Collard greens, also known as sukuma wiki in Kenya, are a nutritious and popular leafy vegetable that is widely grown and consumed in the country. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making them an excellent addition to any diet. Collard greens are also relatively easy to grow, making them an ideal crop for small-scale farmers and home gardeners.
If you are interested in collards farming in Kenya, there are a few things you need to know. First, it is important to choose the right variety of collard greens for your area. Some popular varieties in Kenya include Utravetis’s Southern Georgia Collards and Thousand Headed kale. These varieties are known for their high yields, tolerance to heat and cold, and resistance to pests and diseases.
Once you have chosen your variety, you will need to prepare your soil and plant your seeds or seedlings. Collard greens prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. They also require regular watering and fertilization to ensure healthy growth. With the right care and attention, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of nutritious collard greens that you can use in a variety of dishes.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Collard greens are a cool-season crop that thrives in temperatures between 17 and 22 degrees Celsius. They require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to grow properly. In Kenya, collard greens can be grown year-round, but they grow best during the cooler months, from April to August and from October to December.
When it comes to soil, collard greens prefer fertile, well-draining soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 7. To ensure optimal growth, you can add organic matter to the soil, such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. Collard greens also benefit from regular watering, especially during the dry season. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged, as too much water can lead to root rot.
It’s important to note that collard greens are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization. You can use organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, bone meal, or blood meal, or a balanced chemical fertilizer. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying fertilizer to avoid over-fertilization, which can damage the plants.
Choosing and Preparing Seeds
When growing collards in Kenya, it is important to choose the right seeds and prepare them properly to ensure that they grow into healthy plants. Here are some tips on how to choose and prepare collard seeds:
Choosing the Right Seeds
When choosing collard seeds, consider the following:
- Choose seeds that are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. Look for seeds that are specifically bred for Kenya or East Africa.
- Choose seeds that are disease-resistant. Collards are susceptible to several diseases, so it is important to choose seeds that are resistant to these diseases.
- Choose seeds that are of high quality. Look for seeds that are uniform in size and shape, and that have a high germination rate.
Preparing the Seeds
Before planting collard seeds, it is important to prepare them properly. Here are some tips on how to prepare collard seeds:
- Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. This will help to soften the seed coat and speed up germination.
- Plant the seeds in a seed-starting mix. This will provide the seeds with the nutrients they need to germinate and grow into healthy plants.
- Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Collard seeds need to be kept moist in order to germinate, but they can rot if they are kept too wet.
- Keep the seeds warm. Collard seeds need to be kept at a temperature of around 75°F (24°C) in order to germinate. Consider using a heat mat or placing the seeds in a warm location.
By choosing the right seeds and preparing them properly, you can ensure that your collards grow into healthy, productive plants.
Planting and Care
Collard greens are a popular leafy vegetable in Kenya and are relatively easy to grow. Here are some tips for planting and caring for collard greens:
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Collards prefer soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 6.8.
- Plant seedlings when they have 4 to 5 true roots and are about 4 weeks old.
- Transplant seedlings in the morning or evening when the sun is not too hot.
- Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart.
- Water the seedlings regularly, but be careful not to overwater. Collards need about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week.
- Apply a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist and the leaves clean.
- Keep the plants well-watered and harvest regularly to keep them sending out new leaves.
- Apply fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks to promote growth.
- Keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, cabbage loopers, and flea beetles. Use organic pest control methods such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or row covers.
- If the weather gets close to freezing, cover the plants with a frost cloth or bring them inside until they are mature and established enough to handle frost.
- Remove any yellowing or damaged leaves to keep the plant healthy.
By following these planting and care tips, you can grow healthy and delicious collard greens in your Kenyan garden.
Pest and Disease Control
Collard greens are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases that can damage the plants and reduce their yield. Here are some common pests and diseases to watch out for when growing collards in Kenya:
Some common pests that can attack collard greens include:
- Diamondback Moth: This pest is a common problem in Kenya and can cause significant damage to collard greens. Look for small holes in the leaves and small green caterpillars on the undersides of the leaves.
- Cabbage Worm: These small green caterpillars can quickly eat through collard leaves, causing significant damage to the plant.
- Aphids: These small insects can suck the sap out of collard leaves, causing them to wilt and die. Look for clusters of small green or black insects on the undersides of the leaves.
Collard greens can also be susceptible to a variety of diseases, including:
- Black Rot: This fungal disease can cause yellowing and wilting of the leaves, as well as blackened veins. It can be spread through infected seeds or soil.
- Clubroot: This disease can cause stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves. It is caused by a soil-borne pathogen and can be spread through infected soil or water.
- Downy Mildew: This fungal disease can cause yellowing and wilting of the leaves, as well as a grayish-white fungus on the undersides of the leaves. It is spread through infected seeds or soil.
To prevent pests and diseases, it is important to practice good sanitation in the garden. Remove any infected plants or leaves immediately and dispose of them properly. Rotate crops to prevent soil-borne diseases and keep the garden free of weeds that can harbor pests and diseases. In addition, consider using organic pest control methods, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, to control pests without harming beneficial insects.
Also Read: Kales Farming In Kenya
Harvesting and Storage
Collards are ready to harvest when the leaves are large and deep green. Harvesting should be done in the morning when the leaves are crisp and fresh. Here are some tips for harvesting collards:
- Start harvesting the leaves from the bottom of the plant and work your way up, picking only the outer leaves. This will allow the inner leaves to continue growing.
- Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves at the base of the stem. Avoid damaging the stem or the new leaves that are growing from it.
- Harvest only what you need, leaving some leaves on the plant to continue growing. This will ensure a continuous supply of fresh collards.
Once you have harvested your collards, it’s important to store them properly to keep them fresh for as long as possible. Here are some tips for storing collards:
- Wash the leaves thoroughly in cold water and dry them completely.
- Wrap the leaves in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture.
- Place the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and seal it tightly.
- Store the bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator. Collards can last up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
If you have a large harvest of collards, you can also freeze them for later use. Here’s how:
- Blanch the collard leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the leaves from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Drain the leaves and pat them dry.
- Place the leaves in a freezer-safe container or bag and label it with the date.
- Store the container or bag in the freezer for up to 8 months. Sources: Said, M., and F. M. Itulya. “Intercropping and nitrogen management effects on diamondback moth damage and yield of collards in the highlands of Kenya.” African crop science journal 11.1 (2003): 35-42. Link: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/html/1807/23672/cs03005.html Mwanarusi, S. and Itulya, F. M. “Effect of intercropping collard with beans or onions on aphid populations and yields of collard under high altitude conditions in Kenya.” Tanzania Journal of Agricultural Sciences 7.2 (2006): 57-66. Link: https://journals.co.za/doi/pdf/10.10520/AJA0856664X_171