Pumpkin Farming in Kenya is amazing. Pumpkin provide food from every part of their physiology. The fleshy fruit is great for boiling, baking or for thickening soup. The seeds are delicious when dry roasted with a sprinkling of salt, and the young leaves and flowers provide a perfect alternative to sukuma wiki (kales).
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya – Pumpkin Varieties
Several pumpkin varieties recognized by their colour, shape, ridges, stripes and spots were grown in the region. They include:-
- Jack-Be-Little :- This pumpkin is tiny.
- Baby Boo:- It is a cute, miniature, white pumpkin.
- Mini Harvest Blend:-This is a miniature harvest blend. It includes Hooligan, Gooligan, and Bumpkin.
- Jaradale:- It’s a blue pumpkin. Weighing 6 to 10 pounds, the Jaradale is unique and decorative. Used it for baking, mashing and cooking.
- Wee Be Little:- This little pumpkin is just 3 inches in diameter, round and grows to about a pound. They are tasty.
- Sweet Sugar Pie:- These pumpkins are perfect for baking. Sweet, finer textured pulp. Pumpkins average 5 to 7 pounds.
- Casper :- It’s white in color.
- Fairytale :- A unique and popular French “cheese” pumpkin. Deeply lobed shape, and rich, deep, tan color. The flesh is fine-grained, and delicious. Weighs about 15-18 pound average.
- Blue Doll :- The blue Doll is almost square fruit, with a blue color. Grows big, 20 – 30 pounds.
- Cinderella :- This is a French heirloom variety, and is very popular. The fruit is reddish-orange, flattened and ribbed. Cinderella produces 25 – 35 pound fruit.
- Harvest Jack :- This easy to grow and high yielding variety, averages 25 – 30 pounds. The fruit is dark orange with long handles. It makes great, large Jack O’Lanterns.
- Howden :- Big, bright orange. The fruit grows 20 – 30 pounds. The plant can produce 4 – 6 pumpkins.
- Dill’s Atlantic Giant :- weighs a thousand pounds or more.
- Peanut :- This pumpkin is pink with beige bumps, resembling peanuts covering its surface.
- Red Warty Thing :- This lumpy red-orange pumpkin Weighs up to 20 pounds.. It’s also an excellent eating pumpkin with sweet, stringless flesh.
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya – Planting Pumpkin
Plant in a sunny spot which receives at least six hours of sun and ensure the ground is well moist before planting. The seeds also need oxygen to germinate, hence too much water in the soil would literally drown the seeds to death.
Pumpkins are typically grown at the centre of small hills or earth mounds of about three feet in diameter and a foot in height. Prepare the hills leaving a trench of about half a foot to hold water around the roots of the plant. If you plan on planting more than one hill, make sure they are at least ten metres apart.
If possible, soak the seeds the night before planting to make sprouting a little smoother. This should, however, not worry you too much.
Plant four to five seeds in a small circle around the centre, spacing them about 15 to 20cm apart. Don’t sink the seeds more than one inch into the soil; just enough to block light and hide them from birds.
For the next two weeks before the seeds germinate, water gently so as not to wash off or expose the seeds. Once the seedlings sprout, thin out the weaker and smaller seedlings to leave just two or three strong healthy ones per mound.
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya -Pests and Diseases
Powdery mildew:- Powdery mildew, a white powder-like bacteria, is the most common disease problem. Powdery mildew thrives in hot, humid weather, just as your pumpkin is really getting big. Plant disease spreads rapidly, and will quickly kill the plant.
Bacterial Wilt:- This disease is evident by a wilting and browning of the leaves. Sometimes the leaves will firm up at the end of the day, only to repeat itself the next morning, and get worse each time.The acid test for bacterial wilt is to take one leaf and cut it an inch or so from the vine. If the sap that drains out is yellow and stringy, you have confirmed the presence of Bacterial Wilt disease.
The best defensive measures to help avoid this and other disease problems include:-
Water only in the morning or during the day. Avoid late afternoon and evening. Powdery Mildew and other diseases thrive in humid weather. Watering at night adds fuel to the fire. When you water in the morning, the sun quickly dries the leaves. Watering at night leaves moisture on the leaves for the entire evening and early morning period. On warm nights, wet leaves are an ideal growing place for Powdery Mildew.
Water only to the roots and vines. If you apply water with a soaker hose, the leaves do not receive the additional moisture that promotes growth of diseases. Place the soaker hose facing down. This also minimizes water on the leaves.
Apply sprays to control diseases before they get started. A fungicide disease spray can save the pumpkin crop from this problem. Start applying disease control sprays early and before disease occurs. If your pumpkin patch is already infested, apply it right away. If caught soon enough, the plants should recover. Although affected leaves will not look any better.Plant disease can occur on the top and bottom of leaves, on the leaf stem and on the vines. Apply fungicide to all parts of the plant.
Remove diseased plants from the garden. Do not turn diseased plants into the soil or compost them. Diseases can over-winter either in the soil or in your compost pile. It then re-infests this years’ crop.Compost piles sometimes do not get hot enough to kill bacteria. Toss diseased plants out in the trash, or send them to your local lawn waste re-cycling center.
The most common pests on pumpkin fields are:-
Deer:- These foragers like both the plant and the fruit. They are controlled by hunting, trapping, repellents and fencing or pest netting.
Rabbits:- Rabbits like the tender leaves and growing tips, as well as new, small fruits.They are controlled by hunting, trapping, repellents and fencing or pest netting.
Mice and Moles:- These pests burrow under the planting field, disturbing the roots. Mice and Moles can be controlled by traps and rat/mouse poisons.
Squirrels and Chipmunks:- Squirrels and Chipmunks attack pumpkin seeds. They gnaw through the pumpkin fruit and extract the seeds.Hot pepper sprays should keep them away from ripe fruit. Spray often, and after each rain. Squirrels and chipmunks can be controlled by traps and poisons.
Woodchuck:- Their diet includes tasty, ripe (and almost ripe) fruit. Hunting and trapping are your only effective methods of controlling woodchucks.
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya – Harvesting Pumpkins
- Leave the fruit on the vine as long as possible.
- Examine the pumpkin fruit every few days to see if it is still growing
- The pumpkin fruit should not be harvested until the skin has reached full color and has hardened.
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the stem at the vine. Be careful not to damage the vine, if there are more pumpkins still on it.A good pumpkin has a good stem. Do not carry the pumpkin by the stem. Carry the pumpkin out of the field by holding it in the palms of your hands.
- Wash the pumpkin properly before storage.
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya – Storage
Pumpkins can normally be stored for 30 – 90 days. For long term storage, wash the pumpkins in a very mild chlorine solution. Use one cup (8 ounces) of chlorine to one gallon of water. This will destroy bacterias which may cause the fruit to rot.Allow the pumpkin to dry completely and store the pumpkin in a cool, dry and dark place.Avoid hot and humid places, even if storing for only a couple of weeks.
Pumpkins are best stored on a board or piece of cardboard.Do not store the fruit on a cement floor, as they tend to rot. Also do not store the fruit on a good rug in case it was to rot, as it would ruin the rug.
Pumpkin Farming in Kenya – Video