Capsicum farm at Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Commonly known as pilipili hoho in Kenya, capsicum is a favourite spice in most Kenyan meals. Other people will refer to it as bell pepper, sweet pepper or just pepper. 

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

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

“Growing Pasarella and Ilanga variety in a green house has been benefitial. The productivity of this two varieties has not changed for two years now,” says Charity Ocharo a red and yellow bell pepper farmer from Karibaribi in Thika town. 

Chillies, capsicum(pilipili hoho), garlic (white) and ginger (brown) on 10th June 2020 [David Gichuru, Standard]

Interesting facts on Bell Pepper

The green and red bell peppers that we commonly see in supermarkets are actually the same pepper.



“The red bell peppers have just been allowed to mature on the plant longer. The longer a bell pepper stays on the plant, the greater its vitamin C content; so red peppers have more vitamin C and are sweeter,” says Ocharo.

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

Here are steps to consider when preparing for capsicum farming in your green house.

Soil testing

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



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

Seed growing and transplanting

Capsicums are normally grown in the nursery before transplanting the healthy seedlings after 30 to 45 days.

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

  1. a) Nursery preparation

Place your seedling trays on a raised flat surface in a greenhouse. “Remember to fill all the seedling trays with cocopit or any other planting media,” says Ocharo. 

Capsicum farm at Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

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

  1. b) Transplanting

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

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

Temperature

Capsicum thrives well in temperatures between 18 degrees celcius and 32 degrees celcius.

Pesticides and fertiliser

As a farmer, one needs to apply a soluble starter fertiliser which is designed to feed the crop immediately after transplanting.

“Start feeding your crop with the starter fertiliser twice a week during the first three weeks from the planting date,” says Ocharo.

Harvesting

Fruits are ready for harvesting at 8-12 weeks after transplanting.

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

Rough treatment when harvesting can injure the plant as the stems are very brittle and can snap off easily.

Common pests

Spider mites and aphids are two common pests of peppers, especially when grown under a cover.

“For spider mites, mist-spray the leaf areas regularly at the first sign of an attack to make conditions as hostile as possible for the mites. For aphids, take the plants out into the open, away from other peppers, then carefully turn the plants upside down so you can brush the aphids off,” 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 due to the vegetable’s crispiness. 

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

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

Market

Farmers growing the yellow capsicum are twice more likely to sell their produce at double prices than those with the red. For example, a 250grammes fruit goes for Sh10 to Sh30 depending on the location of the market. The red variety on of the same weight goes for Sh5 to Sh25.

“The yellow ones mature faster than the red variety. At the yellow stage it is better for salads since it is sweeter, therefore a favourite of many high end hotels,” says Ocharo.

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

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