Feedback: Queries on cucumber, dates

Wednesday March 18 2020
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To grow cucumbers, they are are directly seeded in the field. The soil should be kept moist throughout the growing period and the crop matures and is ready for harvesting 50-60 days after planting. FILE PHOTO | NMG



I am interested in farming but fear is driving me back. I have already identified land for leasing. It is near a water source.

Unfortunately, I don’t know which crops to grow. I prefer those that don’t need a lot of attention or expertise. How much do I need in terms of labour and inputs? Are there forums I can attend to learn more on agriculture?

Mercy Mumbua

Thank you for your interest in farming. Unfortunately, you have not said where you are. Different crops do well in different environments so we cannot advice you on what to grow.

You can grow crops which have a ready market or are in high demand. You should first find out if there is a ready market for your produce. Capital, labour and inputs will depend on the type of crops you choose.

There are forums you can attend and learn more about farming. You can also visit successful farmers. Consider this as you embark on farming.

(a) Decide on what to grow. This will depend on climate and demand. Study the market and adjust production accordingly.
(b) Decide on which system you are going to use.
(c) After deciding on the crops to grow and the system, the layout of the land must be planned. It will be costly to change a bad layout.
(d) Work out the rotation plan to be followed and details of the cropping plan. This should be done early.
(e) The cost of clearing and preparing land must be considered.
(f) It is important to plan for labour.
(g) If fencing or wind break is needed, decide on the type and material to be used.
(h) Decide on the location of the compost area and whether you will need a compost heap or pit. A heap/pit is necessary to provide a place for the disposal of organic debris. It also serves as a source of organic matter. It is generally located close to the nursery in an area that is unsuitable for crop production.
(i) Lightly shaded areas are preferred or you may build a lath house for a nursery. Preferably, the nursery area should be at most two percent of the total land.
You will also need to decide on the type of nursery, either seedbed or containerised. If seedbed, will it be raised, flat or sunken?
(j) Decide whether irrigation will be needed. If yes, choose the system to be used and the water source.

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



I am in Uganda and want to pollinate my flowering dates. I need the contacts of a dates farmer.

Robert Otim

Date palms produce male and female parts. Pollination has to be by hand. Male palms produce bigger flowers than the female ones.

Pollination is done by cutting the male flowers and dusting the pollen onto plastic containers. The pollen is then sprinkled on flowers of the female palms.

Kutch-Kibwezi is a commercial date farm in Makueni County. You can plan to visit it or contact the management through [email protected]

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



A year ago, I bought and planted 4,500 cassava cuttings from Kalro. The cassava type is KME1. I planted the cuttings on a two-acre farm in Lower Subukia.

The cassava has blossomed and should be ready for harvesting later this year. I expect 10 tonnes. Where do I get a market for the fresh cassava?

Would you advise me to extend acreage under cassava? I have an extra 13 acres still in Lower Subukia.

Godfrey Wanjau

You can sell fresh cassava in Nakuru. You can also get in touch with companies that mill cassava. The price of fresh cassava varies in different towns.

In Nakuru, a 90kg bag of fresh cassava goes for Sh3,000, Eldoret (Sh3,200), Nairobi (Sh3,300) and Isiolo (Sh3,500).
Extending acreage under cassava is a good idea.

Cassava farming is a good source of income and the market is full of untapped opportunities, which you can exploit and make a living out of it.

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



Kindly educate me on how to plant cabbage, kale, radish, matz, cucumber, salad and carrots.

Simon Kusimba, Kakamega

I don’t understand what you mean by matz and growing salad.


Seeds aresowedn in the nursery bed and transplanted after 3-4 weeks to rows 60-75cm apart and 45-60cm within the rows.

Wider spacing (75 x 60cm) is usually adopted for late-maturing cultivars (up to 130 days) and closer spacing (60 x45cmm) for early maturing cultivars (up to 55 days). Head size can be regulated by plant density.

Seed Rate: 300-500 g/ha depending on germination percentage.

Before transplanting, water nursery bed 3-4 hours in advance so as to minimise damage during the lifting of seedlings.

Remove seedlings separately. Never pull as this may damage roots.

Gloria F1, Copenhagen market and golden acre are the most common varieties though there are many hybrid ones.

Cabbage is a heavy feeder of N and K. Organic matter and the fertilisers should be applied before transplanting. Excess nitrogen application alone results in loose puffy heads.

Cabbage is shallow-rooted and care should be taken not to damage roots. Cabbage is also a poor competitor of weed and thus should be protected.

Mulching may be beneficial in weed control. Irrigation should be done whenever necessary.

Pests and diseases are controlled using the appropriate chemicals, cultural practices and biological agents.

Cabbage can be ready from 55 days after transplanting.


Kale is firstsowedn in the nursery then transplanted 3-4 weeks later at a spacing of 45-60cm between rows and 30-40cm within. Cuttings/suckers may be used and are usually planted directly in the field.

Apply fertilisers as in cabbage but kale stays in the field for a longer period, hence needs more fertiliser, especially nitrogen. Excessive nitrogen application may, however, result in flushy growth.

Keep the field weed-free throughout the growing period. Irrigation should be done when necessary.

Harvesting Begins from 4—–60 days after transplanting and is continuous for up to two years. Harvest single leaves from below. Avoid harvesting too many leaves from the same plant.


Carrots aresowedn from seeds directly in beds. Seeds aresowedn in drills 30-40cm apart, then thinned when 5-8cm high.

Seedlings may be earthed up when roots begin to enlarge. High soil temperature hinders the development and roots. Seed rate:450gg/ha.

A good supply of NPK is necessary. Potassium is required when plants are well established. Application of fresh manure to carrots leads to branching (forking) which lowers quality.

Irrigation is necessary during the dry season. Hand weeding is used. It should be shallow to minimise root damage.

Roots are ready for harvesting when having a diameter of 2cm. This is usually 70-85 days from sowing.


Radish is propagated from seeds. The land should be prepared thoroughly to break soil clods. Application of farmyard manure is recommended before planting. Seed rate 7-13kg/ha.

Spacing is 25-30cm between rows and 10cm between plants. Avoid overwatering. Keep the field weed-free throughout the growing period.

Radish is ready for harvesting 20-30 days after planting for the early maturing cultivars and 50-60 days for late-maturing ones. Harvest as soon as the radish root is mature.


Cucumbers are directly seeded in the field. Usually 2-3 seeds aresowedn per hill then later thinning is done to leave one seedling. Spacing is 7—–150cm between rows and 20-40cm between plants.

Incorporate well-decomposed manure. Keep the field free from weeds.

Support is mainly done for greenhouse varieties. The soil should be kept moist throughout the growing period.

Cucumbers are ready for harvesting 50-60 days after planting.

Carol Mutua
Egerton University



Most of my friends are grafting coffee. I now feel left out. What are the advantages and disadvantages of grafting. Should I emulate my farmer friends?

Ndirangu G, Nyeri

Ruiru 11 is mainly used as the root stock and SL28 as the scion. The resulting plant is deep rooted and requires narrow spacing, leading to more trees per acre.

There is also no spraying for leaf rust and coffee berry disease, reducing the cost of production. Grafted coffee has high yields of about 15-20kg per tree twice a year. It has many advantages.

Carol Mutua,
Egerton University



Hi, I have a farm but I find it difficult to control monkeys. What is the best way to do so, considering that killing a wild animal may earn one a prison term?
Anjeline Njeri

Monkeys are a big problem to farmers bordering forests. Depending on what you grow, they will visit with a view to feeding on and destroying the crop.

Either plant crops that monkeys don’t feed on or hire labour to chase them away when your maize is green until it dries. You should also protect your carrots and potatoes until they are harvested.

Dennis Kigiri,
Egerton University



I am a regular reader of Seeds of Gold and I am about to plant tomatoes. At what time and should I apply organic manure, DAP, CAN and NPK?

Stephen Kebabe, Kitale

It is good that you are thinking of boosting your soil nutrient status. This will surely improve your tomato yield. I hope you have done soil testing to be sure of the minerals that are deficient on your land so as to enable you to know the amount of organic and inorganic fertiliser to add.

That said, every fertiliser source has specific nutrients it contains. This also determines the time of application.

DAP supplies the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus, but it has some side effects in that it releases hydrogen ions that will acidify your soil in the long run.

I would, therefore, recommend that you minimise its use. If you must use it, apply on the same day of planting at the required rates.

For organic manure, it is advisable that you apply it about a week before planting. This allows time for the nutrient release from the organic materials.

The amount to be applied also depends on the nutrient requirements of your soil, from the previous soil test. This is because it provides macro and micro nutrients.

CAN stands for Calcium Ammonium Nitrate. It supplies the soil/plants with calcium and nitrogen. It is used for top dressing.

After planting and crop emergence, the amount to be applied depends on the nitrogen level of the soil.

It should be applied three to five weeks after the emergence of your crops, depending on growth characteristics.
After applying the above, there is no need to apply NPK.

From the name, this fertiliser supplies nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil and plants.

These three nutrients should not be applied to toxic levels. You can also replace DAP with NPK, which is also applied at planting.

If you follow the recommendations and advice given after the soil test, your land has the potential to realise high yields from any crop that you grow.

Sillus Oduor,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,
Egerton University



Hi Seeds of Gold,

How much will it cost me to start a small dairy farm? I have interest in the business. Please help.

Shadrack, Nairobi

Dear Shadrack,
Thank you for your interest in dairy farming. “Small” dairy farm is relative and there are many things that will go into the cost of such a venture.

Visit your local county or sub-county livestock office for guidance. In case you live near an agricultural university or college, please pay it a visit and request to be guided on dairy production.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences. Egerton university.



I am a rabbit and poultry farmer but diseases are ravaging my animals. The ailments include bloating in kitties, respiratory problems in poultry and frequent deaths.

I need help on the best way to eradicate these diseases. Thank you.

Chestnut Digaguz Shem, Nairobi

Dear Chestnut,

Rabbit rearing is a profitable business. However, there are challenges associated with production as you have stated.

Ensure that the plants given to the rabbits have wilted to avoid bloat. On respiratory problems and frequent deaths, kindly invite a vet officer to your farm for diagnosis and treatment.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences. Egerton university.



Hi Seeds of Gold,

Please advise on where I can get improved chickens.


Hi Conde,

There are many breeds of improved chicken in Kenya. They include Kalro kienyeji, kenbro and rainbow roosters. They are kept for meat and eggs, but their feeding regime is different.

Depending on which part of the country you are, it is not difficult to get them.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences. Egerton university.



I would like to know if animal feed manufacturers use soya beans as an ingredient and if I can partner with them to grow it. I have 10 acres in Rumuruti, Laikipia County.

Muchemi Matu

Dear Matu,

Soybean meal is used in feed manufacture. This is after it is processed to make cooking oil. Visit any feed mill in Nyahururu and have a meeting on how you can get a contract to supply it with soya.

Think of how to expand your production too. This is because feed manufacturing is a daily undertaking and so soybean requirement is high.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences. Egerton university.



I am a tomato farmer in Trans Nzoia County. Our farms are prone to flooding, making the soil acidic. At what time do we apply lime? Do we lime terrace planting tomato seedlings? Thanks for the good work.

Stephen Kebabe

Liming is important for correcting the acidic conditions of the soil. It helps in improving fertility as well as boosting the oxygen levels of the soil.

Liming is a technical practice and needs proper calculation of the amount to use since it depends on two factors: the pH level of the soil and the desired pH to be achieved.

Common liming materials include calcium carbonate, calcium oxide and magnesium carbonate.

In the situation of your farm, first be sure of the level of pH of your soil before determining the amount of lime required.

Since your land is prone to flooding, apply lime a week before planting. This period will allow lime to dissolve and correct the pH before you plant.

For farmers with lands that have low moisture levels, apply lime three or four weeks before planting. This will provide ample time for dissolution of lime, thus correcting the pH to your desired level.

Sillus Oduor,
Department of Crops, Horticulture,
Egerton University.



I am planning to have a small vegetable kitchen garden. The main challenge is water and I’m thinking of using the polythene paper under the soil and as a mulch. I read about it but I can't remember the details.

Mary Kasyoka, Kangundo

Mulching is the application of organic or inorganic material to the soil surface. It is one of the most beneficial practices in vegetable production. The advantages of mulching are:

Reduces weed growth.
Reduces the spread of diseases through stopping the splashing of pathogens.
Conserves moisture.
Reduces evapotranspiration.
Reduces erosion.
Regulates soil temperature depending on the thickness, type and colour.
Pest control e.g. colour of plastic mulches.

If you use plastic mulch, it will enable you to conserve water. The mulch should be applied before planting, unlike organic mulch like grass, which is applied after planting.

You can also try using drip irrigation by inserting a plastic bottle at the root zone of the vegetables.

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



Hi, where can I get hemp seeds for I need them urgently.

Empress Tana, Bungoma

Hello Empress,

Empress, you have not specified if you need hemp seeds for consumption or for planting. You can get hemp seeds for consumption from Vegan Kenya.

The contact of the company is [email protected]

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