Basil Farming in Kenya: "Herb of Love".

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the demand for herbs and this can highly be attributed to the growing consumer interest in healthy and natural foods, the popularity of international dishes that use a variety of these herbs and the increasing awareness of the health benefits associated with consuming herbs. In Kenya, basil farming presents a promising opportunity due to its high demand in the local and international markets as well as its relatively low input requirements. In this guide, I will give you insights into basil farming practices, keep reading.

Basil Farming in Kenya.

Basil is grown in many parts of Kenya including Nakuru, Naivasha, Meru, Kakamega, Bungoma, Machakos, Mombasa and Malindi. Basil farming in Kenya can be grown throughout the year in regions with temperatures between 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. It thrives in warm, tropical climates that have ample sunlight exposure. The ideal soil for basil cultivation is well-drained loamy soil with good fertility and a pH level ranging from 6.0 to 7.5.

Best variety of basil to cultivate in Kenya.

Several basil varieties are suitable for cultivation in Kenya. As a farmer, you should choose a variety based on the market demand, local climate conditions and the intended use. Some varieties such as sweet basil are particularly well suited to the Kenyan climate and is also popular among farmers and consumers. Sweet basil is the most widely cultivated variety worldwide. It has a sweet aromatic flavor and is relatively easy to grow and generally adapts well to different growing conditions.

Propagation of basil.

You can propagate basil from seeds or stem cuttings. When propagating from seed, you sow the seeds directly into the trays or prepared seedbeds. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs which is about 7 to 14 days. On the other hand, propagating from cutting involves selecting healthy non-flowering stems and cutting them just below a node. You can dip it in a rooting hormone and then plant it directly or pot it.

Cultivation of basil.

Cultivating basil, whether for your personal use or commercial purposes, involves several key steps like choosing a favourable location that has good sunlight exposure and well drained soil that is rich in organic matter, transplanting basil seedlings with a spacing of 20-30 cm apart to allow for proper airflow and growth. Basil requires regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. You can also practice mulching around the plant to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain soil temperature.

Maturity/Harvesting /Post harvesting of basil leaves.

60 to 70 days from when you seeded your basil, you will be harvesting. You can harvest the plants at a height of 15-20cm when they have developed 6 to 8 pairs of leaves. After harvesting, sort them in sizes or quality then wash them gently, dry them in paper towels and store them in perforated plastic bags or airtight containers in the refrigerators to maintain freshness and extend shelf life.

Something you didn’t know about basil.

Beyond its culinary and medicinal uses that am yet to discuss in the next article, basil has a historical and cultural significance. In different cultures basil is a symbol of love and fidelity. In Greek tradition, basil is considered a token of love, and is often exchanged between lovers as a symbol of devotion. In Italy, it is known as ”herb of love” and is often included in wedding bouquets to bring happiness and good luck to the newlyweds.