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Thinking of garlic? Go for it, there is a market

By Jennifer Anyango | September 11th 2021

Farming garlic may present a good opportunity for interested agri investors since the country imports several tonnes of the produce from China. 

The local mar­ket is in need of more farm­ers or im­proved pro­duc­tion of gar­lic to curb the acute short­age that has been for­cing the coun­try to import to plug the de­fi­cit.

John Kareri has been farming garlic for about four years now in Nyeri County and has valuable insights. He says Nyeri climatic conditions favour the crop.

Many farmers in the area grow onions. He shares several lessons from propagation to harvesting.

Soil testing and land preparation

Kareri recommends to farmers to first conduct a soil test to ensure that he/ she has the right minerals and correct pH, which should range between 4.5 and 8.3.

“But an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.7,” he says.

Prepare your land by ploughing and harrowing, then add well-composted manure in advance. Avoid areas under trees or other sources of shade.

Buy germinated cloves from a reputable dealer and avoid questionable sellers and markets due to diseases.


Garlic takes six months to mature, two months in the nursery, and four on the farm. The seed cloves are placed in a nursery, where they grow into bulbs transplanted on the farm.

“The quality of the crop is determined by the bulb produced by the seed cloves,” he says.

Spacing is guided by the number of cloves in an acre and the irrigation method. Drip irrigation guarantees better yields.

Plant between 100 to 200kg of cloves on an acre. Plant garlic in double rows or in wide beds of four to six rows with 10 to 20cm between plants. Break-up the bulbs into cloves not more than 24 hours before planting and ensure not to damage them. Place cloves three to four centimetres below the surface, root down.

“You may need water for dry periods during the growing season, and then stop completely during the last few weeks,” advices Kareri.

Pest management

Common pests include root knot nematodes, tobacco whitefly and red spider mites. These can be controlled using pesticides.


Harvest when the lower leaves begin to yellow and fold. Harvesting too early decreases total yield and reduces quality of the bulb and causes rapid deterioration during storage.

Possible returns

If a farmer plants 100kg of garlic seed, which will cost about Sh390 per kilo, this will bring the cost of production to Sh39,000. One acre of land can produce between 4,000 to 5,000 kilogrammes of the crop. 


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