What You Need to Know: A Beginners Guide to Garlic Farming in Kenya.
Garlic farming in Kenya can be both exciting and rewarding. Why you ask? First of all, it is a perfect choice of crop to plant with its high demand in the Kenyan market and the international market too.
Secondly, not only does garlic have great economic value but also offers a variety of medicinal properties. In this article, we will discuss what you need to know about succeeding at garlic farming in Kenya from planting to harvesting. So if you’re ready to get started on your journey as a successful garlic farmer, read on!
Climate and Soil Requirements
In order for you to plant, grow, and successfully harvest garlic you need to take a few things into consideration which are climate and soil conditions and the quality of seeds.
It is good to note that these are important details that when carefully considered will guarantee a high yield and quality harvest.
Climate conditions for growing garlic.
When it comes to growing garlic, the climate conditions are very important for the success of the crop. Garlic is best suited to medium to high altitudes of 500-200 meters above sea level and temperatures between 12-24 ºC. Cooler temperatures in the initial stages help promote vegetative growth, while high temperatures are essential for bulb development.
It is worth noting that excessive rain and humidity can be detrimental to garlic’s growth and should be avoided if possible, with irrigation used during periods of low rainfall.
Additionally, garlic onions do well in humid areas characterized by low sunshine, moderate rainfall, and low temperatures with no thick fog which can cause the leaves to discolor or gusty, strong winds.
With these ideal conditions kept in mind when planting garlic crops, farmers will have a much better chance of success!
Ideal soil conditions and preparation techniques.
The ideal soil conditions for successful garlic farming in Kenya are; soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.8, well-prepared, airy, and loose soil. It should also be dry (avoid clay soils which tend to hold water) and void of any rocks or gravel. Black fertile soil is highly recommended.
In addition, organic manure should be mixed into the soil before plowing in order to promote better bulb formation.
It is highly appropriate for one to have their soil tested before planting to get a detailed understanding of your soil’s conditions.
Quality of seeds.
Garlic seeds are from the garlic cloves themselves so to obtain quality garlic seeds you need to select the right cloves.
Large cloves always tend to produce large garlic bulbs, so when selecting your seed cloves be sure to go for larger sizes. Always be on the lookout for damaged cloves because those end up rotting and not germinating.
There is a way to know if your cloves or the cloves you have purchased are ready for planting; pick one clove and break it into two, if there is a shoot on the inside of your garlic clove, it is ready to be planted.
There are several varieties of garlic grown in the country, but the most popular one is softneck garlic. This variety has a white thin skin, moderate taste, and pungent smell; it also matures quickly and yields more cloves per head compared to other types of garlic.
Softneck garlic has a longer shelf life – making it a practical choice for home gardeners looking for a low-maintenance crop.
Other varieties of softneck garlic include Creole, California Early, and California Late. The variety of softneck garlic that you will find in Kenya goes by the name Africa giant or Moyale giant.
Softneck garlic is typically milder in flavor than its hardneck counterpart.
Hardneck Garlic is often praised for its great flavor and is a favorite ingredient for many dishes due to its success in enhancing the overall taste. It has a tan and purple appearance with bigger cloves than other types, but it does not store well for long periods of time.
The flavor and smell of hard-neck garlic make it perfect for roasting, grilling, or sautéing. Hardneck garlic’s versatility in the kitchen is unmatched by other varieties of garlic. With proper care and cultivation techniques, growing hardneck garlic can be rewarding both financially and gastronomically in Kenya. You can find it in the Kenyan market going by the name Arusha pink hardneck garlic.
Land Preparation and Planting
Now with the knowledge of the value of garlic, its climate, soil requirements, seed quality, and varieties of the crop, let us get into the meat and bones of this whole process; land preparation for planting.
Steps to prepare the land for garlic cultivation.
To ensure a successful and bountiful harvest of garlic, preparing the land before planting is crucial.
- Start by clearing the area of any weeds as this can hinder the growth of your garlic bulbs.
- Next, till the soil to a depth of at least 6-8 inches, ensuring that it is well-draining and free of any large rocks.
- As mentioned, if necessary, add organic matter such as compost or manure to ensure the soil is fertile. Consider adding a balanced fertilizer to the soil prior to planting to provide additional nutrients for your garlic crop. With careful preparation, your garlic harvest is sure to be plentiful and rewarding.
Care and Maintenance.
Irrigation and water management strategies.
The garlic plant requires little water toward the end of the season which is normally between 4 to 6 months. So the last two months before harvesting, the garlic plant will not need much water. However, during the first 2 to 3 months the garlic plant will need sufficient water to sprout and grow to a full-length plant.
Once they are fully sprouted you are only required to do a light watering at a depth of one inch every couple of weeks. In cases where there are reasonable rains in intervals of 10 to 14 days, no additional watering is necessary. Drip irrigation is your friend here because it allows you to have full control over the amount of water uptake by your plants.
Weed and pest control
The good news about planting garlic is that it is rarely attacked by pests. On rare occasions, weed and pest control measures are crucial in maintaining healthy plants and producing quality garlic crops. Some of the ways to control weed growth are through hand weeding, mulching, and herbicide application.
When it comes to pest control measures, organic methods such as crop rotation, natural predators, and botanical insecticides are highly recommended to prevent the buildup of pesticide residues in the garlic. Proper weed and pest control measures promote healthy plant growth and contribute to the production of high-quality garlic, which ultimately translates to higher profits.
Harvesting and Storage
Achieving the perfect flavor and aroma requires proper preparation and handling. One key aspect of this is ensuring that the garlic is harvested at the right time. Harvesting garlic too early can result in underdeveloped cloves while waiting too long can lead to overripe garlic with a softer texture.
Once harvested, it’s essential to properly care for the garlic post-harvest, which involves curing the bulbs in a warm and dry location. This will allow excess moisture to evaporate, and the garlic to reach its full flavor potential.
It is important to understand that there are different storage requirements for garlic that will be consumed versus garlic that will be used as seed. Temperatures between 0-4ºC with a relative humidity of 60-70% for garlic that will be consumed. For seed garlic room temperature should be maintained as well as a relative humidity of 60-70%.
With the right harvest techniques and post-harvest care, your garlic will be ready to for sale and use or for planting.
Marketing and Profitability
Garlic farmers in Kenya are in a prime position to take advantage of a lucrative market opportunity. With demand for garlic steadily increasing across the country and beyond, there is an ever-growing need for local producers to supply the market with high-quality garlic. As such, smart garlic farmers who take advantage of this growing marketplace are likely to see significant financial rewards, not just for themselves but for local communities who stand to benefit from increased employment opportunities and economic growth.
Value addition and marketing strategies
For garlic farmers, understanding value addition and effective marketing strategies can make the difference between a thriving business and a stagnant one. Value addition can involve processing techniques such as drying, sorting, grading, and packaging, which not only enhances the quality of the garlic but also increases its shelf life and offer additional profit opportunities for Kenyan farmers.
To attract potential buyers and increase sales, farmers need to come up with marketing strategies that showcase the quality of their products, which could include participating in trade fairs, partnering with wholesalers, and leveraging social media platforms. With the right combination of value addition and marketing strategies, garlic farmers in Kenya can significantly boost their profits in this increasingly competitive market.
Challenges and Solutions
One of the significant challenges is that garlic’s quality, flavor, and taste can be affected by the chemical pesticides used. Farmers should therefore embrace organic farming methods, which eliminate the use of harmful pesticides.
To maximize their profits farmers can also form cooperatives that help them market their garlic collectively, giving them better bargaining power and access to favorable markets.
Furthermore, research institutions can help farmers develop innovative products that can easily attract buyers and also help them acquire quality garlic seeds. Through the implementation of these solutions, garlic farming in Kenya has great potential for growth and profitability for farmers.
Conclusion on Garlic Farming in Kenya.
Now with this information at hand, you are guaranteed to be successful in garlic farmering in Kenya. Carefully take into consideration the climate and soil conditions, and seed quality, and have a good marketing strategy, and in no time you will be smiling on your way to the bank.