The standard bell pepper was introduced in 1928 and is still the largest open-pollinated, heirloom bell pepper that you can grow, and a big improvement over the earlier bells.

Sweet Pepper Californian Wonder is the widely adapted standard variety that is a favorite with gardeners and widely used for commercial production. The plant produces well and does well in both cool and warm weather. It consistently produces large yields of blocky, four-lobed thick-walled fruit that are mild and sweet, tender and flavourful. The plant is medium tall, 60 to 70cm (24 to 28in) with good foliage cover which provides good scald protection for the fruit. Each plant produces 4 to 5 wonderfully sweet bell peppers.

This versatile sweet pepper produces large glossy green fruits which mature to red the longer you leave them on the plant. The fruits average 170 grams (6oz) and measure 10 x 12cm (4in x 4¾in). Perfect for all cooking uses from salads, to stir-fries, grilling, stuffing and using in stews and casseroles.

Sowing: Sow indoors from mid August to October, but are best sown before the end of September. Sweet Peppers need a long growing season. They flourish in a sunny, sheltered position on a north-facing wall in cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost. Sow the seeds on the surface. 'Just cover' with a fine sprinkling of sieved compost or vermiculite. Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure). If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide. Cover the pot or tray with plastic or place in a heated propagator, north facing window or a warm greenhouse. The ideal temperature is around 22°C (72°F). They can be slow to germinate from 21 to 28 days. Remove the cover as soon as seedlings appear.

Transplanting: When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves and are about 5cm (2in) tall they can be transplanted to individual 9cm (4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the seedlings on again into 2 litre pots before they become root-bound. Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently. Allow the top or the compost to dry out in between watering.

Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.

In November to December transplant to greenhouse border, growbags or large pots. Wait until December for plants that are to be grown outdoors in the ground or in 4 to 5 litre pots. Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flowers do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until December for best results with outdoor planting.

Cultivation: The plants can be left to grow as cordons with supports and just pinch out the top when they reach the greenhouse roof. But the best method is to pinch out the growing tip and produce a smaller bushier plant that will only need a little staking and produce earlier fruits which should ripen easier. After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract to the water once a week.

Pollinating Flowers: Optional. The plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud or paintbrush to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, going from one flower to the next, transferring the pollen. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the pepper beginning to grow.

Harvesting: January to April - 70 days from transplant to harvest. The peppers will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to ripen. You may pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed but do not leave them on for too long, as delaying after the pepper is ready for harvest will result in a decline of further yields.

Storage: Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for several days, or chop and freeze for up to six months. They can be dried by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot.

Companion Planting: Good Companions:

Tomatoes, geraniums, and, petunias.
Bad Companions: Avoid beans, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.

Things We Grow