Did you know that we still import garlic from China and Tanzania? Its worrying since garlic can grow well in Kenya and does not require much as you would have thought.
Unlike other high-value crops, garlic is not hard to grow because there are a few important requirements that can be easily met. Generally, fertile well-drained soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting the right seeds (disease-free germinated cloves) is all you need to successfully grow garlic.
In Kenya, it has successfully been cultivated in parts of Narok, Nakuru and Meru, only that it is done on a small scale. 80% of the garlic used in Kenya is imported from China and the prices for this commodity have remained at an all-time high.
How to grow your own garlic
We always recommend farmers to start with conducting a soil test to ensure that their soil has the right minerals and the correct PH. The pH should range from 4.5 to 8.3, but an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.7.
- When planting, the spacing you use should be advised by the irrigation method to be employed, weeding methods of choice and the target yield – quantity vs quality. Plant between 100 and 200kg of cloves on an acre.
- It is advisable to plant garlic in double rows or in wide beds of four to six rows with 10 to 20cm between plants. Tighter spacing in the beds will produce more bulbs but of smaller size with the net tonnage per square foot being higher than when you plant with wider spacing.
- Prepare your land by ploughing and harrowing, then broadcast 10 tonnes of well-composted manure in advance. Avoid areas under trees or other sources of shade.
- Buy your germinated cloves from a reputable dealer. Avoid buying the seeds from the market place or unscrupulous dealers because they may not be disease-free.
- Once you have the cloves, break-up the bulbs not longer than 24 hours before you plant them while being careful not to bruise or damage them. Place cloves 3-4cm below the surface, root down.
- You will need to water your garlic during dry periods throughout the growing season, and stop completely during the last few weeks.
- Carefully remove any weeds whenever they appear, and avoid prolonged use of herbicides as they retard plant growth.
During growth, lack of water is the most common stress because garlic does not compensate for drought periods by prolonged growth. Even a short period of drought affects the yield, especially during bulb expansion because lack of water predisposes the crop to infestation by insects.
Garlic will tell you when it is time to harvest. Start harvesting when the lower leaves begin to yellow and fold and the garlic grows “weak at the neck” and begins to fall on the ground. Harvesting too early decreases total yield and reduces quality of the bulb. It will also cause rapid deterioration during storage.
It is estimated that Kenya imports up to 80% of garlic from China. That can tell you how much demand we have locally that we are unable to meet. After packaging and importing all the way from China, garlic is sold at a wholesale price of about Sh200 per kg.
Plan and implement today if you can, they demand is overwhelming which means that the future can only be bright for garlic farmers.