The capsicum plants that are currently growing in my garden were planted from seed during spring 2013. At the time I never expected them to be still growing 3 years later!
The first year I was a little disappointed that the plants took until the end of the summer to really get going. In fact it was early autumn when they were at their most productive and it seemed a shame to just let them die over winter.
So that year I decided to have a go at protecting them from the cold by covering them with a large sheet of plastic. They didn’t look very healthy at the end of the winter because all of their leaves had fallen off and they just looked like sticks! But as the weather began to warm up I took the plastic off and discovered that they we beginning to get new shoots. By early summer there were lots of little capsicums on the way!
The next year I decide to try and insulate the capsicums a bit more over winter using straw bales. I had seen others online making a cold frame from straw bales (here) so I thought I would try something similar with our capsicums.
I was able to pick up some straw bales quite cheaply from a nearby farm and I used an old window that we had stored in the shed to cover the top of the bales. I found that 4 straw bales were all I needed to surround the 4 capsicum plants that I had growing. I just had to prune them down a bit so that the top of the plants were not hitting the glass.
This basic cold frame type structure was enough to protect the capsicums so that they did not die back as much as the previous year. I also covered the glass with frost cloth when the temperature fell below zero just to give some added protection. They did look at bit poor at the end of the winter but this time they still had quite a few leaves still on them.
I find that this is the only way to ensure that we get a good crop of capsicums from spring right through to autumn.
My Tips for Overwintering Capsicum Plants in the Garden
- When the night time temperature begin to drop significantly make a boarder of straw bales around the capsicum plants
- Prune back the capsicums so that the height of the plants is below the top of the straw bales
- Prune off any remaining capsicums
- Place a piece of glass over the bales to cover the capsicums (old door or window is good)
- On nights when the temperature is expected to fall below freezing cover the glass with frost cloth or blanket/sheet (remove cloth in the morning)
- Check soil around the capsicums every 3 or four weeks and add some water if it is very dry (they won’t benefit much from any rain because they are covered)
- In late winter and early spring as the days begin to warm prop the glass up a little to allow some airflow into the plants (as the weather continues to warm and the plants start producing flowers again this will allow access for the bees)
- Once the last frost has passed and the night time temperatures begin to rise remove the glass and the bales
- You won’t get any capsicums over winter but your plants will bounce back quickly when the weather warms up and they will start producing much earlier
- I have found that my capsicum plants, when well protected, are able to cope with temperatures down to -5 °C /23 °F (we get several frost each winter that get that cold)
Once you know what you are doing overwintering capsicum plants is really quite easy. Plus I have found that our capsicum plants have become more productive each year. It is wonderful to be able to harvest your own capsicums all spring and summer!
I am aware that at some stage I will have to give that patch of the garden a rest. So I am planning on planting some more capsicums this spring so that I can get those plants growing and look after them for a few years!
After doing some reading I have discovered that you can also grow capsicums in pots and then overwinter them indoors too. Have a look at this link that discusses overwintering capsicum plants.