Growing spinach and overcoming challenges for good returns.

Spinach is a vegetable, whose market is always guaranteed locally, and it fetches better prices than similar vegetables such as kale. However, many farmers avoid it after the first trial due to challenges associated with the crop.
“I planted about 200 plants in my kitchen garden and the crop was very promising, with very large dark green leaves. However, they began to shrink and eventually disappeared within the third week of harvesting,” says Ms Esther Njoki from Nyeri County, adding that some leaves turned blackish before the plants eventually disappeared.
She adds that the crop was so productive that it was in the family’s daily menu, and she was still able to share some with her workmates.
“I was even planning to lease a bigger piece of land to venture into commercial farming, but my joy was short-lived, forcing me to change my mind,” she adds.
Esther had even done some arithmetic on what she was saving, saying that buying the vegetable in the market, she would spend Ksh50 (US$0.5), yet, the leaves were not enough for her family of four. She values the family’s consumption from the small kitchen garden based on sales at the market at Ksh150 (US$1.5) per day. “Mine were tastier, cleaner and healthier than those I bought in the market. I was also happy because I was sure of the quality of the vegetables, which were organically grown, using no farm inputs other than chicken manure from my poultry,” she adds.
Mr Ndiritu Marimu, a successful spinach farmer in Othaya, Nyeri, says he nearly gave up on spinach to concentrate on his tree nursery business. “I was growing from the seed, preparing the seedbed the best way I could, but the germination rate was very poor, at only about 50 per cent. More plants would also die after transplanting,” he adds.
He sought the advice of an agricultural expert, and that’s how he made it. Today, besides planting to sell as vegetables, Mr Marimu has incorporated spinach seedlings in his tree nursery and this is promising. Ms Alice Magondu, an agricultural officer at Wambugu Agricultural Training Institute, also in Nyeri, agrees that most farmers give up after a few trials. He blames the failures on the wrong seed varieties and doing the wrong things right from the seedbed to harvesting.
“In fact, the biggest challenge is in harvesting; that’s what affected Ms Njoki’s crop. Spinach is a very delicate crop, a heavy feeder, but very rewarding due to its nutritional value and diverse usage,” says Ms Magondu.
Get details on Planting spinach ,Soil preparation, At seedbed and transplant, Fertilising, Weather and Pests and diseases.

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