Agriculture and Environment

Why every farm needs a tree nursery

As the dry season heat slaps my face while the scorching sun robs the land of any little green colour that is left. Most farms are at a go slow with only ploughing and anticipation for the long rains being on most if not all farmers mind. Water is at the center of every farmers heart.

So I could not stop thinking of ways to beautify my farm with trees yes, while I wait for the rains to pour down. The earlier I start the better the chance, most farmers don’t own a tree nursery despite it being simple to set up and a natural practice if you own a farm. We mostly buy tree seedlings and they cost an arm and leg if your purchasing more than a dozen of them. Yet if you were to buy the seeds from a credible supplier such Kenya Forestry Service, you will not only go home with the seeds in hand, but with the knowledge of how to sow them. The staff at Kenya Forestry Service are eager to teach you how to plant tress and take care of them right from the nursery to the fields. And with the long rains around the corner if you plant tree seeds now they would germinate in time for planting on the fields during the rain seasons leaving you with less work on your hands. While mother nature does her magic.
There several varieties of tress in Kenya but I can name just a few of them that can create a beautiful impression on your farm and can be handy while at the same time be a source of revenue.

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Grevillea robusta
It is a fast-growing evergreen tree, between 18–35 m (59–115 ft) tall, with dark green delicately dented
bipinnatifid leaves reminiscent of a fern frond. Its flowers are golden-orange bottlebrush-like blooms, between 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, in the spring, on a 2–3 cm long stem and are used for honey production. Like others of its genus, the flowers have no petals, instead they have a long calyx that splits into 4 lobes. The seeds mature in late winter to early spring, fruiting on dark brown leathery dehiscent follicles, about 2 cm long, with one or two flat, winged seeds. The seeds take 3 weeks to germinate and 5 months to be planted on the fields. Grevillea usually mature in eight to ten years.
It is resistant to wood rot and can make good timber for furniture or fencing.
It is also beautiful to look at and allows grass to grow beneath it hence it being an ideal tree to plant along the hedges of dairy pasture when planted in a line.

Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is a very lucrative tree in Kenya not only are they sought after as transmission poles after being treated they also provide timber that can be sold or used for farm structures. However eucalyptus trees tend to suppress plants that are grown near them, such as maize. So it would be wise to choose a location that is suitable to you.
Eucalyptus seeds germinate after 2 weeks and take between seven to ten years to mature.

Acacia mearnsii
Its common name being wattle tree can be found in many farms in Kenya. It is often used as a commercial source of tannin or a source of firewood, it is also a good source of quality charcoal. Wattle tress can also be cut into droppers for fencing within the farm.

Pine Tree
Pines are among the most commercially important tree species valued for their timber and wood pulp throughout the world. Pines grow well in acid soils, some also on calcareous soils; most require good soil drainage, preferring sandy soils, but a few (e.g. Lodgepole pine) will tolerate poorly drained wet soils

Cupressus lusitanica (Cypress)
Fast-growing and drought tolerant, Cupressus lusitanica has been introduced from Mexico’s provenances to different parts of the world. It is widely cultivated, both as an ornamental tree and for timber production, in warm, temperate and subtropical regions around the world. Trees have not been selected for cultivation from northern Mexico populations, which have a heavy drought endurance. cypress seeds take take 3 weeks to germinate and a futher 5 months before they are planted in the fields.
Cypress is valued for its timber in Kenya and could fetch you a lot of money as a farmer.

Casuarina
Casuarina tree is a fast growing ever green tree that is very popular within Kenyan farms.
The wood of this tree is used for building-timber, furniture and tools and makes excellent firewood. The tree’s root nodules are known to fix nitrogen , and it is traditionally prized for its ability to increase the soil’s fertility. Its abundant leaf-fall is high in nitrogen and traditionally prized for mulch. It is also a good windbreaker.
Casuarina seeds take one week to germinate and a further 3-4 months before being planted at the fields. The can grow to heights of up-to 35 meters.

Bamboo
Bamboo is another tree that is gaining track in Kenyan farms. Being the fastest growing tree in the world. Bamboo tree can be considered as a blessing to farmers.
There are about 18 species of bamboo trees in Kenya shrub bamboo tree and the Giant Bamboo tree. Bamboo uses are endless from providing materials for farm structures to creating high end wood floors. It also has a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation.

Planting of trees does good to the climate and it encourages rain and reduces soil erosion and the Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For more information about tress in kenya check out Guides to the Trees of Kenya, Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Forestry Research Institute.