Proper preparation of your farm is the most important aspect of successfully carrots farming in Kenya.
Carrots are an emerging crop of high value among many smallholder farmers in Kenya. The crop requires low attention making it manageable. It also has short maturity period and high returns with a kilo retailing for not less than Ksh50
Common varieties in Kenya include but not limited to Chantney, Nantes and Oxheart. Nantes variety is the choice for most farmers due to a nice deep orange colour as well as sweet taste. The carrots are smooth and long. It also has a longer shelf life and can be grown in all seasons.
Soil analysts recommend that carrots farming should be done in soils whose pH is between 6.5 and 7.5. Additionally, the soil should have enough potassium, but should not have excess nitrogen. Potassium is an essential mineral in growing carrots since it enhances the sweetness and solid nature of carrots. Too much nitrogen, however, results in branched, fibrous and hairy carrots and should, therefore, be avoided.
The crop grows best in cool climate. Recommended that they are grown in temperatures ranging from 15 to 20 degrees because high temperatures result in pale carrots with shorter roots and poor flavour.
In order to get the best quality, plant them in well prepared, deep, well drained, loamy soils that allow the roots to penetrate and enlarge. Carrots are very sensitive to acidic soils. Soils with a PH of 6.5-7.5 are suitable for their growth. If the PH is lower than 5.5 it is advisable to apply moderate amounts of rock phosphate fertilizers to reduce acidity.
Carrots farming is rather straightforward. As the farmer, you need to prepare the land well, by digging and raking out weeds. You also need to ensure you are working with fine soil since the carrot seeds are tiny and may struggle to germinate in lumpy soils. Some farmers prefer to raise the carrot beds and make half-inch deep furrows to contain the seeds.
Other farmers prefer to make un-raised carrot beds while making half-inch deep furrows to contain the seeds. Still, other farmers choose to plant carrots through a broadcast approach where the carrot seeds are ‘broadcasted’ on the farm, watered, and left to germinate without the farmer covering them with soil. Of the three approaches, the first and second options are preferable since they allow the farmer to cover his carrot seeds with at least 0.5 centimetre of soil. Additionally, planting in furrows allows the farmer to thin and weed his crop well.
Specifically, make furrows that are two centimetres deep and use 15 centimetre spacing. This spacing leaves enough room for the carrot foliage to grow well as the crop matures. Due to the tiny nature of seeds, it is hard to space them well. However, you can mix the seeds with some light soil to make sowing and spacing a lot easier.
When the crop germinates, ensure that you thin the carrots within two weeks of germination. Aim at leaving about 2cm to 4 cm of space between individual carrot seedlings. This spacing will encourage healthy root growth. Before thinning, water the carrots to make the pulling easy. Thinning can be repeated after three weeks if necessary.
About 6-7 kg of carrot seeds per hectare or 2.5kg per acre is adequate. The soils must be well prepared and the planting depth should about one centimetre. The spacing is 30cm from row to row by continuous drill at planting time.
Thinning is carried out gradually 2-4 weeks after planting to ultimately leave a spacing of 10cm from plant to plant to allow enough space for good growth.
Weeding starts 2 weeks after planting the crop which overlaps with commencement of thinning. The second weeding is advised about 4-5weeks after planting depending on the emergence of weeds.
The crop can be inter-cropped with a variety of crops like lettuce, tomatoes, capsicums, leek etc. The ideal inter-cropping model is inter-cropping carrots with leeks. The crops have a symbiotic relationship where carrots repel caterpillars from leeks while leeks repel flies from the carrots.
The crop need frequent rains and in cases where the rains are unreliable regular irrigation are recommended depending on the type of soil.
Harvesting begins when the roots are enlarged; soft and juicy.Late harvesting results to crops are of lower quality because they will cracks. Manual harvesting by pulling the crop from the soil by hand or using a spade is employed. The tops are then completely cut to avoid storage rots. Shelf life for and mature carrots that are pests and disease free can be 100-150 days when the leaves are completely cut off, at temperatures range of 1-4 degrees centigrade.
Pest and diseases
On carrots farming, the vegetable is susceptible to aphids, nematodes and cutworms. They fungal diseases especially powdery mildew and leaf blight are common. Crop rotation is important for control. When infested by pests and diseases chemical spraying is recommended. Observe hygiene during planting and use certified disease-free and resistant hybrid seed varieties. Maturity period for carrots is between 2-3 months after planting depending on the variety grown.