Tree tomatoes, also known as tamarillos, are a popular fruit in Kenya due to their delicious taste and various health benefits. These fruits are commonly grown in home gardens and small-scale farms across the country. If you’re interested in tree tomato farming in Kenya, there are several things you need to know to ensure a successful harvest.
The first step in growing tree tomatoes is selecting a suitable location. These plants require a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Once you have chosen the right location, you need to prepare the soil by digging a hole that is twice the size of the tree tomato’s root ball and mixing in some compost. After planting the tree tomato, you need to water it well and add a thick layer of mulch to reduce moisture loss and prevent weed growth.
Whether you’re a seasoned farmer or a beginner, growing tree tomatoes in Kenya can be a rewarding experience. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these delicious fruits. In this article, we will explore the various steps involved in growing tree tomatoes in Kenya, from selecting the right location to harvesting the fruits. Read on to learn more about how you can grow tree tomatoes in your own garden or farm.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Tree tomatoes are subtropical plants that require specific climate and soil conditions to grow and produce fruit. Here are the climate and soil requirements for growing tree tomatoes in Kenya:
Tree tomatoes grow best in subtropical climates, where the temperature ranges between 15 and 20 °C, and the rainfall is between 600 and 4000 millimeters per year. The tree tomato plant is intolerant to frost (below -2 °C) and drought stress. Night temperatures also affect fruit set. Therefore, it is essential to plant tree tomatoes in areas that have a subtropical climate.
The soil for tree tomato farming should be well-drained, fertile, and rich in organic matter. The pH of the soil should be between 5.5 and 7.5. It is crucial to prepare the soil before planting the tree tomato seedlings. The following are the soil preparation steps:
- Clear the land and remove any weeds or debris.
- Test the soil to determine its nutrient content and pH level.
- If the soil is acidic, add lime to raise the pH level.
- If the soil is alkaline, add sulfur to lower the pH level.
- Add organic matter, such as compost or manure, to enrich the soil.
- Till the soil to a depth of at least 30 cm to ensure adequate aeration.
By following these steps, you can create the ideal soil conditions for growing healthy and productive tree tomato plants.
Varieties of Tree Tomatoes
Tree tomatoes come in different varieties, each with unique characteristics. Here are some of the most common varieties grown in Kenya:
|Yellow||Yellow||Superior flavor, good for preserving|
|Red||Red||Appealing color, commonly chosen for Kenyan markets|
|Black or Dark-Red||Black or Dark-Red||Large and of higher quality|
When choosing a variety to grow, it’s important to consider factors such as market demand, flavor, and yield. Yellow tree tomatoes are a good choice for those interested in preserving the fruit, while red and dark-red varieties are popular in local markets.
It’s also important to note that different varieties may have different growth characteristics, such as height and fruit production. Farmers should choose a variety that is well-suited to their specific growing conditions and production goals.
Preparing the Land for Planting
Before planting your tree tomatoes, it is essential to prepare the land adequately. Here are some tips to help you prepare the land for planting:
- Location: Choose a location with adequate water supply. In Kenya, suitable areas to plant tree tomatoes include Western, parts of Nyanza, Central Kenya, Taita Taveta, and some parts of the Rift valley.
- Soil preparation: Till the land 2 to 3 months before planting to allow the soil to settle. Dig holes that are 3m by 3m, and separate the topsoil from subsoil. Mix two spadefuls of topsoil with well-decomposed manure.
- Fertilizer: Apply 200g of di-ammonium sulphate fertilizer for each plant when planting tree tomatoes.
By preparing the land adequately, you will create a suitable environment for your tree tomatoes to grow and thrive.
Planting Tree Tomatoes
Planting tree tomatoes is a crucial stage in the growth of the crop. Here are some tips to help you plant your tree tomatoes:
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden that has well-drained soil. Tree tomatoes require a lot of sunlight to grow and produce fruit.
- Dig a hole that is twice the size of the tree tomato’s root ball and mix in some compost. This will help provide the necessary nutrients and drainage for the plant.
- Gently remove the tree tomato from its pot and place it in the hole. Be careful not to damage the roots.
- Backfill the hole with soil and water well. Make sure the soil is evenly moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other problems.
- Apply a thick layer of mulch, like straw, around the base of the plant. This will help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
It’s important to keep the soil around the tree tomato moist but not waterlogged. Water the plant deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry weather. Fertilize the plant with a balanced fertilizer every two to three months to promote healthy growth and fruit production.
Tree tomatoes can be grown from seeds or cuttings. If you’re starting from seeds, plant them in pots or seed trays and keep them in a warm, bright place until they germinate. Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, you can transplant them into larger containers or directly into the ground.
Overall, planting tree tomatoes requires some care and attention, but with the right conditions and care, they can grow into healthy, productive plants that provide a bountiful harvest.
Tree Tomato Plant Care
Tree tomato plants require proper care to produce high-quality fruits. Below are some tips to help you take care of your tree tomato plants:
- Watering: Water your tree tomatoes regularly, especially during the dry season. However, be careful not to overwater them as this may cause root rot. Ensure the soil is well-drained to prevent waterlogging.
- Fertilization: Fertilize your tree tomato plants regularly with organic manure or compost. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and fruit production. Avoid using chemical fertilizers as they may harm the plant and reduce fruit quality.
- Pruning: Prune your tree tomato plants regularly to remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches. This will promote healthy growth and increase fruit production. Also, remove any suckers that grow from the base of the plant.
- Pest and disease control: Tree tomato plants are susceptible to pests and diseases such as aphids, whiteflies, and powdery mildew. To control these, use organic pesticides or fungicides. Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of infestation or disease and take appropriate action.
- Harvesting: Harvest your tree tomatoes when they are ripe. They should be firm and slightly soft to the touch. Do not wait until they are fully ripe as they may fall off the plant or attract pests.
By following these tips, you can ensure your tree tomato plants grow healthy and produce high-quality fruits. With proper care, you can harvest a bumper crop of tree tomatoes and enjoy their delicious taste and nutritional benefits.
Pests and Diseases
Tree tomatoes are generally pest-resistant, but there are a few pests and diseases that can affect them. Here are some common pests and diseases and how to control them:
Aphids: These are small, soft-bodied insects that suck the sap from the leaves and stems of the tree tomato. They can be controlled by spraying the tree with a mixture of water and dish soap or neem oil. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of aphids and can be introduced to the garden to control the infestation.
Fruit flies: These are small, brown flies that lay their eggs in the fruit of the tree tomato. The larvae feed on the fruit, causing it to rot. To control fruit flies, use sticky traps or spray the tree with a mixture of water and vinegar.
Powdery mildew: This is a fungal disease that affects the leaves of the tree tomato. It appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves, and can cause them to fall off. To control powdery mildew, spray the tree with a mixture of water and baking soda or copper oxychloride.
Root rot: This is a fungal disease that affects the roots of the tree tomato. It can be caused by overwatering or poorly-draining soil. To prevent root rot, make sure the soil is well-draining and avoid overwatering the tree. If the tree is already infected, remove the affected roots and replant the tree in fresh soil.
Canker: This is a bacterial disease that causes lesions on the branches and trunk of the tree tomato. It can be controlled by pruning the affected branches and spraying the tree with a copper-based fungicide.
Harvesting Tree Tomatoes
Tree tomatoes are ready to harvest when they develop the red or yellow color. The maturity of the fruit is also determined by the fruit’s firmness. Harvesting should be done carefully to avoid damaging the fruit. To harvest, gently pull the fruit from the tree or use a pruning shear to cut the stem.
It is important to note that tree tomato plants will bear fruits after 2 years. The fruiting season starts from June to November, and the fruit can be harvested every two weeks. The yield per tree is about 100 to 200 fruits per year.
After harvesting, the fruits should be sorted to remove any damaged or diseased fruits. The fruits should be handled carefully to avoid bruising, which can cause the fruit to rot. The fruits should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. The temperature should be maintained at 10-12°C with 85-90% relative humidity.
The shelf life of tree tomatoes is short, and the fruit should be consumed within a few days after harvesting. The fruit can also be processed into juice, jam or sauce to increase its shelf life.
Marketing Tree Tomatoes
Once you have harvested your tree tomatoes, it is time to sell them. Marketing your produce can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, you can sell your tree tomatoes and make a profit.
One of the most effective ways to market your tree tomatoes is to sell them directly to consumers. You can do this by setting up a roadside stand or selling them at a local market. Be sure to display your tree tomatoes attractively and offer samples to potential customers. You can also consider selling your tree tomatoes to local restaurants or grocery stores.
Another way to market your tree tomatoes is to participate in agricultural fairs and exhibitions. This is a great way to showcase your produce and connect with potential customers. You can also use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to market your tree tomatoes. Post pictures of your produce and include information about where and how to purchase them.
When marketing your tree tomatoes, it is important to emphasize their health benefits and unique flavor. Tree tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and they have a sweet and tangy taste that sets them apart from other fruits. Highlighting these qualities can help attract customers and increase sales.
Also Read: Pears Farming In Kenya
Sources: Vásquez, P. Ubidia, and C. A. Soria. “Parasitic nematodes associated with tree tomato (Solanum betaceum Cav.) in the ecuadorian highlands.” Revista Ecuatoriana de Medicina y Ciencias Biológicas 38.2 (2017): 107-118. Link: http://www.remcb-puce.edu.ec/index.php/remcb/article/view/549
Ramírez-Gil, Joaquín Guillermo, Alejandro Gil-Aguirre, and Juan Gonzalo Morales-Osorio. “Etiology of tree tomato (Solanum betaceum CAV.) diseases Etiología de enfermedades del cultivo de tomate de árbol (Solanum betaceum.” Link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joaquin-Guillermo-Gil-2/publication/317971195_Etiology_of_tree_tomato_Solanum_betaceum_CAV_diseases_Etiologia_de_enfermedades_del_cultivo_de_tomate_de_arbol_Solanum_betaceum_CAV/links/5953fd42a6fdcc1697893c69/Etiology-of-tree-tomato-Solanum-betaceum-CAV-diseases-Etiologia-de-enfermedades-del-cultivo-de-tomate-de-arbol-Solanum-betaceum-CAV.pdf