Spinach Farming is among the most profitable vegetables grown in Kenya due to its nutritional and health benefits.
Daniel Karaini has been growing vegetables since he quit his job in 2017. Partnering with his wife, they grew different varieties of vegetables on half an acre piece of land. Per year they can make about Sh65000 profit from the crops.
“I grow cabbage and spinach farming while my wife deals with the indigenous types of vegetables such as African Nightshade ‘Managu’, Amaranth ‘Terere’ and different Cucumis plants,” he told Farmers.
He grows Swiss Chard ford hook spinach certified seed variety from East Africa seeds. It is a high yielding spinach variety that one stem can yield about 48kgs per season.
Spinach Farming requires different spacing depending on the weather conditions and seed variety.
“Spinach Farming requires a spacing of 60cm by 60cm or 45cm by 45cm depending on the humidity of a place,” he highlighted. Daniel advises farmers in hotter places to use 60cm by 60cm spacing to avoid moisture stress. Moisture stress can hugely affect yields as the plants tend to produce fewer leaves and roots.
He further calls on farmers to apply NPK fertiliser and lime solution to the soil every time they are growing spinach. NPK help to boost the plants’ growth while lime solution helps to regulate the soil PH to around 6.0 to 6.8. This is the best soil PH that allows Spinach Farming to thrive and ensure the nutrients in the compost are well consumed by the plant.
Farmers need to know that nitrogen should be applied in plenty as it stimulates the growth of large and healthy spinach leaves. They take about two months or less to mature depending on various varieties.
Mulching is vital as it helps conserve the soil moisture which is key for the robust growth of the plants. It also prevents fungal diseases attack the plants which are likely to happen when soil particle splashes on the plant’s leaves during watering or when it rains.
These fungi are present on the soil debris and spread diseases such as leaf spot, damping off and downy mildew.
“Weed management can incur much while growing vegetables on large-scale, in my case I use mulching to control weeds,” said Daniel. He found that using hay was a bit time consuming and the hay could easily decompose leaving him with a huge workload of applying it once more.
“Although it improves soil fertility I didn’t find it convenient. I started using black polythene paper, it’s is slightly expensive but economical since it’s is reusable,” he noted. He does not have to keep on buying hay for mulching, the paper also helps regulate moisture during hot seasons.
“With this method, you will notice a small number of weeds growing around the plants making it quick to spot it and uproot it. It makes it easy to manage the weeds on large-scale plantations,” said Daniel. It is said to reduce approximately 90 percent of weed growth in the fields.
He avoids the use of chemicals as much as possible.
“I use blackjack weeds, crush it and mix it with vegetable oil to make insecticide that I use to spray on plants,” he said.
To prevent cutworms, he uses ash from the kitchen especially when the seedlings are in the nursery and after transplanting.
Proper harvesting gives the plant a chance to re-sprout and give you another partial harvest. He advises farmers to use scissors to cut the leaves at the stem to avoid damaging the whole plant.
Unlike other Kenyans lamenting about Covid-19, he says that it has been of great advantage to his farming business.
“As much as I spend quite a good time on my farm, I use most of my time behind my computer learning new farming tips,” emphasised Daniel. He said that it feels like it is the best time for him to try out new farming activities, make mistakes and discover better ways to make farming more profitable and fun.