How To Grow Sweet Fruits And Keep Your Customers Coming Back For More

As fruit farmers, we know that growing clean and colourful fruits is key to selling: buyers are attracted by the physical appearance of the fruit. However, for a sustainable fruit farming business, we not only want to attract new customers but also keep them coming back everyday. The only sure way to create a huge base of return customers is to produce fruits that are rich in flavour. Taste is unforgettable and irrespective of how good a fruit looks, if it doesn’t taste as good, we lose the buyers. 

So how do we make our fruits sweet?

The amount of sugar content in your fruits is measured in Brix; the higher the brix, the sweeter the fruit. A higher brix is achieved when the plant is able to take up nutrients and water from the soil efficiently and convert them into sugars. Sufficient exposure to sunlight is very important in aiding the process of photosynthesis through which the plants manufacture sugars.

Fruit farming: How to improve the taste of your fruits

Also Read: How To Grow The Best Tangerine For The Market In Kenya

Here are some steps you can take to improve the brix of your plats and keep those customers coming back for more of your sweet fruits.


1. Maintain the right soil nutrient ratio

Please take note that we are talking about the ratio and not the amounts of the specific nutrients. Plants essentially need 3 main nutrients for healthy growth: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). These are the elements denoted by NPK in fertilisers.

During the early stages, the best growth will be achieved if you maintain these elements such that we have about 30% to 60% nitrogen, 30% to 60% potassium and 10% to 30% Phosphorous.

However, when the plant gets to fruiting stage, you should reduce nitrogen and increase potassium. This is because excessive nitrates burn carbohydrates in the plant hence reducing the fruits brix (the measure of sugar content in a fruit).

Passion fruit at fruiting stage

So, if you are still adding lots of manure to your fruiting plants, you are reducing the sugar content of the fruits and damaging their flavour – manure is rich in nitrogen. Also check the contents of the fertilizer you use to top-dress your fruiting plants to ensure they have a higher K than N and P.

Also Read: How to produce Big Juicy Apples


2. Ensure sufficient soil moisture

I have heard some people saying that if you irrigate your plants during fruiting the fruits will be tasteless. That is far from the truth. Your plants need sufficient water for them to be able to absorb the nutrients in the soil. Plants absorb nutrients in solution form.

It will be of no use to have balanced nutrients in your soil with no water: the plant will not be able to absorb these nutrients.

Please note that I said sufficient – not too low and also not too high. If you over irrigate your plants, the roots “drown” and absorption of nutrients is again impeded.


3. Expose your plants to maximum sunlight

Plants use sunlight in the process of photosynthesis in which the leaves of the plant transform carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy that is stored in the plants as glucose. It is this glucose that gives the fruits the sweet taste.

So, if you grow your fruit plants in a shaded place, do not expect the fruits to be sweet. For this reason, if your fruit orchard is planted in rows, ensure that the rows run from East to West and not from North to South.

If your rows run North to South, the rows to the East cast shadows on the rows to the West of your farm in the morning and the reverse happens in the late afternoon.  As a result, your plants are only exposed to full sunlight around noon resulting in lower photosynthesis hence lower brix (fruit sweetness).

On the other hand, if your rows are in an East-West alignment, all the plants get sunlight all day long.


4. Keep the soil pH at the recommended level

Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or basic your soils are. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14 where 7 is neutral. If your soils have a pH of less that 7, they are acidic and if the scale is higher than 7 then they are basic.

Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients to your plants. In highly acidic or alkaline soils, phosphorous and many micronutrients important in improving the fruit brix are less available to the plant.

Most plants will perform best in soils of pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Out of this range, the plants might struggle and grow but the sweetness of the fruits will be severely affected since the plant’s nutrient uptake is seriously hampered.

Different plants grow optimally in different pH levels. Most fruits will grow best and have higher brix in slightly acidic soils of between 5 and 6.5 pH. But be sure to check the best levels for the specific fruit you are growing.

The good thing is that soil pH can be adjusted to suit your crop. If it is too low (meaning the soil is acidic), use agricultural lime to bring it down to the optimum level. If it is too high, use ammonium-based fertilisers or organic matter. The quantities of the corrective components will be determined by the pH level. Recommendations will be given to you if you use professional soil testing services such as CropNut in Limuru, Soil-Care or KALRO to establish your soil’s pH.


Hass avocado tree at fruiting stage

5. Apply seaweed extracts on our plants

Seaweed extracts are products that can be applied on the crop as foliar on drenched into the soil around the rooting area of your plants. Although some brands of seaweed extracts have trace nutrients, they are technically not fertilisers: they are bio-stimulants.

Simply put, seaweed extracts are biological products derived from sea weeds and containing plant growth hormones. When applied on crops, they help to improve the plant’s photosynthesis and efficient uptake and utilization of soil nutrients, irrespective of the composition of the soil. It works like a miracle boost.

From our earlier discuss, you can clearly see that this would result in higher brix. An added advantage is that seaweed extracts also trigger fruit ripening while also increasing the hardness of the fruits. As such, the fruit ripens fast but still with a good keeping quality.

There are many brands of seaweed extracts in Kenya. You can simply walk into an agrovet and ask for a seaweed-based bio-stimulant. Remember, this is not a substitute for fertilizer but a product aimed at helping your plant uptake and efficiently use the nutrients in the soil.

6. Plant the sweeter varieties

We have said much in the paragraphs above but this last one could be the most important: choose the right variety to plant. Fruit sweetness can and actually is influenced to a great extent by the genetic makeup of a specific variety. 

Let me give you an example: the solo sunrise and calina IPB9 varieties of pawpaw are the sweetest compared to mountain pawpaw and others: we cant even mention the big indigenous varieties here because those were actually bitter.  Even if you got all the other 5 points right and missed on this one, all your efforts of becoming a successful fruit farmer will never pay. 

Also Read: Why Solo Sunrise Is the Most Popular Pawpaw Variety in Kenya and the World

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