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How Best to manage Orchards in Kenya

nursery mkulima wa nyeri farm

Managing fruit orchards is the most complex task a farmer has to undertake if he or she has to get the best results from the plant. Management entails of fertilizing, irrigating, pruning and pests and diseases control.


Nutrition is a factor to the yields or the production of a plant. Fertilizers are used to promote rapid tree growth. Do not apply fertilizer until the trees produce their first leaf flush. Amend your nutrition applications to suit local situations.

The 3 macro-nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – are generally reflected in a fertilizing formula’s ratio. The numbers in the ratio correspond to the amounts of nutrient represented in the fertilizer content.

Fertilizer is good for plants. However, too much of the wrong nutrient can have adverse effects and too much fertilizer can burn roots and shoots. Reading the fertilizer content will give you a clue to how much of each macro-nutrient is contained in the formula as well as any other nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium.

The analysis or grade on a fertilizer label gives the ratio of each macronutrient in the product, represented by a 3-number ratio (NPK). This is important to note if you are trying to feed a leafy plant or promote blooming. The 3-number ratio can interpret how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in order as they appear in the ratio.

Nitrogen, the first number, directs leafy growth, while phosphorus contributes to bud set and rooting. Potassium is essential for overall plant health and increases its defenses to unfavorable conditions and disease. So a 10-5-5 is a fertilizer high in nitrogen, while a 5-10-5 would be a bloom enhancer.

Soils with high organic content, where compost or other amendments have been worked in, need less frequent applications of fertilizer, as they have natural sources of nutrients available to plant roots.

Keep fertilizers at least 20 cm away from the trunk to avoid tissue burn. Apply the fertilizer evenly under the canopy and out to a point 30 cm past the drip line or edge of the canopy. Water in well or apply during rain.

Timing of fertilizer application has a significant effect on crop yields. Proper timing of the fertilizer application increases yields, reduces nutrient losses, increases nutrient use efficiency and prevents damage to the environment.

Applying fertilizers at the wrong timing might result in nutrient losses, waste of fertilizer and even damage to the crop.




Supplementary watering during the first few years will assist tree establishment. The timing and quantity of water applied varies with tree size, soil, weather and time of year.

Irrigating your orchards has numerous benefits which include saving your water e.g. drip and sprinkle irrigation and time. By having an automated system to distribute your water supply, you do not have to be physically present for the water system to be effective. The automatic shut off will keep your water usage to a minimum, and lower your costs since less water will be used.

Irrigating your orchards preserves soil nutrients. Using an irrigation system will preserve your soil structure and keep your plants absorbing nutrients, not the runoff water.

Irrigation helps in improving plant growth. Plants will grow faster and greener when watered with smaller amounts of water over a longer period, which is exactly what irrigation systems are designed to do. Installing an irrigation system will improve your plant growth significantly.

It reduces weed growth. Only areas that truly need water will receive it, thus limiting your potential weed growth. Drip irrigation systems are particularly efficient at this: the system directs water specifically to each plant’s roots, rather than sprinkling over the entire garden.


one year hass avocado tree

Pruning is cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to encourage growth.

The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants. In general, the smaller the branch that is cut, the easier it is for a woody plant to compartmentalize the wound and thus limit the potential for pathogen intrusion and decay. It is therefore preferable to make any necessary formative structural pruning cuts to young plants, rather than removing large, poorly placed branches from mature plants.

Because each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree, no branch should be removed without a reason. Common reasons for pruning are to remove dead branches, to improve form, and to reduce risk. Trees may also be pruned to increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below. In most cases, mature trees are pruned as corrective or preventive measures, as routine thinning does not necessarily improve the health of a tree.

In general, you only need a few basic Pruning tools. For the health of your trees and shrubs, it’s important to keep the blades clean and sharp.

  • Hand pruners are the basic tool for most jobs and can cut branches up to 3/4″ in diameter. Choose either bypass pruners, which cut with a clean, scissors action, or anvil pruners, which have a blade that presses against a bar.
  • Loppers resemble hand pruners with long handles. They’re useful for reaching down into tangled shrubs or overhead to just-out-of-reach limbs. They can cut limbs up to 1-1/2″ in diameter, depending on the model.
  • Pruning saws have special blades that cut on the pull stroke and self-clean to prevent binding in fresh, sap-filled wood. Choose a handheld saw for work at ground level or invest in a pole-mounted saw for overhead cuts.
  • Hedge shears have long, scissors blades for trimming hedges. They’ll cut twigs up to 1/2″ in diameter.

Pruning your orchards involves only two kinds of cuts: heading and thinning. Heading cuts remove shoots or branches back to stubs, buds or smaller lateral branches. These cuts usually cause the plant to respond vigorously with bushy new growth. Shearing a hedge, deadheading flowering plants and pinching out the tips of plants to encourage branching are all examples of heading cuts.

A thinning cut removes a branch back to its origin or to a lateral branch that’s at least one-third of the removed-limb’s diameter. Thinning cuts leave the pruned plant with a natural appearance.

When you cut a twig or branch back to the trunk or to a lateral branch, it’s important cut at just the right place. Look for a raised bump or rings around the base of the twig or branch and take care to cut just outside it, leaving the ring intact. It’s called the branch collar, and this is where the scar tissue forms to heal the wound.

Pest and Diseases Control

While tree fruit may be as different as apples and oranges, controlling the pests and diseases that can influence productivity is as standard as they come.  The key to a healthy orchard is a well run, well-rounded Integrated Pest Management program (IPM). IPMs will reduce pesticide usage and environmental contamination, help establish proper timing of control measures, decrease resistance to current pesticides, protect against excessive crop loss, and help implement the newest farming technologies.

Avoid orchards sites that are on or near abandoned orchards. This will reduce the chance of existing pests and diseases infecting the new site.

Cover crops should be planted a year before planting and mulched into the soil. This will improve organic matter content, suppress replant disease, weeds, and reduce nematodes. Cover crops are also used by existing orchards to increase soil nutrients when adding new acreage, build soil structure, and provide erosion control.

Consider soil drainage as well, since good drainage will prevent root diseases that can massacre rootstock.

Once the orchards gets established, weekly monitoring during the growing season is the best way to control pest issues. Setting up traps and checking them weekly will provide an idea of what, if any, pest issues are present.

Keeping the floor of the orchard clear of weeds and fallen fruit will keep away larger pests such as deer, mice, and voles, and also their attract natural predators.

Careful monitoring of weather conditions and covering crops before and during rain can keep the fungus under control and limit fungicide sprays.

Organic products such as sulfur, insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, and non-botanic oils can safely control insect populations as well as some diseases.

No matter what type of orchard – apple, orange, pear, peach, etc – management of pests is important and necessary. Basic IPM strategies will keep your trees healthy and fruitful for years to come.