Cucumber is a popular crop in Kenya, and it’s not hard to see why. The vegetable is easy to grow, requires little maintenance, and is a great source of nutrition. However, many farmers in Kenya struggle to grow cucumbers due to a lack of knowledge about the crop. In this article, we will provide a beginner’s guide on how to grow cucumber in Kenya.
Before we dive into the details about cucumber farming in Kenya, it’s important to note that the success of your crop will depend on several factors. These include the climate, soil type, seed quality, and farming techniques. Therefore, it’s crucial to conduct research on the best practices for growing cucumber in your region before you start planting.
That being said, growing cucumber in Kenya is relatively straightforward. The crop can be grown both in open fields and greenhouses, and it thrives in warm temperatures and well-drained soils. With the right knowledge and techniques, you can grow healthy and abundant cucumber crops that will provide you with a steady source of income.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Cucumber is a warm-season crop that requires a temperature range of 22°C to 30°C for optimal growth. The crop does well in areas with a minimum of 500mm annual rainfall, and the soil should be well-drained sandy loam, silty or clay loams rich in organic matter with a pH of 5.5-6.8.
It is important to note that cucumber is a water-loving plant, and the soil should have good water-holding capacity. Irrigation should be done regularly to ensure the soil is moist, and the plant is not stressed.
Cucumber can be grown in both open fields and greenhouses. In open fields, the crop grows well in areas with an altitude of 400-600m above sea level. However, in areas with high temperatures, greenhouse cucumber farming is recommended as it allows for close monitoring of environmental conditions, which is essential for optimal growth and yield.
Additionally, cucumbers require adequate sunlight, and the crop can be grown in areas with a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day.
Also Read: Profitability Of Cucumber Farming In Kenya
Cucumber Varieties to Grow in Kenya
Cucumber farming in Kenya has gained popularity in recent years due to its high demand in local and international markets. There are several cucumber varieties that you can grow in Kenya, but it is important to choose the best variety that suits your farming conditions and market demand. Here are some of the cucumber varieties that you can grow in Kenya:
- Carmen F1: This variety is highly recommended for farmers who want to grow cucumbers for export. It has a good shelf life, high yield, and is resistant to common cucumber diseases such as powdery mildew.
- Palomer: This is a high-yielding variety that produces long, straight cucumbers. It is suitable for both open field and greenhouse farming and has good disease resistance.
- Woodland Crisp: This variety is known for its crispy texture and sweet taste. It is suitable for fresh market sales and has good disease resistance.
- Colorado: This variety is ideal for farmers who want to grow cucumbers for pickling. It produces short, thick cucumbers that are perfect for pickling.
- Poisette: This is a French variety that is popular for its small, crunchy cucumbers. It is suitable for both open field and greenhouse farming.
- Hybrid Victory: This is a high-yielding variety that produces long, straight cucumbers. It is suitable for both open field and greenhouse farming and has good disease resistance.
- Danora F1: This variety is known for its high yield and disease resistance. It produces long, straight cucumbers that are suitable for both fresh market sales and processing.
Before choosing a cucumber variety to grow, it is important to consider factors such as market demand, disease resistance, and farming conditions. Consult with agricultural experts or experienced cucumber farmers to help you choose the best cucumber variety that will give you maximum yield and profit.
Preparing the Land for Cucumber Farming
Before planting cucumbers, it is important to prepare the land properly to ensure optimal growth and yield. Here are some steps to follow when preparing the land for cucumber farming:
- Choose a suitable farmland: Cucumbers grow well in well-drained soils with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. The land should be cleared of any debris or rocks that could hinder growth. It is also important to choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
- Clear the selected farm site: Clear the land of any weeds, grass, or debris that could interfere with the growth of your cucumbers. This can be done by using a hoe, plow or tractor.
- Improve soil fertility: Cucumbers require fertile soils to grow and produce high yields. One way to improve soil fertility is to add organic matter, such as compost or manure, to the soil. This will help to provide the necessary nutrients for the cucumbers to grow.
- Prepare the soil: Once the land has been cleared and the soil fertility has been improved, the soil should be tilled to a depth of at least 30 cm. This will help to loosen the soil and create a favorable environment for the cucumbers to grow.
- Apply fertilizers: It is important to apply fertilizers to the soil before planting to provide the necessary nutrients for the cucumbers to grow. A good fertilizer to use is Diammonium phosphate (DAP) which should be applied at a rate of 200 kg per hectare. Organic manure can also be applied at a rate of 15 tons per hectare.
- Irrigation: Cucumbers require regular watering to grow and produce high yields. It is important to ensure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Irrigation can be done using drip irrigation, sprinklers, or flood irrigation.
By following these steps, you can prepare the land for cucumber farming and ensure optimal growth and yield. Proper land preparation is essential for the success of your cucumber farming venture.
Planting Cucumber Seeds
Cucumber seeds are planted directly in the soil. Before planting, prepare the soil by removing weeds and other debris. The soil should be well-drained, fertile, and have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Cucumbers prefer warm soil, so it’s best to wait until the soil temperature reaches at least 60°F before planting.
When planting cucumber seeds, space them 1 inch deep and 2 to 3 feet apart. If you’re planting in rows, space the rows 5 to 6 feet apart. You can also plant seeds in hills, with 4 to 5 seeds per hill and hills spaced 4 to 5 feet apart.
If you’re planting multiple seeds in one hole or hill, thin them out once they start to sprout, leaving the strongest seedling. This will ensure that the cucumber plants have enough space to grow and produce fruit.
After planting, water the seeds well and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Cucumbers require regular watering, especially during hot and dry weather. Mulching can help retain moisture in the soil and also prevent weeds from growing.
It’s important to protect the young seedlings from pests such as birds and insects. Cover the seeds with a light layer of soil or use row covers until the seedlings are established.
Caring for Cucumber Plants
Once your cucumber plants have been planted, it’s important to care for them properly to ensure a healthy and productive harvest. Here are some tips for caring for your cucumber plants:
- Watering: Cucumber plants require consistent moisture to grow properly. Water them deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. Avoid getting the leaves wet, as this can lead to disease.
- Fertilizing: Cucumber plants are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization. Use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, every two to three weeks. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to poor fruit quality.
- Weeding: Keep the area around your cucumber plants free of weeds, as they can compete for nutrients and water. Use a hoe or hand-pull weeds regularly.
- Pest control: Cucumber plants are susceptible to a variety of pests, including cucumber beetles, aphids, and spider mites. Monitor your plants regularly and use insecticidal soap or other organic pest control methods as needed.
- Support: Cucumber plants can become heavy and require support to prevent them from falling over. Use trellises, stakes, or cages to keep the plants upright.
- Harvesting: Harvest your cucumbers regularly to encourage continued fruit production. Pick them when they are firm and bright green, before they turn yellow or brown. Cut the cucumbers off the vine with a sharp knife or scissors.
By following these simple tips, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of healthy and delicious cucumbers.
Pest and Disease Control
Cucumber plants are susceptible to several pests and diseases that can affect their growth and yield. It is essential to monitor the plants regularly and take appropriate measures to control the pests and diseases before they cause significant damage.
The most common pests that attack cucumber plants are aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites, and whiteflies. These pests can suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to wilt and turn yellow. They can also transmit viral diseases that can cause stunted growth and low yields.
To control these pests, it is essential to use natural methods such as crop rotation, companion planting, and biological control agents such as ladybugs and lacewings. You can also use organic pesticides such as neem oil, garlic spray, and pyrethrin-based insecticides. It is important to follow the instructions on the label carefully and apply the pesticides at the right time to avoid harming beneficial insects and pollinators.
Cucumber plants are susceptible to several diseases such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, and bacterial wilt. These diseases can cause yellowing of the leaves, stunted growth, and low yields.
To control these diseases, it is essential to practice good sanitation by removing infected plant debris and weeds. You can also apply organic fungicides such as copper-based sprays and sulfur-based fungicides. It is important to follow the instructions on the label carefully and apply the fungicides at the right time to avoid harming beneficial insects and pollinators.
Controlling pests and diseases is essential to ensure the healthy growth and high yield of cucumber plants. By following the natural and organic methods mentioned above, you can avoid the use of harmful chemicals and promote a healthy and sustainable farming system.
Harvesting cucumbers is a critical part of cucumber farming. Cucumbers are ready for harvesting in about 50-70 days after planting. The best time to harvest cucumbers is in the morning when they are still cool. It is important to handle the cucumbers with care to avoid bruising, which can reduce their quality and shelf life.
When harvesting cucumbers, use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the stem about 1/4 inch above the cucumber. Do not pull the cucumbers off the plant as this can damage the plant and reduce future yields. It is also important to harvest cucumbers frequently to encourage the plant to produce more cucumbers.
Cucumbers should be harvested when they are still firm and have a bright green color. Overripe cucumbers are yellow and have a bitter taste. It is important to sort the cucumbers according to size and shape to ensure uniformity and to increase their market value.
After harvesting, cucumbers should be washed and sorted before they are packed for transportation. Cucumbers should be stored in a cool, dry place to maintain their quality and shelf life. Properly harvested cucumbers can last up to 2-3 weeks if stored properly.
Once you have harvested your cucumbers, it is time to sell them. Here are some tips on marketing your cucumbers:
- Identify your target market: Before you start selling your cucumbers, you must identify your target market. You can sell your cucumbers to local markets, supermarkets, or directly to consumers.
- Price your cucumbers competitively: Do some research on the market prices for cucumbers in your area. Price your cucumbers competitively to attract customers.
- Advertise your cucumbers: Use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to advertise your cucumbers. You can also put up posters in your local area to attract customers.
- Offer discounts and promotions: Offering discounts and promotions can attract customers and increase your sales. For example, you can offer a discount to customers who buy in bulk.
Remember to always maintain the quality of your cucumbers. Customers are more likely to buy cucumbers that are fresh and of good quality. Good luck with your cucumber farming venture!
Sources: Zhang X, Ma W, Vatsa P, Jiang S. Short supply chain, technical efficiency, and technological change: Insights from cucumber production. Agribusiness. 2022 Dec 5. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/agr.21789
Dan S, Murungi LK, Kioko E. Diversity and abundance of insect pollinators and their effect on yield and quality of cowpea and cucumber in Makueni, Kenya. African Journal of Horticultural Science. 2019 Jun 30;16:43-54. Link: http://ir.jkuat.ac.ke/handle/123456789/5400