Feedback: Farming the best Hass avocados

Tuesday March 19 2019

Avocados can be grown in a wide range of soils provided that they are well drained and of at least 120cm depth.

Avocados can be grown in a wide range of soils provided that they are well drained and of at least 120cm depth. The soil should not be saline since avocados do not tolerate it. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Please help me plant Hass avocados. I have land and I am ready to start.

Sammy Wafula

Avocado will do well in areas with the following climatic requirements:

Climate: They are not frost-resistant even though plants of the Mexican race have been observed to overcome temperatures of between -4 to -50C without serious damage.

The best areas for production should have warm to cool climate, that is between 1,800 and 2,100m above sea level. Warm temperatures are essential for fruit set.

Rainfall: Avocados do well in areas with rainfall averages of 1,000-1,500mm per annum, well-distributed throughout the year. Irrigation is essential where rainfall is not sufficient.

Soils: Avocados can be grown in a wide range of soils provided that they are well drained and of at least 120cm depth. The soil should not be saline since avocados do not tolerate it. The best soils are medium sandy loams with pH of 5.5 — 6.5.

Wind: The avocado tree is easily damaged by winds due to its brittle branches. Moderately high winds can cause severe damage. Shelterbelts around orchards in strong wind areas are essential.

Establishment and maintenance

Site selection: The site for planting avocados should be free from anthills, be levelled or gentle-sloped and well sheltered from strong winds.

Site preparation: Land should be properly ploughed and harrowed to remove all perennial weeds. It is also advisable to plant maize or sunflower one year before planting the avocados.

Spacing: The square planting pattern is applied, that is, a spacing of 10mx10m or 10mx8m (rectangular) to give plant populations of 100 and 125 trees per hectare, respectively.

Planting: Planting holes are dug 45cmx4cmx45cm.

Holes are filled with top soil mixed with about 30kg of manure and 125g of DSP. The trees are delivered in polythene bags and carefully removed to cause very little disturbance to the roots.

The trees are usually planted at a higher level than they were in the nursery to allow for settling. After planting, they are watered and mulched. The best time to plant is when the long rains are starting.

Pruning: Normally, no pruning is required besides the removal of broken and diseased branches and trimming those touching the ground. Sucker growth is checked to remove shoots coming out of the rootstock.

Weeding: The orchard should be weed-free. It is recommended to have vegetables growing between the rows of young plantations. Beans have shown better results. Nothing should be planted closer than 2m from the tree. Higher crops such as maize and sunflower should not be intercropped with the avocado.

Irrigation: To have good production of avocados, irrigation is necessary, especially during the dry period. The quantity of water applied depends on the moisture characteristics of the soil and age of the trees. It, however, varies from 25-35 litres per tree per fortnight.

Since avocados are intolerant to salinity, the water used must be free from salts.

Manuring and fertilisation: For maximum growth and optimum yields, it is important to supply the avocado with the necessary nutrients.

It is, however, dangerous to give excessive amounts on any size of trees at a go as it may cause root damage, leaf burn and defoliation. The type of fertiliser to be used depends on soil pH.

In the planting year, it is advisable not to top-dress the orchard since this may retard root development during the first 4-5 months after planting.

After this period, 60g of 26 per cent N fertiliser should be applied after every three months when the soil is moist. In addition, about 25kg of well-rotten manure should be spread around the trees after each year.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils and Egerton University.



I am Kalale Patrick, a farmer in Turkana South sub-county, Katilu ward. Which herbicides are safe for use on my watermelons and green grams?

Depending on the crop and its stage of growth, herbicide spraying can be both pre and post emergence. You can spray the following:

Spray weeds with CATAPULT® 480SL 200ml/20l. This kills both the broadleaved and grass weeds. It can be used on watermelon.

BASAGRAN 05LTR is a post-emergence herbicide for the control of broad-leaved weeds and cyperacea phaseolus in beans and potatoes Rate of use: 1.5-3ltr/ha Class — II — Yellow Active Ingredient — Bentazone 480g/litre. Used for beans but can also be used for green grams.

DUAL GOLD: A broad spectrum herbicide for annual grasses in maize and beans rate of use — 120-600ltr/ha/10,000ltr water Class — III — Blue Active ingredient — S-Metolachlor 960g/ltr. Used also on green grams.

Jayo M Tracyline,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.



I would like to start pumpkin growing on a 140 by 140ft plot in Kamwaura, Njoro, this season. Please advise on the right variety of pumpkin for this area given its very cold night temperatures of up to 150C. Secondly, where can I get seedlings?


Pumpkin farming is considered one of the best practices and with good management, it can lead to enormous profits.

The crop has high nutritive value and both leaves and fruits can be consumed. Pumpkins can grow in low and mid-altitude areas. There are various varieties of pumpkins:

Jack-be-little: This pumpkin is the tiniest.

Baby Boo: It is small and white in colour.

Jaradale: It’s a blue pumpkin, weighing up to 10kg. Jaradale is unique and decorative. It is used for baking, mashing and cooking.

Wee-be-little: It is small in size and produces remarkably smaller fruits that are about the size of a baseball. The fruit is smooth enough for painting, has a bright orange colour, is thin and has dark stems that are well attached. They are tasty.

Sweet sugar pie: These pumpkins are perfect for baking. Have sweet, fine, textured pulp. They average 5 to 7 pounds.
Casper: It’s white in colour.

Fairy-tale: A unique and popular French “cheese” pumpkin. Has a deeply lobed shape, and has a rich, deep tan colour. The flesh is fine-grained and delicious. Weighs about 15-18-pound average.

Blue doll: The blue doll is almost a square fruit, with a blue colour. Grows big, 10-15kg.
Cinderella: This is a French heirloom variety, and is very popular. The fruit is reddish-orange, flattened and ribbed.

Cinderella produces 13-15kg fruit.

Harvest Jack: This easy-to-grow and high-yielding variety averages 10-15kg. The fruit is dark orange with long handles. It makes great, large Jack O’Lanterns.

Howden: It’s big, bright orange. The fruit grows and weighs 10-20kg. The plant can produce 4—6 pumpkins.
Dill’s atlantic giant: It weighs a thousand pounds or more.

Peanut: This pumpkin has bumps on the surface, resembling peanuts covering its surface.

Red warty thing: This lumpy red-orange pumpkin weighs up to 10kg. It’s also an excellent pumpkin to eat; with sweet, stringless flesh.

Improved varieties like Israel Giant, which weighs more that 20kg and Giant Ugandan, which can weigh up to 30kg, produce more in warmer climates.

Jayo Manyasi Tracyline.
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.