Clever farmers are doing an evaluation of the year 2015, noting the mistakes they made, while celebrating their major successes.
And as you plan your farming calendar in 2016, our in-house agronomist Elijah Lemomo, advices that you should make it the year of short-season crops.
Over the next one month, starting December 17, agronomist Lemomo will be telling you the kinds of crops you should be focusing on in each month of next.
This is the first installment of the 12-part series, dubbed Crops of 2016, the only planting and harvesting calendar you should have.
Traditionally, January has been a dry month. However the weatherman has made the coming January an exception, by listing it among the months that might experience heavy rains—an extension of the El Nino season that started in October.
As such, farmers who are mostly dependent on rainfall for watering their farms, should consider be hard at work preparing their farms for planting in January. The golden crops to focus on this month are tomatoes, which mature in 75 days and should be ready for harvest mid-March, as demand soars.
Lemomo is willing to bet that farmers in Ngong area of Kajiado county, will be smiling all the way to the bank in March, owing to the great prices their produce will fetch.
“Ngong is an area with uniquely rich soils and, having worked on farms there, I can confirm that tomatoes should be the main focus going into January,” said Lemomo.
Tomatoes grow best in well-drained soils with a pH in the range of 6.2 to 6.8.
Watering and Fertilising
Tomatoes require 1 to 2 inches of water per week. A good way to keep the plants from drying out is to install a 2-inch layer of mulch around each plant. If you don’t have adequate rainfall, water the plants once or twice a week, or consider installing a drip irrigation system. Fertilise your plants once every week using a balanced fertiliser.
Pest and Diseases
Tomatoes are mildy tolerant to pests and diseases, and effort should be made to ensure that the crops are well protected. Hornworms and whiteflies the common pests for tomatoes but can be gotten rid of using several pesticides. Neem oil, sulfur, and other fungicides can be used to help prevent blossom-end rot.
Weeds compete with tomatoes for nutrients and water and effort should be made to keep them off the farm. Be careful not to damage the roots when using a hoe for weeding.
If not supported, tomatoes will grow to some height and then fall over, especially when fruiting starts. This encourages diseases and leads to poor fruit production. Stakes and strings can be used to keep the plants upright.
Harvesting and Storage
Tomatoes can either be harvested when green or when fully ripe, depending on the market needs. Unripe tomatoes should be kept in a well-ventilated area at room temperature until they ripen.