Thinking of trying cucumber farming in Kenya but have no idea where to start?
You have the land; you know where to get the seeds but what next? How do you plant, care for, harvest and sell your produce?
Relax! Here’s a step-by-step guide to profitable cucumber farming.
Cucumbers are one of the easiest plants to grow. They are easy to plant and require little attention throughout their short growth period.
Although commonly assumed to be a vegetable, cucumbers are in reality fruits.
They are eaten raw in salads and are loved for being low in calories yet high in essential vitamins and minerals.
They belong to the Cucurbit family of plants that do well in warm climate.
Cucumbers require 6-8 hours of sunshine every day for optimal growth and are intolerant to frost.
In addition, they require well drained loam soil that is rich in organic matter and has a pH of 5.5-6.5 for maximum productivity.
So, how do you grow this super food?
The first step to profitable cucumber farming is choosing what variety to grow. The difference is in the size, color, skin texture and taste of the fruit.
There are close to 100 varieties of cucumbers grown around the world but the most common varieties in Kenya include:
- Envoy F1
- Prince F1
- Asher F1
- Carmen F1
- Snow-white F1
- Jude F1
Prepping your farm
Prepare the farm by ploughing it thoroughly since cucumbers do well in loose soil.
Make beds and then add compost manure to the soil and mix thoroughly.
Wet the soil and place a black plastic film on the beds to make the soil warmer and prevent weeds from sprouting.
Allow it to sit for 24 hours for proper circulation before making holes on the plastic film and planting.
You can start by planting your seeds in a protected area and them transfer the seedlings to the prepared farm or you can sow the seeds directly.
Plant the seeds approximately one inch deep with the pointed side facing up.
Planting them deeper than one inch will prolong germination time and worse still the plumule might become weak and die before sprouting.
Plant 2-3 seeds per hole to increase germination success. After germination, you can thin to the strongest one once they produce 3-4 leaves.
Leave a 50cm gap between plants and 120cm between rows.
Caring for the cucumber plants
To achieve high yields and good quality plants that will keep customers coming for more, you have to care for the plants by adhering to the following tips.
Watering – cucumbers need regular watering. You should water them at least five times a week.
Drip irrigation is preferred but you can also use a horse pipe or a watering can.
I would recommend watering late in the evening or early morning when evaporation is minimal.
Staking – to ensure maximum production, stake the plants 2 weeks after germination using bamboo sticks and strings.
Besides better yields, staking ensures the fruits remain green and are not prone to pests and diseases present in the soil.
Fertilizing – cucumbers require nutritious soil to do well. In the early stages, they require a phosphorous fertilizer for root establishment.
Once they hit the vegetative stages, they require a nitrogen-based fertilizer for proper growth of the leaves.
Finally, a potassium-based fertilizer is required as soon as they flower for optimal fruit development.
Weeding – weed regularly to avoid competition for nutrients. Use your hand or hoe shallowly to avoid destroying the roots.
Pruning and thinning – you have to regularly prune old and sick leaves and remove sick plants to prevent spread of infection.
Additionally, remove malformed fruits to help the plant supply nutrients to fewer but larger and juicier fruits.
Harvesting your cucumbers
Your harvesting style can determine the number of times you harvest from your farm.
Cut the stem with scissors or hand and leave a short stem attached to the fruit.
Harvest from the bottom.
This means you pick the ones that were produced first.
After harvesting, create a way for the stems to continue climbing, water the plant and add manure for continued production.
Doing this will allow you to harvest from the same plants up to six times before they wither.
Is cucumber farming profitable in Kenya?
Now that you know it is easy to grow them, I know your next query is about profitability of cucumber farming.
The answer is a resounding yes! Cucumber farming is a money-spinner.
The plants have a great return on investment but you have to do things the right way and at the right time. Here’s what works:
a.) Do a financial analysis of all the expenses and income projections.
b.) Conduct a market survey and think of the marketing strategies you will employ. Look for a market way before your fruits mature.
Family, friends, local market, supermarkets, hotels, social media and exporters are among the avenues you should consider.
c.) Consider your farms location and accessibility. The produce should get to the market at minimal cost.
d.) Target to harvest when demand is high. You will avoid glut in the market and your fruits will be of better quality since cucumbers do well in hot weather.
Common problems in cucumber farming
Cucumbers are susceptible to attacks by pests and diseases like any other plant.
This, however, should not deter you since there are pesticides and insecticides to protect and treat your plants.
Although they are highly efficient, these remedies also have their disadvantages including affecting fruit edibility and killing important insects responsible for pollination.
You can avoid them by using every ardent farmer’s well-kept secret. It is a concoction that takes care of caterpillars, aphids, thrips, beetles and mites.
Here’s the simple yet effective recipe.
- Look for Moringa and Neem leaves and boil them in a large cauldron.
- Add a handful of a mixture of ground ginger, garlic and plantain leaves.
- Spray this mixture on your cucumber plants every three days using a knapsack.
In case there is a whiteflies infestation, you can use a yellow tape to trap them since they are attracted to the yellow color.
Thrips on the other hand are attracted to the color blue hence a blue trap will keep them under control.
Like all other agribusiness ventures, cucumber farming requires passion and patience. These two, coupled with the guidelines outlined above will have you smiling all the way to the bank.
Have you tried cucumber farming? Comment below to share your experiences.