Garlic Production Manual
Garlic farming in Kenya is a profitable venture when done correctly. Garlic popularly known as ‘Kitunguu Saumu’ belonging to the onion family is a high worth horticultural plant owing to its attractive returns and high demand in the Kenyan market. But why would people demand garlic despite its pungent smell you may ask? People use garlic as an ingredient in the preparation of special cuisines not only in Kenya but also in a broad variety of French, Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian and Mexican recipes. As such, it has both local and international demand. In addition to its economic value, garlic offers various medicinal properties.
Benefits of Garlic
Firstly, garlic is known to prevent colds and flu as eating one clove of garlic boosts the immune system; hence, strengthening the natural defense of one’s body.
Secondly, garlic is also considered a significant anti-oxidant with components like disulphide, sallycystein, and diallye that aids in reducing the size of the tumor as well as slowing down their growth.
Thirdly, garlic assists the body in fighting various bacterial, fungal and viral infections like recurrent yeast infections, cholera, acne, typhus, wound treatment and candida albicans among others. Furthermore, garlic can help in the prevention of heart conditions as well as in the regulation of hypertension. Garlic possesses aphrodisiac properties; hence can be used in treating impotence.
Due to lack of sufficient knowledge on how to grow garlic in Kenya, not many farmers are involved in the venture. Moreover, some of the farmers growing garlic often end up producing a poor quality of the crop that is unmarketable. Because of this, approximately 80% of the crop found in the Kenyan market comes from China and India.
Garlic farming is a lucrative venture with the demand for the crop peaking in the months between May, June, July, August, and September where a kilo cost anywhere between KSh. 300 and KSh. 400. When the demand is stable from December to January, the prices decline to around Sh 150 to 200.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that despite the price instabilities, it is unlikely that garlic will fall below Sh 150 per kilo any time soon. Under good agricultural practices an acre of garlic produces between 4000 kg to 5000 kg.
How to grow garlic
To have bountiful harvests when growing garlic in Kenya, you must have the proper knowledge of the local seed varieties, soils suitability as well as viable climatic conditions where the crop can do well. Below we look at the several stages of growing garlic in Kenya, highlighting the necessary procedures and what you ought to know.
Garlic growing is done using seed cloves; hence, as an aspiring garlic grower, you must procure certified garlic seeds that have fully matured cloves and are free from any diseases. Such seeds can be bought from a garden center or approved Seed Company. When selecting the best seed cloves, go for the largest as they will yield a better crop as compared to small ones.
The three main varieties that do well in Kenya include softneck, hardneck and elephant types of garlic.
Softneck is the most popular and characterizes by a white, paper-like skin with a fairly strong taste and pungent smell. It is one of the easiest variety to grow. Softneck has varieties like Creole, California Early, and California Late.
Hardneck characterizes with a tan and purple markings. It is a variety that produces bigger and fewer cloves on each head. However, hardneck does not store well for longer durations like in the case of softneck. Hardneck has varieties such as Roja and German Extra Hearty.
Elephant garlic is characterized by a large head and huge cloves. Moreover, it possesses a subtle flavor with a mild odor as compared to the first two types of garlic.
Garlic farming performs well in medium to high attitudes of 500- 200 Metres above sea level. Additionally, garlic requires high temperatures of 30ºC to aid in proper bulb development. However, during the preliminary stages, cooler temperatures are preferred as they assist in vegetative growth needed for plant establishment. For this reason, ideal temperatures for growing garlic range between 12-24ºC.
It is worth noting that excess rains and humidity is bad for garlic’s vegetative growth as well as bulb formation and as such the crop will perform well in areas with low rainfall possibly substituted with irrigation during the initial phase when water requirement is utmost.
Garlic planting needs a ground with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.8. For this reason, garlic growing is suitable in most Kenyan grounds provided that they drain as well as the crop performs poorly in water-logged soils. Farmers should avoid garlic growing in clay soils as much as possible as it hinders the enlargement of the bulbs.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that the soil is well prepared with loose and airy depths of up to 6 – 8 inches and needs to be dry and without any rocks and plants debris. To ensure optimum yield, mix the soil with organic manure before plowing as this will facilitate improved bulb formation.
Actual planting and spacing
Growing of garlic is not as hard. You only need to select the best cloves and separate them with a spacing of 30 cm between the rows and 15 cm or 6 inches from each plant. Using a hoe, dig and create trenches that are 25 cm deep. Sow single garlic with its root down, and its point is facing up the hole. After doing this, cover the clove with loose and airy soils.
Repeat the process until all seeds have planted 6 inches apart from each other. Ensure the next row of seeds is 2 feet or 60cm apart from the first one. Water the rows slightly and stop when the soil surface is slightly damp to avoid over-watering. Excess water will make the seed cloves to rot before they can grow.
Mulch and manure application
After planting your garlic seeds, you need to safeguard them from harsh conditions using a thick layer of mulch. You can use anywhere between 4 to 6 – inch layer of either straw, chopped leaves or grass and place them above the rows. By doing so, the seeds will insulate protecting them from severe winter conditions. This mulch needs removal on the first day of spring when the temperatures are 55 or 6o degrees F as this is around when the garlic seeds will start to sprout.
After the removal of mulch and with moderate temperatures in spring, apply a light all-purpose fertilizer every 30 to 40 days. The best fertilizer is 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 which specify the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium respectively in that specific fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer by sprinkling its granules on the sprouting garlic and ensure that the granules do not touch the actual plant; this is because they may burn the plant or pose other harmful effects. Most manufacturers recommend applying the fertilizer at a rate of ¾ per 100 square feet.
As earlier mentioned, garlic farming thrives in well-drained soils that prevent waterlogging. Garlic requires less amount of water, and when the seeds cover in mulch, no watering is needed. In case the season has little rainfall, one can water the garlic after a couple of weeks. Light watering that is one inch deep is adequate. Nevertheless, if there are reasonable rains in every 10 to 14 days, then no watering is required.
Among the field management practices involved in Farming garlic in Kenya, weed management is the most common as they have to be removed to prevent competition of nutrients, light, and water.
One way of suppressing the growth of weeds when growing garlic is practicing crop rotation where you plant new garlic seeds in areas that have stayed long without garlic or onion plantings.
Additionally, you can remove the weeds by hand hoeing, mulching, cultivation or through the use of herbicides. Early weed management is very crucial as it will prevent substantial yield loss.
For pest prevention and control, use copper oxychloride as well as other soil fumigants to minimize and eliminate nematodes in the field.
Harvesting and storing
Garlic should never be harvested too early or late as it will interfere with the quality of the produce. To know the right time to harvest, one must monitor the growing months for roughly around 4 to 6 months.
Knowing the exact harvesting time is somewhat tricky since the heads of the garlic submerge in the soil, and also different varieties have varying maturity period. As such, you should inspect the foliage and observe whether it has turned brown and died back as a guide for harvesting.
After digging out the crops, bundle them in tens or fifteens and leave them to dry in a well-ventilated room. Keep them there for three to four weeks after which its shoots and roots will have dried down. Cut down the tops about one inch above the main bulb and roots followed by removal of outer skin without removing exposing the cloves. Clean off any remaining soil, and your bulbs are ready for sale.
While waiting to sell your product, you will need to store the garlic in ideal storage environs depending on whether you will use them as table stock or planting stock. If you intend to use them as table stock, then store them at 0 – 4º C or a 60-70 % humidity; this is because temperatures above 4 Derees Celcius will cause sprouting while moisture above 70% will stimulate rooting. On the other end, planting stock needs storage at room temperature with a 60-70% relative humidity.