Crops of 2016: What to plant in April

Clever farmers are doing an evaluation of the year 2015, noting the mistakes
they made, while celebrating their major successes.

And as you plan your farming calendar in 2016, our in-house agronomist Elijah
Lemomo
, advises that you should make it the year of short-season crops.

Over the next one month, starting December 17, agronomist Lemomo will be telling
you the kinds of crops you should be focusing on in each month of next.

This is the fourth installment of the 12-part series, dubbed Crops of 2016,
the only planting and harvesting calendar you should have.

April

April usually marks
the beginning of the short rains in most counties of Kenya. This is a good time
to think about planting strawberries. Strawberries take 2-3 months from
planting to harvesting and the fruits are generally in demand all year around,
mostly for cake decoration and juice making. After the first harvest,
strawberry farmers can record up to 3 harvests per year for three consecutive
years. The startup costs are slightly high-one seedling costs Sh20
and it will take 24,000 seedlings to cover one acre of land, a total of Sh480,000-but
with proper management, farmers can get up to 800Kg per harvest from one acre,
and with a kilogram of Strawberries selling at Sh300 (farm gate), a total of
Sh240,000 can be made with each harvest.

 Planting

  • Buy disease-resistant plants from a reputable nursery, of a
    variety recommended in your area.
  • Strawberries are sprawling plants. Seedlings will send out
    runners, or ‘daughter’ plants, which in turn will send out their
    own runners.
  • Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire
    root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep: The roots should
    be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.
  • Provide adequate space for sprawling. Set plants out 20 inches
    apart, and leave 4 feet between rows.
  • Roots shouldn’t be longer than 8 inches when plants are set out.
    Trim them if necessary.
  • pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil
    in advance.
  • Strawberries require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so
    choose your planting site accordingly.
  • Tolerant of different soil types, although prefer loam. Begin
    working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting.
  • Planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly
    good option for strawberries.
  • Practice crop rotation for the most success. Do not plant in a
    site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
  • Establish new plants each year to keep berry quality high
    each season.

Management

  • Eliminate
    daughter plants as needed. First and second generations produce higher
    yields. Try to space each plant about 10 inches apart.
  • Moisture
    is incredibly important due to shallow roots. Water adequately, about one
    inch per week. They need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are
    developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
  • Keep
    the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
  • Be
    diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months
    after planting.
  • When
    the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch and mulch
    plants about 4 inches deep with any organic material.  

Harvesting and storage

  • Fruit is ready for harvesting 4–6 weeks after blossoming.
  • Harvest only fully red (ripe) berries, and pick every
    three days.
  • Cut by the stem; do not pull the berry.
  • Harvest will last up to 3 weeks. You should have an abundance of
    berries, depending on the variety.
  • Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for 3–5 days.
  • Strawberries can be frozen whole for about 2 months. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *