Want to grow peppers? Here is your complete guide

Capsicum Farm in Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Commonly called pilipili hoho in Kenya, capsicum is a favorite spice in most Kenyan dishes. Other people will call it capsicum, capsicum, or just pepper.

Peppers are native to Mexico, Central America and northern South America. Pepper seeds were brought to Spain in 1493 and then spread to Europe and Asia.

So why the name capsicum? According to online sources, capsicum is the name of the genus of flowering plants and their fruits that we know and eat as “bell peppers” or simply “bell peppers.” Their name comes from the Greek word “kapto” which means “to bite” or “to swallow”.

“Growing the Pasarella and Ilanga varieties in a greenhouse has been beneficial. The productivity of these two varieties has not changed for two years now,” says Charity Ocharo, a producer of red and yellow peppers from Karibaribi in Thika town.

Chilies, bell peppers (pilipili hoho), garlic (white) and ginger (brown) June 10, 2020 [David Gichuru, Standard]

Interesting facts about bell pepper

The green and red peppers commonly seen in supermarkets are actually the same pepper.

“Red peppers just mature longer on the plant. The longer a pepper stays on the plant, the higher its vitamin C content; red peppers therefore contain more vitamin C and are sweeter,” says Ocharo.

Due to the effects of climate change, farmers have now adapted to greenhouse cultivation so that they can control capsicum growing conditions, off-season production, and higher productivity.

Here are the steps to consider when preparing to grow capsicum in your greenhouse.

Soil tests

Soil testing informs the farmer of soil fertility and acidity level.

“Capsicum requires slightly acidic soil with a high organic matter content, good moisture-holding capacity, well-drained and well-aerated soil,” says Ocharo.

Cultivation and transplanting of seeds

Peppers are normally grown in the nursery before transplanting healthy seedlings after 30-45 days.

To ensure you get the best seedlings in the nursery, follow this procedure.

  1. a) Preparation for the nursery

Place your seedling trays on an elevated flat surface in a greenhouse. “Remember to fill all seed trays with cocopit or other planting medium,” says Ocharo.

Capsicum Farm in Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Water until there is plenty of water flowing to the bottom of the hole. Five to six days after sowing your seeds, spray your tray with a chemical to prevent cutworms.

  1. b) Transplantation

Before transplanting, soak the soil using the drip irrigation system.

“During transplanting, use NPK/DAP (depending on soil test results) at 30 grams per hole and mix well with the soil. Make holes for the plants to a depth of four to five cm (covering roots only) with a 60cm by 45cm spacing between plants in a zigzag pattern,” says Ocharo.

Temperature

Capsicum grows well at temperatures between 18 degrees Celsius and 32 degrees Celsius.

Pesticides and fertilizers

As a farmer, you need to apply a soluble starter fertilizer designed to feed the crop immediately after transplanting.

“Begin feeding your crop starter fertilizer twice a week for the first three weeks from the planting date,” says Ocharo.

Harvest

Fruits are ready for harvest 8-12 weeks after transplanting.

To harvest, gently separate the fruit from the plant. Leave some stem on the fruit.

Rough treatment during harvesting can injure the plant as the stems are very brittle and can break easily.

Common pests

Mites and aphids are two common pests of peppers, especially when grown under cover.

“For spider mites, spray leaf areas regularly at the first sign of attack to make conditions as hostile as possible for spider mites. For aphids, move plants outdoors away from other peppers, then turn the plants carefully so that you can eliminate the aphids,” says Ocharo.

Health benefits of capsicum

1.Capsicum is a healthy vegetable that can be eaten raw and cooked, often as a side vegetable, especially because of its crispiness.

2.Like other fruits and vegetables, capsicum improves eye health and reduces the risk of anemia.

3.Helpful in preventing diabetes, cancer and yellow fever.

Market

Farmers who grow yellow peppers are twice as likely to sell their produce at double the price as those who grow red peppers. For example, a 250 gram fruit is worth Sh10 to Sh30 depending on the location of the market. The red variety of the same weight ranges from Sh5 to Sh25.

“The yellow ones ripen faster than the red variety. In the yellow stage, it’s better for salads because it’s sweeter, so a favorite of many high-end hotels,” says Ocharo.

Growing bell pepper in greenhouses can reap more yields compared to an open field. Since it is easier to control weather and soil conditions, pests that might attack them, and other conditions. However, growing capsicum will depend on how well you take care of your farm.

Commonly grown pepper varieties in Kenya include: Maxibel, California Wonder, Green Bell F1, Yolo Wonder, Pasarella F1, Ilanga Wonder, Golden sun F1, Minerva F1 among many others.

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