedlings at this point. ‘If you stake it, they will grow’ is my positive-thinking attitude to capsicum growing.

Add mulch to help keep the weeds down. Newspaper covered with pea straw can also work really well. And watch out for slugs, who are also big fans of capsicums. Lay down some bait or an organic option is to check out our beer bait, which you can make at home.

From here, keep them watered (more so for those in pots) and give them a feed of liquid fertiliser every fortnight to ensure a bumper crop. But try not to water the leaves of your capsicums, as this can encourage disease.

In two to three months you can start harvesting your capsicums. Some cooks may say a watched pot never boils; well I say a capsicum never ripens when you check it every day. Well of course they do - but they quickly become the most inspected plant in my vege garden, while I’m waiting for them to really ripen up.

Rise and shine sunflowers

Sunflowers are pure fun in the garden. They’re bright, cheery and bring out the inner child in us all. For me, they also release my competitive streak - where I can’t help but check out other people’s sunflowers and mentally compare them to ones I’m growing.

After the erratic spring weather we’ve been having lately, December is the perfect time to start thinking about planting some sunflowers in your garden.

Sunflowers come in all shapes and sizes. Varying in height (from to 60cm to 3m tall), and flowering in colours from crimson to orange, yellow and even stripes. Most sunflowers each produce a single flower head, although some branching varieties grow multiples. And the largest heads can grow up to 50cm wide.

Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning they turn their heads throughout the day to gain maximum sun rays on their faces. So factor this in when you’re working out where to plant them in the garden. If you place them on the western border to your house, they’ll be facing away from you in the afternoon sun.

When it comes to growing sunflowers, they are pretty easy. They require a sheltered, well-drained, but only moderately, fertile soil. However, it’s key that they’re planted in a super sunny spot that gets at least six to eight hours of daily sun.

This year Awapuni Nurseries has gone for a classic, bright yellow flowering, single stem sunflower - the Russian giant. It definitely lives up to its name and can reach up to 3m high.

You can grab some Russian giant sunflower seedlings from our Awapuni Nurseries online shop. We deliver direct to your door and guarantee satisfaction. If for any reason you’re not entirely happy with your order we will replace it. Our regular bundles have nine seedlings, or the bulk bundles come with 25 seedlings in them.

Now work out where to plant them. I personally love the group impact they can make when grown in a bunch together or along a fence line.

Dig holes around 3cm deep and plant your seedlings approximately 30cm apart. Sunflowers can really suck the nutrients and water out of the ground around them, so make sure any nearby annuals are around 30cm away from the sunflower stem.

Now is also the time to stake them to ensure they don’t topple over later on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can shoot up, so its important to stake early before you risk damaging the root systems.

Water your sunflowers in the morning to avoid root rot overnight. Once established they don’t really need any fertiliser, but adding some every few weeks is a good idea if you’re entering them in a tallest sunflower competition or just really want to show off.

You can also grow sunflowers in pots. I recommend at least a 30L pot, as you don’t want the sunflower to get top heavy and topple over. Again, stake it right from when you plant the seedling so you keep the root systems intact. Having them near a fence or wall where you can secure them to something else is also recommended to ensure their stems don’t break under their own weight.

In two to three months your sunflowers should have risen and be shining proud in your garden. Later, when the heads begin to droop you can harvest their heads for seeds.

Once harvested, soak the seeds over night in a lightly salted water. Then slow roast them for 40 mins at 150C. Once cooled, store in an airtight jar in the fridge for two months or freezer for up to a year. Enjoy them added to salads or savoury baking for many months to come. Delicious.

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