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How you can make cash from Bottle gourd farming

Crop
 Bottle gourds are typically ready for harvest 50 to 70 days after transplanting. [iStockphoto]

Bottle gourd, also known as Dudhi, is a member of the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, and is native to Africa and Asia. It is a vine plant that produces elongated, bottle-shaped fruits. The fruits vary in size but are typically large, ranging from about six inches to over three feet in length.

Josephat Michubu from Ishiara in Embu farms bottle gourd, among other vegetables including Okra and kale. According to Michubu, Dudhi is rich in minerals, vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium. Here is a guide on how to go about farming Dudhi.

Climate and Soil Requirements

Bottle gourds thrive in warm climates with plenty of sunlight. They prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Ensure the area you choose for cultivation receives ample sunlight.

Selecting Varieties

Choose bottle gourd varieties that are well-suited to the climate. Look for varieties that are disease-resistant and have good yield potential. Some common varieties include Indian Round, Pusa Summer Prolific, and Pusa Naveen.

Land Preparation

Prepare the land by plowing and harrowing to loosen the soil and remove weeds. Incorporate well-decomposed organic matter like compost or farmyard manure into the soil to improve its fertility and structure.

Propagation

Bottle gourds are usually propagated through seeds. You can either directly sow the seeds in the field or start them in nursery beds and then transplant the seedlings later. If starting in a nursery, sow the seeds three to four weeks before the intended transplanting date.

Transplanting

Transplant the seedlings when they have developed three to four true leaves. Space the seedlings about two to three feet apart in rows with six to eight feet spacing between rows.

 Irrigation

Bottle gourds require regular watering, especially during the flowering and fruiting stages. Drip irrigation or furrow irrigation systems are commonly used for efficient water management. Avoid overhead irrigation to prevent fungal diseases.

Fertilisation

Apply balanced fertiliSers rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium according to soil test recommendations or general guidelines. Side-dress the plants with nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season to promote vigorous growth.

Weed Control

Keep the field free from weeds, especially during the early stages of growth when bottle gourd plants are susceptible to competition. Manual weeding or mulching with organic materials can help suppress weed growth.

Pest and disease management

Monitor the plants regularly for pests like aphids, cucumber beetles, and fruit borers. Employ integrated pest management (IPM) strategies such as using biological controls, crop rotation, and resistant varieties. Common diseases include powdery mildew and downy mildew.

Harvesting

Bottle gourds are typically ready for harvest 50 to 70 days after transplanting, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Harvest the fruits when they reach 12 to 18 inches and have a glossy green colour. 

Market

Michubu sells 500 grams at Sh60 and a carton from Sh300.

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