Best conditions for growing dragon fruits in Kenya
Being in the family of cactus, this fruit is adopted to grow in arid or semi arid conditions. It does not require a lot of water. It is also not selective on type of soils meaning you can grow it on sandy, loamy or clay soils. However, for your plants to have good vegetative growth and a high yield, the soils must have high organic matter and be well drained. You should also ensure that you give them just a little water during the very dry seasons.
The support structures of dragon fruits
Dragon fruit plants are vines; they cannot grow upright on their own. You must make them a support structure over which to climb. A post with a wide structure at the top will be sufficient to support 2 to 4 vines. The plants will climb up to the top and then spread forming something like an umbrella. This ensures that the plants receive enough sunlight, which is very important for their growth and production. If your support structures are arranged in rows, you should ensure that the rows take an East-West alignment. This helps the plants to receive sunshine throughout the day.
How long do dragon fruits take to mature?
It will take 1 to one and a half years for a dragon fruit vine to produce the first fruit if you plant it from the cutting of a mature vine. A vine propagated from a seed will take more than 6 years to mature hence the best method to propagate dragon fruits is through cuttings. The lifespan of dragon fruit plants is over 40 years.
A dragon fruit bud takes 13 days to develop into a flower from a node. This flower opens up for pollination on the night of the 13th day – just before the 14th day. This is the only chance that the flower has to get pollinated. If pollination doesn’t happen then, the flower will not grow into a fruit and will simply fall off the plant. If it is successfully pollinated, it will develop into a fruit that will be ripe and ready for harvesting after 38 days since pollination. That means it only takes 52 days from the day a fruit bud emerges to have a yummy fruit ready to be eaten.
When the fruits are growing, they are usually green in colour. They start turning into red colour when they mature and the ripening process starts. The ripening process takes only 3 days. You must harvest dragon fruits only after they are completely ripe. This is because, unlike other fruits, Pitaya does not continue to ripen after being harvested.
Where is the market for Pitaya – Dragon fruits in Kenya?
Dragon fruit is the most expensive fruit on the Kenyan shelves. It will cost you in the range of Ksh800 to 1,500 to buy a kilo of Pitaya. Of course one of the reasons for these high prices is the fact that the fruit is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. However, the main reason why the fruit is so expensive is the low supply against a high demand. The supermarkets that stock these fruits in our country actually import it from other countries. This presents a great opportunity for farmers who would want to invest in dragon fruit farming in Kenya.
Pests and Diseases of Dragon Fruits
Dragon fruits are hardy and have negligible cases of pest and disease attacks. “They are only vulnerable when they are in the nursery; snails have damaged a couple of my seedlings but can be easily controlled by the use of magnesium sulfate. There are also rare fruit fly and rust attacks that can be handled by copper-based fungicides
Four cuttings can be planted per one concrete post, one or two for wooden poles four inches wide and six feet high. “Pitayas fruit annually for 20 to 30 years before there is a decline in production meaning it is important to use quality staking posts that will last a long time
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