Cucumber Farming In Kenya:  Cucumbers are often eaten as a vegetable but they are scientifically considered a fruit as they contain enclosed seeds and develop from a flower. Cucumbers farming, like cantaloupes, squash, pumpkins and watermelons, are members of the cucurbit family of produce. They are vine crops and can be grown on the ground or on poles or trellises to suspend the fruit.

Cucumbers come in three distinct types: seedless, seeded, and mini. There are close to 100 varieties, but common ones include the English, garden, Persian, mini, and lemon.

The English cucumber is the longest, is narrow, and is often marketed in a plastic wrap. The skin of English cucumbers is thin and often does not require peeling. In contrast, the garden cucumber has a dark waxy skin. The skin is normally removed by consumers because of its bitter taste. Persian
cucumbers are called burpless because they tend to be smaller, sweeter, and seedless. The skin is smoother, thinner, and, similar to the English variety, does not require peeling.

These cucumbers tend to be milder and easier on the digestive system. Kirby cucumbers are the smallest. These mini cucumbers are becoming popular in the marketplace due to consumer preferences. They have a wide variety of skin colors ranging from yellow to dark green. Lemon
cucumbers are round and yellow, resembling lemons, but they are sweet, have thin skins, and contain seeds.

Varieties of Cucumber Farming in Kenya

  • Carmen F1.
  • Palomer.
  • Woodland crisp.
  • Colorado.
  • Poisette.
  • Hybrid victory.
  • Danora F1.
  • Early fortune
  • Yellow fellow.

Cucumber Farming In Kenya

Cucumbers farming is done on either fields or green houses. Field grown cucumber plants are typically started as seeds and are either mechanically or hand planted. Many commercial operations train their plants to grow on poles or trellises to keep the fruit suspended. Several training systems are used for trellis growing, but the umbrella system is the most common on cucumber farming. In the umbrella system, all the lateral branches are removed as they appear until the main stem reaches a predetermined height.

The plant is then allowed to grow more freely so the plant can concentrate on growing fruit, rather than height. Some cucumber farmers plant bush type varieties and allow the fruit to spread along the ground. To accommodate different harvesting practices, field cucumbers grown for the fresh or sliced market are spaced about 36 to 72 inches apart versus eight to 10 inches for cucumbers grown for pickling.

In contrast to field grown cucumbers, greenhouse cucumbers are normally established as transplants. Greenhouse cucumber plants have very large leaves and grow vigorously. Each plant is provided five to seven square feet of space and is always grown on a trellis. Greenhouse cucumber farming require close monitoring of nutrients to maintain good health and productivity.

Like most commodities, cucumbers do best under certain soil and temperature conditions.  Cucumbers farming can be planted on a wide variety of soil types.

Ecological Conditions for Cucumber Farming In Kenya

  • Fertile and well drained loamy soils with pH of 6.5-7.5.
  • Temperature range between 18-30°c.
  • Altitudes of up to 1700m above sea level.
  • Access to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis.
  • Optimum rainfall of 800mm
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Soil Requirements On Cucumber Farming

Greenhouse or tunnel cucumber farming are usually planted in 15ℓ or 20ℓ bags filled with sawdust or a combination of coconut fibre, peat, perlite, polystyrene, or bark. A good potting mixture has good water holding capacity, adequate drainage and should not decompose rapidly. Peat, vermiculite and cocopeat are the most popular amendments added for increased water holding. Perlite and horticulture grade sand are commonly used to improve drainage.

Some cucumber farmers in Kenya prefer to plant in soil. Cucumber plants are deep-rooted crops, which grow best in  well drained, fertile, soil that is low in soluble salts and free of soil-borne diseases. The soil should  be at least 1.2m deep and sandy loam soil is preferable to light sand or clay. Well-composted organic matter may be worked into the soil before planting to increase nutrient levels and water-holding capacity.

Seeds can be directly sown, but are usually germinated in seedling trays and then transplanted.
Cucumber roots are very sensitive and care must be taken during transplant not to damage them. The use of a sterile seedling medium is recommended to prevent disease infection.

Cucumber Farming Spacing

The light availability, production system and trellising method will affect the exact spacing required.
Generally, under good light conditions, 2.2 to 2.5 plants per square meter should be sufficient. This should ensure good air circulation and adequate light for fruit production. A well-ventilated tunnel  will have lower disease pressure and will have easier access for spraying of pest and diseases.

Cucumber Farming Plant Population Per Acre

Cucumber Farmers normally plant from 40,000 to 90,000 plants per acre. Some growers plant as many as 150,000 per acre.

Although most cucumbers are picked by hand, the larger operations are mechanically harvested. The time from planting to harvest can be relatively quick in as few as 36 to 40 days from planting depending on variety and weather conditions. As an approximation, a first harvest date can be predicted by counting forward eight to 10 days from the first appearance of fully opened female flowers.

TRELLISING AND PRUNING ON CUCUMBER FARMING

To obtain optimum cucumber production, a proper balance is needed between the vegetative  growth and fruit load. This balance is achieved by constant pruning of shoots, foliage, fruit and flowers. If the canopy of leaves is too dense it will shade fruits from sunlight, causing them to be pale or unevenly coloured.

Cucumber farming in kenya

If fruit are not pruned and too many are allowed to form at any one time, a large proportion may be aborted, malformed or poorly coloured because the plant may not have sufficient reserves. Therefore, generally only one fruit should be allowed to develop in a leaf axil, although vigorous cultivars can sometimes mature more than one fruit at a node. Short, midi cucumber types will support several fruit per node.

Cucumbers are trellised on a string or wire system. Various trellising methods are used by different growers. The main aim should be to capture sunlight uniformly throughout the greenhouse.

Fertiliser Application on cucumber farming

During planting, mix soil with organic manure and about 200kg of DAP per hectare. About 100kg per hectare is enough for topdressing.

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The fertilisers are necessary to enhance the overall growth of the cucumber plant by providing important nutrients such as phosphorus which is essential for root development.

Weed and Pest Control on Cucumber Farming

Weed and pest control on cucumber farming are one of the important management practices to ensure optimum cucumber production. Weed control in cucumber farming can be carried out through a variety of methods which include the use of cover crops and mulches, cultivation and hand weeding, and applications of herbicides targeting the specific types of common weeds in a particular field.

Cucumber plants are vulnerable to varieties of insect, bacterial, fungal, and nematode infections. Early identification of infections is key to a successful management. Disease prevention methods in cucumber farming include crop rotation, good site selection, sanitation, soil treatments, and appropriate seed selections.

Try to prevent the leaves of cucumber from turning yellow, but if it does, do apply high nitrogen fertilizer.

Harvesting

Cucumbers are harvested at a variety of stages, from quite young to mature before seeds reach final maturity and harden. Those that are harvested prior to maturation of seeds are marketed as seedless. Fruit is harvested when uniform length, shape, and diameter are reached and before yellowing appears at the blossom end. In general, harvest length is determined by target market.

Harvest at the coolest time of day and avoid any heating of the harvested product. To reduce damage and disease a sharp clean tool should be used to cut the fruit from the plant. The harvested fruit should be placed in clean harvesting containers, kept in the shade, and taken to the pack house as soon after harvest as possible. Cucumbers should be handled carefully and care taken not to damage the thin skin.

Typical fruit length in English type cucumbers for the fresh whole market is 12 to 14 inches, garden cucumbers destined for the fresh sliced market are harvested at 7.5 to 8.5 inches, and although standards exist for mini-cucumbers, these fruits are generally harvested when they reach five to eight inches in length.

Frequent harvests are necessary because fruits mature quickly. Continued, timely harvest keeps the plants in a productive mode since cucumber plants have a limit

Benefits of Cucumber

Cucumber is high in Nutrients
Cucumbers are low in calories but high in many important vitamins and minerals, protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, manganese. To maximize their nutrient content, cucumbers should be eaten unpeeled. Peeling them reduces the amount of fiber, as well as certain vitamins and minerals.

Cucumber contains Antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, are especially rich in beneficial antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases

Cucumber Promotes Hydration
Water is crucial for the body’s function like temperature regulation and the transportation of waste products and nutrients. Because cucumbers are composed of about 96% water, they are especially effective at promoting hydration and can help meet daily fluid requirements.

Cucumber aid in weight loss
Cucumbers could potentially help in weight loss. Cucumbers are low in calories, high in water and can be used as a low-calorie topping for many dishes. All of these may aid in weight loss.

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Cucumber Promote Regularity in the Body
Cucumbers help support regular bowel movements. Dehydration is a major risk factor for constipation, as it can alter your water balance and make the passage of stool difficult.

Cucumbers are high in water and promote hydration. Staying hydrated can improve stool consistency, prevent constipation and help maintain regularity.

Cucumbers can be eaten fresh or pickled. They can be enjoyed as a low-calorie snack or used to add flavor in a variety of dishes.

Skin Care
Cucumber is also rich in silica, which is an essential component that aids in developing strong and healthy connective tissues in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones.

Maths and Profits From Cucumber Farming In Kenya

Credit

Growing a high-yielding variety of Carmen F1 cucumber coupled with identifying the target market can earn a farmer up to Sh225,000 from greenhouse in four months.

Carmen F1 is becoming popular among horticultural farmers for its tolerance to effects of the powdery mildew. It performs well in greenhouse set ups, giving uniform fruits in size, shape and weight.

Wycliffe Obwoge, an agronomist running a Nairobi-based agribusiness organisation’s greenhouse, says one plant can yield up to 25 kilogrammmes by the end of the growing season of four months.

He is, however, quick to caution that before engaging in this type of production, it is prudent for a farmer to first identify the market.

“A 15m by 8m greenhouse accommodates 300 seedlings. Because of the constant conditions, the production is steady and can be overwhelming. If a farmer does not have ready market it can be challenging,” he says.

Supermarkets and major hotels and other high-end eateries are big consumers of cucumbers. Carmen F1 gives heavy and long fruits which weighing even up to half a kilogramme.

Because of equal exposure to the micro-ecological conditions in the greenhouse, quantity and quality of the produce is almost uniform in yields and other attributes.

In the Amiran Kenya green house, constant quantity of water and nutrients are supplied by drip irrigation.

“Application of some fertilisers, soil-targeting pesticides and other nutritive elements boosting growth is done via irrigation. The resulting crops are similar,” he says.

From 300 plants, one can easily harvest about 7,500 kg by the end of the growing season.

In Nairobi, kilo of cucumber costs between Sh30 and Sh40. At times, the cost swells further than Sh50 when the supply is low and demand is high. The 7,500 kg sold at Sh30 will earn a gross income of Sh225,000.

In the local markets, cucumbers cost between Sh10 and sh20 when sold per piece.

A Carmen F1 farmer will spend more on control of whiteflies, which are the main pests attacking cucumber.

 

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