Capsicums have a long growing season of 2-3 months, so most farmers choose to buy capsicum seedlings at the garden nursery rather than grow them from seed. However, you can start pepper seeds indoors such as in greenhouses if you want to grow your own. Farmers should ensure the outdoor soil is kept warm by covering it with black plastic mulch mostly during the cold season.
Red and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C, some vitamin A, and small amounts of several minerals. They’re wonderful raw in salads or as a snack.
Below we will discuss how to plant capsicum, and take care of them up to harvesting. Read on.
Climatic Conditions Necessary For Capsicum Farming
When selecting a site for capsicum farming, farmers should consider factors such as soil type, topography, and climatic conditions.
- Soil Type: The soil should be well-drained, rich in organic matter, and have a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. This ensures that the crop has access to adequate nutrients, moisture, and air for healthy growth.
- Topography: The site should have gentle slopes or a flat terrain to prevent waterlogging and soil erosion. This helps to ensure that the crop has access to sufficient moisture and nutrients for healthy growth.
- Climatic Conditions: Yellow capsicum thrives in warm to hot weather, with a temperature range between 21°C to 30°C. The crop requires adequate sunlight exposure and is sensitive to frost. The rainfall distribution also affects its growth, with an optimal range of 700 to 1000 mm per annum.
- Altitude: The crop can be grown at different altitudes, with an ideal range of between 1200 m to 1800 m above sea level. This ensures that the crop is exposed to optimal climatic conditions for its growth and yield potential.
Land Preparation and Planting
- Land on which to grow pepper should be ploughed to a depth of 20 to 30 cm preferably during dry season to kill weeds. Soils with a hard pan within 150 cm of the soil layer require deep soil cultivation using a chisel plough or double digging.
- Start growing seeds indoors first. If your climate isn’t ideal for growing capsicum, germinating your seeds indoors first is recommended. To germinate, fill a planting tray with soil and plant your capsicum seeds a quarter of an inch deep. Water, provide sun, and keep them warm.
- Harden off your plant. After one to three weeks of germination, your capsicum seedlings should have sprouted and are ready for transplanting outside. However, they are especially vulnerable to transplant shock, and they’ll need to adjust to the outside environment. About 10 days before planting, gently introduce your seedlings to exterior conditions for small amounts of time per day, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outdoors, which will help them acclimate better and prevent wilting or stunted growth, leading to more healthy plants.
- Transplant outdoors. When your garden soil temperature has reached at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (nighttime temperatures should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit), your bell peppers are ready to transplant. Keep your seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart, and bury them in well-draining soil deep enough so their root ball is covered, but that the seedling leaves can still rest on the top layer.
Capsicum needs deep watering, about one to two inches per week. Although they like warm weather, they will not flourish in intense heat, so gardeners in climates that are prone to higher temperatures should water twice a day if necessary. Dry conditions will cause bitter-tasting capsicums, but overwatering can suffocate the roots or lead to blossom end rot, which happens if the calcium in the soil is depleted. Monitor your watering carefully, keeping it as balanced as possible.
To make this easier for farmers, they can opt to use a drip irrigation system which drips water at the root zone. This method is ideal because a farmer can regulate the amount of water needed for the plant. It also helps to avoid fungal diseases that can be caused by wet foliage.
Use the right fertilizer. Fertilize with a compound that’s low in nitrogen to help your bell peppers grow without affecting the rate of fruit production. Too much nitrogen in the soil can produce healthy foliage growth but discourage fruit from setting.
Staking your capsicum can help keep them off the ground, away from pests, and also help reduce sunscald, which can occur if the capsicum is exposed to direct sunlight for too long under high temperatures. Their leaves usually provide somewhat of a canopy for the fruit, and staking can help keep them upright and protected.
Check for pests
Aphids and flea beetles are two garden pests that love bell peppers. Use organic insecticides and tend to your plant often to keep pest invasions under control.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest
Once the plants begin producing fruits, pick them promptly, the moment they have reached their full size and color. Regular picking encourages plants to produce more flowers and, of course, more fruits.
However, the longer capsicums stay on the plant, the sweeter they become and the greater their vitamin C content.
While harvesting use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the capsicums clean off the plant.
Harvested Capsicum peppers are packed into plastic crates then transported to markets. Peppers are sensitive to ethylene and should not be stored with fruits that produce ethylene such as bananas and avocados. Eliminate all fruits harvested with defects. Grade Capsicum based on its uniform color, maturity, shape and size.
Capsicum’s market is one of the stable markets with a minimum market price of Ksh 50 and a maximum of even up to Ksh 120 (green ones) per Kilo depending on market supply. The red and the yellow variety fetch premium returns as compared to the green variety.
Health Benefits Associated With Capsicum
- Capsicum contains high water content, fibers, and carbs. So, it is a perfect addition to a nutrient-rich diet plan.
- Capsicums are rich in vitamins like vitamin A, B6, C, E, K1, and folate.
- Capsicum is rich in beta carotene (pro-vitamin A), which converts into vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A is crucial for normal vision, reproductive function, and immune system.
- Folate in capsicum is crucial for fetuS development in the mother’s womb.
- Bell pepper contains numerous antioxidants, including violaxanthin, lutein, Quercetin, capsanthin, and luteolin. These antioxidants are abundant in the unripe green and yellow variety of bell pepper. Adequate intake of these antioxidant-rich capsicums helps our body fight against many chronic diseases, eye problems, cancer, and oxidative-damaging conditions.
- Capsicums are a rich source of iron and vitamin C that improves and prevents anemia.
- Potassium-rich capsicum improves heart health by regulating muscle contraction and lowering blood pressure.
- Carotenoid-laden capsicum shows significant improvement in age-related visual impairment.
Bell peppers are rich in nutrient and plant-based compounds. So, add them to your diet to relish their unique health benefits.