Complete guide on how to plant the best sukuma wiki (kales) in Kenya
Kales are one of Kenya’s most demanded green vegetables especially due to their nutritional value. The Kales business is extremely vibrant both in urban areas and rural areas. Selling Kales is very easy and offers you an opportunity to make a decent living. I will provide tips on how to succeed in the Kales business.
Kale belongs to the brassicas family – a group of leafy vegetables that generally favor cooler climates. Kale is very easy to grow in a variety of climates but it tastes sweetest when it has just been kissed by frost.
VARIETIES OF KALES
- Sukuma Siku Hybrid – Curled leaves, soft texture. Has good tolerance to Diamond Back Moth. Leaves have a good cooking flavor. Longer harvesting period (6-9 months).\ Sukuma siku hybrid kales
- Marrow stem – Dark green leaves. Prefers coolclimate with moderate to fairly heavy and well-distributed rainfall.
- Thousand headed – Smaller leaves than Collard. It is slow growing compared to other varieties. Very branching and frequently produces many heads hence requires frequent pruning. Has long harvesting period.
- Collards southern Georgia (sukuma wild) – Drought tolerant variety that withstands high temperatures. It is a shorter variety with large, tender, bluish green leaves that spread widely. Tolerant to Soft and Black Rot. Collard kales
- Collard Mfalme Fl – A hybrid with short internodes and many leaves per internode hence more yield per unit area. It is tolerant to a wide range of diseases. Have tender Leaves.
INTRODUCTION TO KALES FARMING IN KENYA
- The kale (Sukuma wiki) is a member of the cabbage family with a wide ecological adaptability.
- Kale is very high in beta carotene , vitamin K , vitamin C , lutein , zeaxanthin , roughage and reasonably rich in iron and calcium . The leaves are widely utilized mainly alone or in mixture with other vegetables, meat and pulses.
- Overall kales have the potential to transform African economies and contribute to poverty reduction.
- In Kenya it is grown by 90% of small holder farmers thus providing employment mostly for women and youth who are involved in their production.
- They also provide a positive spill over effect upon a range of other industries like transport and trade.
- Prefers well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter, pH 6.0 to 7.5. Can tolerate slightly alkaline soil.
- Prefers plentiful, consistent moisture. Can tolerate drought, but quality and flavor of leaves suffer.
- As plants mature and lower leaves are harvested, plants begin to look less like a clump and start to resemble small palm trees with a cluster of leaves at the top of a long stem.
- Initial cultivation should be deep to allow better and faster root development. Aggressive perennial weeds should be removed before planting.
- Early land preparation is recommended to expose pests to sunlight and birds. Land should be dry to avoid soil crumbling and creation of a hard pan.
- Incorporating of crop residue can significantly increase the soil organic content.
Kale seeds are sown into nursery structures like open land, wooden, plastic or seeding trays.
Open field nursery establishment Procedure
- Site nursery where vegetables in the same family as kale have not been grown for 2 years.
- The nursery beds should be about 1 meter wide (so as to undertake cultural practices without injuring the plants) and of the required length. In wet areas and sites with heavy soils, raised beds are recommended to prevent water logging.
- Manure and phosphate fertilizers like DAP should be applied and worked well into the soil. Manure improves the soil structure and moisture holding while phosphorus helps in root development. A nitrogen fertilizer like CAN is top dressed two weeks after germination only on poor soils since excessive nitrogen results to weak plants.
- The drills are made across the beds at a spacing of 10-15cm apart and 2cm deep.
- The seeds should be sown thinly and covered lightly with soil. Cover the nursery bed with a thin layer of dry grass (mulch) to avoid unearthing the seeds. This is removed after germination.
- In hot areas, a shade (about 1m high) is necessary. However, excessive watering and shade favors the development of powdery mildews.
- The seedlings should be thinned out to 2-3cm apart. Crowded seedlings compete for nutrients and space resulting into weak seedlings. Crowding also creates conducive environment for damping off disease.
- Water once or twice daily. Irregular watering also promotes dumping off disease. Pests and diseases in the nursery should be controlled to ensure healthy seedlings.
- The seedlings are transplanted when four to five true leaves are formed. This takes a period of about four weeks.
MAIN SITE PREPARATION
- The field should be ploughed 2-3 weeks in advance at least 8 inches deeper
- Harrow the field 2-3 weeks later after ploughing
- Prepare soil to a fine tilth
- Raised beds recommended for root development and proper drainage
- Bed width of 1 meter and a convenient length not exceeding 100 meters and a height of 15 centimeters
- Incorporate well rotten farm yard manure.
- Seedlings ready for transplanting after 4-6 weeks in the nursery, depending on temperatures
- Best time for planting is late in the evening when sun is cool or on a cloudy day
- Wet the seedlings an hour before transplanting.
- Plant to the same depth as in the nursery
- Varies with varieties: 60cm x 60cm for large-headed varieties, 60cm x 45cm for medium sized and 30cm x 30cm for small heads
- Apply DAP or TSP fertilizer during transplanting (1 teaspoonful/hole)
- Top dress crop two weeks after transplanting with 1 teaspoonful of CAN per plant
- Apply a second topdressing at same rate when leaves begin to fold
- Too much CAN results in loose heads or no head formation
NB: Soil analysis recommended
- Necessary to improve soil structure and to slowly provide extra nutrients
Done at planting
- Use 10 to 30 tonnes per hectare
- Keep fields free of weeds to reduce competition for nutrients, light and space
- Also to reduce pests and disease infestation
- Increases organic matter in the soil
- Conserves soil moisture
- Prevents soil erosion
- Suppresses splashing of rain or irrigation water and spread of diseases
- Good during dry periods
PESTS AND DISEASES
- Black rot (Leaf spot)
- Alternaria leaf spot (Black spot, Gray spot)
- Downy mildew
- Root-knot nematode
- Cabbage looper
- Beet armyworm
- Flea beetles
- Thrips (Western flower thrips, Onion thrips )
- Cabbage aphid
- Large cabbage white (Cabbageworm)
- Diamondback moth
- Kale is a hearty vegetable that prefers the cold weather and if cared for correctly can produce a surplus of leaves throughout every season.
- The time frame for harvesting kale is a personal decision, loosely based on flavor preferences. For those that require a lighter side to kale’s taste, younger leaves will suffice.
- But for those that like the more pungent and bold flavor of kale, the matured leaves of fall are preferable.
- Pick what you need throughout the season. Kale can be harvested soon after the plants begin to grow leaves.
- Younger leaves can be a tasty addition to some salads, and the more mature leaves become more flavorful as they grow.
- Remove the outer leaves of the Kale plant as it matures, for a continuous cycle of growth. The center of the kale plant containing the bud will continue to produce fresh leaves when the outer ones are removed.
- By following this rule of thumb, you can expect a vast amount of kale production to suit your needs.
- Choose leaves that are bright green and fresh, as opposed to yellowed leaves, when harvesting kale for eating.
- The yellowish leaves can produce an undesirable taste, and their limp appearance may be unappetizing.
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