Horticulture in general involves intensive plant cultivation for human consumption. It can be practiced from an individual level in a garden to very large farms. Horticulture is very diverse as it involves growing plants for food (vegetable, fruits, herbs etc.) and non-food crops (flowers, trees and shrubs etc).
Horticulture differs from general agriculture in two ways that it involves small scale production using small plots of mixed crops rather than large fields of single crops and incorporates a wide range of fast growing and maturing crops.
Currently, the area under horticulture is 35 acres with planned expansion of up to 60 acres in the next three years. The planned expansion will involve focusing more in greenhouse cultivation, venturing into contract farming and diversifying to organic farming which will incorporate new high end consumer crops.
The farm has two medium size greenhouses which are used to produce high value crops that require intensive agriculture husbandry. These crops include tomatoes (several Lycoperscon varieties), cucumbers, squash (courgettes) and garden peas. The two greenhouses are under drip irrigation system. This system of irrigation enables the farm to undertake fertigation (mixing fertilizer directly into the irrigation water) and therefore significantly maximizing the uptake of nutrients. Drip irrigation also reduces water wastage by directing it directly to the root zone of the intended crop.
Crops currently grown in the farm
Several crops are currently grown in the farm and include the following:
Cabbages (Brassicaceae family)
These are green annual leafy vegetables. They are grown for their dense, compact heads. Cabbages are a good source of roughage (fibre), carbohydrates and proteins. The increasing demand for vegetables has contributed to the growing popularity of this crop, particularly in the urban areas and higher institutions.
Cabbages require deep, fertile well aerated soils for production. They should be produced in areas with adequate rainfall and can also do well under irrigation. Top dressing with a nitrogenous fertilizer helps to boost production.
For the grower keen on maximizing cabbage production, knowledge of major cabbage pests and diseases and their control is essential. The pests include Diamondback Moth, aphids and thrips which can effectively be controlled using appropriate insecticides, good agronomic practices and integrated pest management (IPM).
Kales are green leafy vegetables that can be harvested for long period of time when provided with adequate water. Kale seeds are first sown in a nursery bed for a month and then transplanted. Kales do well in areas with adequate rainfall with deep, well aerated and fertile soils. Kales are suitable for Nyeri ecological zone.
Origin: South American Andes
Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) is one of the most widely cultivated crops in the world. It is an important source of vitamins and an important cash crop for smallholders and medium-scale commercial farmers. The farm grows three types of tomatoes; tall or indeterminate type, semi-bush or semi-indeterminate type and bush or determinate type. The indeterminate type is the best for greenhouse farming and a good example include the variety Carazon.
Tomatoes seeds are first sown in a nursery bed and transplanted after four weeks and are mature for picking at about 60-85 days after transplanting. Main management practices include pruning, staking, fertilizer application, mulching, watering and harvesting. The major pests include aphids, white flies, thrips and caterpillar of several butterflies and months (Lepidopteran family) while diseases include bacteria wilt, bacterial canker, early and late blight, Fusarium and Verticillium wilt, powdery mildew, anthracnose and several viral infections including tomato spotted wilt virus.
Other crops grown in the farm include Carrots, Onions, Courgettes, Cucumber, Peas, Maize, Beans, Potatoes, Spinach, Capsicum and Cauliflower.