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The ABCD of planting strawberries

By George Mbakahya | April 29th 2017
strawberries PHOTO:COURTESY

READER: I am a young ambitious graduate working in the corporate world, but would like to venture into farming. From what I am reading, strawberry farming is a good bet. Kindly take me through the basics. Regards.

{Amos Ojoo, Kitale}

EXPERT: There is a lot you need to know but I will give you the basic information. To start off, the first thing you need to do is choose an open, sunny location for the strawberry bed as good airflow will reduce fungal problems such as grey mould.

Raised beds are best: the drainage is improved; the raised sides act as a barrier to crawling attackers such as slugs and snails; also it is easier to pick the berries, weed and remove runners.

The crop grows well in warm to hot climate and does not tolerate freezing. Ecological requirements include altitude of 1,250 – 2,200, well distributed rainfall of 1,200mm per annum.

Where rainfall is less than this, irrigation should be used. Plant the runners 35 cm apart in a staggered fashion with 35 cm between rows.
Strawberries grow on a wide range of soils. A well-drained soil, rich in humus and with good moisture holding capacity is ideal. About a month before planting add a lot of organic matter, compost or animal manure. The drainage should be adequate to keep the water level at least 80 - 100cm below the soil surface.

Poor drainage makes the strawberries weak and susceptible to diseases. Keep the beds well mulched, to control weeds, conserve moisture and keep the fruit clean.

Strawberries excel in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Avoid soil that has previously grown other berries or members of the tomato family like Capsicums, eggplant and okra to reduce the danger of viral diseases.
Irrigate daily in the afternoon during the first month after planting for good crop establishment and two to three times a week from the second month of gardening onwards. Avoid overhead irrigation to prevent wetting the leaves. Irrigation by drip increases the yields, improves the size and appearance of berries and prolongs the harvest period.
Cultural practices
Removal of strawberry flowers is recommended for the first two months to avoid premature fruiting, which would cause stunting and poor crop development. Harvesting of strawberry fruits starts 2½months to three months after planting. Thinning to two to three splits per crown should be done every seven months to allow rejuvenation and increase strawberry yields.

Runners and old leaves are removed in strawberries gardening in a practice is called pruning or stripping.

Flowering is continuous with adequate watering and the lifespan of the crop is three years.

During the production period foliar feeds should be applied to improve the yields.
Pest and disease problems
Insect pests include thrips, two-spotted mite, caterpillars, curl grubs and Rutherglen bugs.

Slugs and snails can also seriously affect the crop so place snail traps in the bed. Fungal problems such as grey mould and black spot are common in humid weather.

{George Mbakaya, consultant and advisor on sustainable agriculture and agricultural innovations}

READER: I refer to your Smart Harvest issue of August 1 this year in which you featured Hass Avocado farmers in Murang’a County, and especially Ndakaini Dam Conservation Association of Kenya. I am a farmer in Kajiado County and interested in growing that particular species of Hass Avocado.

I would be grateful if you could give me the contacts of either Ndeka or William Kariuki, to enable me buy the Hass Avocado seedlings.

{Alex Kilonzo, Kajiado County}

EDITOR: Thank you Alex for getting in touch with us. You can reach James Mukuna of Ndeka on 0711 772682

READER: I just want to congratulate you for the good work you are doing. I remember urging you to do something on “Ukulima” and sure, you have done it.

I was fascinated by George Mbakahya’s article on garlic in the August 1 issue. Kindly furnish me with his email address. Keep the fire burning.

{David Okello}

EDITOR: Thank you David for the kind words. You can reach George on [email protected]


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