News and knowhow for farmers

Mulching a key skill to keep your vegetables growing in drier seasons

Sukuma kenin maingi nakuru by laban robert.JPG

Ap­plic­a­tion of mulch­ing and or­ganic ma­nure has helped a kales farmer cut the ir­rig­a­tion fre­quency be­sides en­abling him de­liver kales to the mar­ket con­sist­ently even on dry sea­sons.

On dry sea­sons, Kevin Maingi may be re­quired to ir­rig­ate the kales in his one-eighth of an acre daily or after one day.

But the dis­cov­ery of mulch­ing and use of bio­gas slag have slashed his pro­duc­tion costs on fer­til­iser to zero and ir­rig­a­tion to less than half.

The Na­k­uru County farmer, who har­vests at least one tonne of the sukuma wiki every week from the small piece of land at Lanet, is en­joy­ing a con­stant mar­ket s the ve­get­able’s sup­ply shrinks dur­ing this dry spell.

One kilo­gramme of sukuma wiki is earn­ing him Sh50.

From the bio­gas slag of their eight cows, the farmer makes or­ganic ma­nure by mix­ing the ‘waste’ with farm or­ganic ma­nure in pit. With the high num­ber of mi­crobes in the dung, the green mat­ter is worked upon into rich or­ganic fer­til­iser.

To­gether with other green re­fuse such as grass and plant leaves, Maingi has covered the soil around the ve­get­ables.

“I have re­duced the in­ter­vals of ir­rig­at­ing the ve­get­ables to twice or some­times once per week with this rich mulch. The fer­til­iser is also rich in vari­ous nu­tri­ents from the di­verse crops. I no longer rely on com­mer­cial fer­til­isers, which do not last in the soil after the first sea­son,” he said.

Mulch­ing pre­vents dir­ect sun­light into the soil. Apart from smoth­er­ing the ger­min­at­ing weed, it pre­vents los of water as a res­ult of wind and heat from the sun.

As the mulch rots to­gether with the or­gan­isms in the or­ganic fer­til­iser the farmer added, the soil tex­ture and water hold­ing abil­ity are im­proved too.

The in­ter­spaces among the kales is also re­duced from the nor­mal 45cm has been re­duced to 30cm. Apart from strangling weed, the can­opy of leaves also con­trols dir­ect sun­light hit­ting the ground to evap­or­ate the little mois­ture avail­able after ir­rig­a­tion.

READ ALSO: Plastic mulch drastic­ally re­duces pro­duc­tion costs

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READ ALSO: Ve­get­able prices double in Nairobi

When the soil struc­ture is in­tact, erosion is also dis­mal.

For months that rains dont fall in Na­k­uru, and in­deed most parts of the coun­try, the farm­er has never failed to de­liver the kales to his mar­ket within the town as well as those, who come to the farm.

The farmer rarely uses mech­an­ical weed­ing. This has not only slashed the weed­ing costs in the pro­duc­tion chain, but also re­duced water loss due to ex­pos­ure of the soil to dir­ect sun­light. He pills the few weeds by hand.

With mulch­ing, re­duced soil dis­turb­ance in weed­ing, ad­di­tion of the ma­nure, the colon­ies of the soil mi­crobes is grow­ing.

The elim­in­a­tion of fretil­isers in the pro­duc­tion chain is part of the farmer’s longterm vis­ion of going or­ganic to meet the rising mar­ket.

“The emer­ging mar­ket of or­ganic products is of­fer­ing more than four times the cur­rent price so the agro-chem­ical-de­pend­ent goods. That is where money is and I am mov­ing to­wards that be­cause few farm­ers are there already,” he said.

And with time, the farmer hopes to re­duce pro­duc­tion costs by less than half and ex­pand the mar­kets for his or­ganic products.

To­gether with other youths, Maina Muchai and Paul Ay­ieko, Maingi has formed an ag­ribusi­ness solu­tion com­pany help­ing farm­ers in pro­duc­tion as well as loc­at­ing mar­kets.

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