Apple farming in Kenya: How to produce Big Juicy Apples

Apple farming in Kenya is slowly gaining popularity. This may be due to the high and increasing in demand of the fruit while there is limited local supply. Most of the fruits found in the local market are imported from South Africa. South Africa is the main supplier of apples to Kenya. At the moment the farming of the fruit is confined in the highland regions of Kiambu, Kitale and Nandi.

apple farming in Kenya
Apple farming in Kenya: Kirinyaga

In apple farming, there are three factors to consider in order to achieve a high yield with big juicy fruits. These are:

Ecological requirements for growing apples in Kenya

The orchard should be selected on a site having deep, fertile, well drained and well aerated loamy-sandy soil, with a slightly acidic to alkaline P.H of 5.5-6.5.

The crop does well in the high-altitude regions of 1800m-2800m above sea level, with rainfall requirement of 1000mm-1800mm per annum. However, very high amount of rainfall is associated with incidences of fungal disease. Regions with low rainfall amounts, irrigation is recommended as the apple tree requires high water amounts for the high yields.

Establishment

Propagation

Apples can be produced sexually through the seed or vegetatively through grafting and budding. For juicy and a high yield, grafting is highly recommended as the fruit retains their parental properties compared to seed production whose characteristics may vary from those of the parent. Propagation by seed is only used in the preparation of a rootstock. However, this is a stage you do not have to worry about because Richfarm Kenya has already grafted apple seedlings for sale.

Land preparation

During land preparation, the land should be cleared of all the trees, bushes or shrubs. Any obstruction including stones that might prevent root penetration should also be removed. All the annual and perennial weeds should be cleared from the site.

The spacing is selected depending on the rootstock, variety and the altitude of the site. The holes are dug in a square or rectangular layout at a spacing of 3m X 2m or 3m X 3m for smaller varieties and 4m X 4m or 4m X 5m for the medium and large varieties. The planting hole for apples should be 60cm deep and 60cm wide.

Planting

The top soil from the established hole is separated from the subsoil and mixed with 250g of TSP and 20kg of manure. On placing the tree inside the hole, the topsoil is first replaced and firmed around the root region to avoid air pockets. The subsoil is used to cover the hole and care should be taken as to level the planting hole with the surrounding area.

The apple tree is a self-sterile crop and thus needs a pollinator to be established in the orchard to encourage cross pollination thus fertilization of the crop.

Cultural practices

Mulching

A thick organic mulch is recommended to maintain moisture around the root zone during the early stages of crop development and also suppresses the growth of weeds.

Irrigation

Apples require a lot of moisture during the flowering and fruiting stage. Therefore, if you are growing apples in the hotter regions of Kenya, you will need to irrigate your trees. However, keep in mind that excess water around the root zone will encourage disease outbreak and thus low crop yield.

apple farming in Kajiado kenya
Apples growing under irrigation in Kajiado, Kenya

Pruning

Pruning will provide a strong framework for the apples and encourage high yields and the development of juicy and tasty fruits. During the first year the central shoot is pruned back to 1m from the ground to allow branching, and then 3-4 strong shoots are selected. During the second year the scaffold branches are pruned to encourage lateral branching. From the laterals 3-4 branches are selected and then pruned to encourage development of the lateral branches. The development of many lateral branches will increase the number of fruits each tree carries.

Nutritional needs for apple trees

Application of fertilizer is done according to the soil requirements and the leaf tissue analysis of the plant. So make sure you have done a soil test for your farm before planting the apple seedlings. But to generally guide you, a month after planting urea/CAN is added to provide Nitrogen to the plant and encourage growth. The subsequent years Farm yard manure, CAN at 125g per tree, DAP at 150g is applied in 2-3 splits per tree per year.

Pests and Disease control

Prevention measures are the best and most economical way for controlling pest and diseases and ensuring a high yielding crop. The measures include pruning, timely weed control, proper fertilizer application and selection of the suitable variety. Organic products such as neem extracts and synthetic pesticides and fungicides may be used to control pests and diseases respectively. We shall cover the common pests and diseases that affect apple farmers in Kenya in detail in another article.

If you need any help on apple farming in Kenya, high quality grafted apple seedlings and setting up your orchard, call Richfarm Kenya on 0724698357. 

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