Letters to the editor: All that you need, to get bumper harvest from spinach

Monday July 04 2016



I am growing spinach commercially. My first harvest was quite impressive and I want to maintain those standards. What routine management practices should I carry on my spinach?

Additionally, please advise on the expected harvesting period for the Fordhook Giant variety if well-managed.


Spinach produces best in well-fertilised soils, mulched at planting. You can apply compost manure followed by a top-dressing fertiliser like CAN at a rate of one spoonful per plant.

For optimum production, spinach requires regular water supply throughout the entire growing season as it is shallow-rooted. It is, therefore, advisable to irrigate during the dry season.


Hand weeding is recommended to prevent root injury. Diseases and pests can be controlled by application of the appropriate chemicals like fungicides and insecticides.


A vegetable farmer picks spinach for customers in Kamuchuni village, Mukurweini. For optimum production, spinach requires regular water supply throughout the entire growing season as it is shallow-rooted. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

Fordhook Giant matures within 50-60 days after planting and harvesting can start from 35 to 100 days.

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


On June 11, Dr Jane N. Maina advised farmers not to use pig waste as manure due to parasites that survive the decomposing process and are passed on to humans and soil. What would be the effect if the waste is used on other crops like tea, coffee and trees?

George M. Mburu, Thika

Unless proper precautions are followed, pig, dog and cat manure can be harmful to human health. The composting process that can kill organisms harmful to man requires high temperatures and special conditions commonly not attained in Kenya and most developing countries.

The primary hazard present in pig and dog manure is parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms that can be passed on to man. Some resistant bacteria such as listeria and staphylococcus found in these animals, particularly the pig, may also survive the composting process and have been responsible for disease outbreaks in agricultural and livestock workers.


A female pig with her young ones. PHOTO | SILAS OUNDO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The risk involved in manure from these animals is not worthy the use in any crops that will be tendered by man. Cat feaces poses the greatest threat to human health because they may transmit Toxoplasmosis, a disease that is particularly hazardous for pregnant women, causing serious damage to the central nervous system (the brain) of an unborn child, resulting in foetal blindness, brain damage leading to retardation and other problems.

The adult parasite involved in this disease is carried only by cats, but the eggs, which are resistant to most environmental conditions, shed in the manure can infect humans, pigs, cows and other mammals.

The eggs remain viable in the soil for as long as 18 months, and the illness can be acquired through contact with infected cat manure or by ingesting the undercooked meat of an animal that has obtained the infection through grazing on pasture contaminated by cat faeces.

Therefore, cat manure, should always be handled with great care, and not at all by pregnant women and should never be used in food gardens.

For this reason, it is not advisable to use cat manure at all.

Dr Jane N. Maina, Veterinarian, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, Egerton University.


I am Michael from Chuka. Please advise me on ginger farming based on the following:
a) The best variety for the area.

b) The period it will take to mature.

c) What to do to attain the tangy taste (it’s a key consideration by buyers)?

d) Where I can get the sets for planting?

Ginger is propagated from rhizomes that can be obtained from fresh produce market. The three common cultivars of ginger grown in Kenya are Kenyan, Indian and Jamaican.

The Jamaican cultivar is considered superior since it has white colour and, thus, has high market demand. Ginger does well in fertile well-drained loam soil, and, thus, will do well in the area.

The crop takes seven to nine months to mature from the time of planting. To obtain the tangy taste, the crop should be harvested when the crop is fully mature and the leaves have started turning yellow.

Sylvans Ochola, Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.



Is it possible to have a tracking device on my tractor? How can I know the acreage measured in a way that I am not lied to by the tractor driver?

Lorna Were

Yes, it is possible to have a tracking device on your tractor. Contact 0727355444 or simply email [email protected]

Prof Daudi Nyaanga, Faculty of Engineering, Egerton University.



I would like to start dairy farming. I need your advice on the care of a young heifer as from when it’s born in terms of the feeds, control of diseases, nutrition, how to increase milk production and possible challenges.

I also need advice on sheep rearing in Mt Kenya region, the requirements and challenges faced.

Jeldine, Bungoma

Investing in livestock for business requires good planning and professional guidance. Having a good heifer requires that you manage well a promising calf in all aspects.

Please refer to comprehensive guides on sheep rearing and calf management published in Seeds of Gold on March 18 and July 11, 2015 respectively.

Keep reading, soon there will be a call from Egerton University for training farmers on calf management, among other important areas of dairy farming.

Felix Akatch Opinya, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


I grew hybrid tomatoes in Kericho, which did very well until the fruits were almost ready when they started rotting. The rot does not extend far. What disease is this or could the plants be lacking something? Also advise on remedy.


Tomatoes have a host of diseases ranging from bacterial to fungal. In your case, this is Early blight, first observed on the plants as small, brown lesions mostly on the older foliage.

Spots enlarge and concentric rings in a bull’s-eye pattern may be seen in the centre of the diseased-area. Tissue surrounding the spots may turn yellow.

If high temperature and humidity occur at this time, much of the foliage is killed. Lesions on the stems are similar to those on leaves and sometimes girdle the plant if they occur near the soil line (collar rot).

On the fruits, lesions attain considerable size, usually involving nearly the entire fruit. Concentric rings are also present on the fruit. Infected fruit frequently drops.

Prevention & Treatment: Use resistant or tolerant tomato cultivars. Use pathogen-free seed and do not set diseased plants in the field. Use crop rotation, eradicate weeds and volunteer tomato plants, space plants so that they do not touch each other, mulch them, fertilise properly, don’t wet tomato plants with irrigation water, and keep the plants growing vigorously.

Trim off and dispose of infected lower branches and leaves. Copper-based fungicides also help here. Please send pictures of the infected tomato to give you a quick diagnosis.

Peter Caleb, Horticulture Scientist, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


I need advice on how I can transform my two-acre farm at Makutano, Meru County to commercial farming. I have been farming for the last 20 years and I have nothing to show for it. On this farm I have a zero-grazing unit for seven cows, a shed for five dairy goats, greenhouse and chicken shed for over 1,000 birds.

Jediel Muthuri


Visitors at John Chege's dairy farm in Githunguri, Kiambu. PHOTO | JAMES NGUNJIRI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Commercialising in every aspect is a great step. To achieve this, it is proper that we get in touch for a farm feasibility visit and offer you practical expert advice, thereafter, for the growth of your farm.

During the visit, we will assess your daily farm operations and structures with regards to best codes of livestock management practices as well as comfort, to develop a benchmark report of your current situation to help you fast address priority changes recommended.

Let’s get in touch by writing to [email protected]

Felix Akatch Opinya, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

I have two questions. First, every time I incubate eggs in my 528-capacity incubator, at least 1 per cent of hatched chicks are deformed. What is the cause?

Second, sometimes chicks may show signs of hatching by breaking shell but end up dying inside. What’s the problem?

Enock from Nairobi.


Nyaga, a poultry farmer attends to his flock in his poultry farm. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Successful incubation of eggs to hatching relies on both egg and incubator factors. During selection for incubation, eggs must meet several quality parameters to reduce chances of deformities and mortalities if coupled with correct incubator settings.

Avoid eggs from a flock with disease. Poor results associated with incubations are due to improper control of incubator humidity and temperatures, which in turn disrupt development of embryos.

Incubator interruptions and vibrations during the period also add to this, resulting into chicks becoming physically deformed or even die in the shell.

Further, there is exposure to toxins or environmental contaminants during incubation, brought about when addressing surrounding hygiene issues.

Since the incubator turns eggs automatically, other adjustments to make include setting the temperatures at 37.8 degrees Celsius and humidity at 60 during the first 18 days.

From day 19 to 21, re-adjust the temperature and humidity to 37.5 degrees Celcius and 70 respectively.

Felix Akatch Opinya, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University