When you first read or hear about farming success stories the first thing that goes through your mind is how farming can also work for you. The media makes farming in Kenya (especially horticulture) so easy but there are a lot of factors that you need to take into consideration before investing all your money into growing crops.
- Soil Testing and Compositing
You need to test your soil before you start growing anything on your farm. There are many soil testing companies in Kenya and all you have to do is give them a call, pay a small fee and get a breakdown of your soil. This will help you know the status of your soil and you can improve it to get better yields.
Once you have the tests you can now begin making improvements on your farm based on the recommendations listed in the report. A good way to do this is by adding compost to your soil. Compost is an inexpensive alternative to chemical fertilizers, and it is less likely to harm sensitive roots. Chemical fertilizers can be extremely harsh on plants. It also enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
General farm planning is a crucial step that should not be skipped. Don’t try to briefly analyze your farm performance, expenses and profit in your mind and rush into planting. Put everything in writing and calculate all the risks and opportunities you have. Create a solid, realistic business plan that is specifically suited for you. Please remember what works for another farmer in Kenya may not work for you. Get his right and choose the crop that works for you. Asses your market and put all this in your farm business plan. This will help you as you move forward.
Before planting, there’s a lot of planning such as how long it will take the plant to grow and whether it is in season. You have to make sure your read the instructions to know how far apart the seeds should be planted. It only takes a quick minute to learn how to plant seeds. I like planting because once it starts growing, you get all excited because all your hard work is sprouting. If you not always on the farm make sure you have a good, experienced farm manager who will take care of the plants for you. I insist, look for a GOOD, EXPERIENCED farm manager. This guy will play a big part in your farm success. You should also invest in a water timer to make work efficient and get insurance of your crops getting water in days the manager or you will not be around.
Watering is one of the most important parts of farming. We always water the plants after planting the seeds to “tell” the plants it is time to grow. After a few days, you will see a little sprout come out. To make sure the plants have enough water, we set up irrigation lines (Drip irrigation and sprinklers). If the plants don’t have enough water, they will grow slower, and the quality of the production won’t be as good as the ones that do have enough water. Also, plants can die from lack of water. We don’t water the beds when it is hot because it would dry up quickly. Morning and evening are the best times for watering plants.
Weeds are usually a big nuisance! As soon as you clear out a patch of weeds, they grow right soon after, like a lizard’s tail. Weeds interfere with your farm objective and lower your chances of getting a good harvest drastically. They compete for resources with your plants thus draining them making them unproductive. Make sure to weed at least 2-3 times per season.
When you harvest, you have to make sure that you don’t damage the leaves by soaking them in too much water when you wash them. You also have to make sure that you pull the plant by the roots and that the roots come out. Then you can cut them. For local vegetable which are harvested weekly, make sure you break the leaves cleanly to avoid damage to the whole crop.
You also have to make them look presentable so that people will want to buy them. Make them look good.