Grape Cultivation in Kenya
Grapes are mostly grown for wine production, raisin making or for table purpose to be consumed fresh. There are a few farmers and entities engaging in commercial grape cultivation for wine production. A good number of small scale farmers grow a few vines for personal consumption. Kenya has not yet realized its full potential when it comes to commercial grape cultivation despite the fact that this crop can do well in different parts of the country. There are several counties in Rift valley, Nyanza, Eastern, Central and western province that stand a chance of becoming grape producers. With proper county government support and better grower education farmers can produce quality grapes that meet market standards and capacity.
This post is for you who is interested to plant a few vines for own consumption. We will take you through the basics of grape cultivation and the right varieties to plant.
Grape is successfully grown in areas that experience temperature that range from 15oC- 40oC. They generally require hot and dry climate for proper growth and fruiting. An annual rainfall of 900mm is ideal but should be supplemented with irrigation in case rainfall is not well distributed throughout the year. On the contrary, rainfall during flowering and fruit ripening might lead to the spread of downy mildew disease.
Although grapes are well adapted to a variety of soil type they prefer deep fertile soil with good drainage, low salinity and PH range of 6.5-7.5. Grapes like most fruit trees are prone to waterlogging; your soil should have good water holding capacity and devoid of any hard pan.
- Propagation, Planting & fertilization
You can get grape seedlings that we propagate by cuttings or grafting. We graft desired varieties on dogridge rootstock. Grafting increases vine life, fruit yield, plant vigor and takes 2-3 years for new vines to begin bearing grapes. Plant your grape seedlings in an area that receives adequate sunlight. Observe a spacing of 3 metres between plants and 2.5 metres between rows. We encourage the use of farmyard manure and biofertilizers to fertilize your vines. Foliar sprays can also be used to supply micro nutrients. Your fertilization program should be informed by soil and leaf analysis.
Irrigate your vines on a need basis. It is important to note that grapes require more water during berry growth and less water during fruit bud formation and when the fruits are ripening.
You should probably grow table grapes for personal consumption. The table varieties that we grow under organic cultivation are;
- Thompson seedless
- Red glode
- Autumn royal
- Alexandria muscat
- Training and pruning
To increase productivity, your grapevines should be well trained and pruned. The mode of training and pruning is determined by the growth habits of your vine. You should exercise much care and precision when pruning. Poor pruning or lack of it leads to poor fruit set. Do more research to up your pruning skills; there are many videos online that will expose you to the different types of training and pruning grapevines.
- Pest and diseases
Ensure you implement plant protection measures to ensure your vines are free from pests and diseases.
The major diseases affecting grapes are;
- Powdery mildew
- Downy mildew
Major pests include;
- Mealy bugs
- Leaf hoppers
Grapes hardly ripen off the tree, so it is proper to harvest them only after ripening. Grape berries kept at room temperature can last a week without spoilage. Different varieties fruit at different time therefore with proper planning and timing you can consume your home grown grapes for the better part of the year. Keep planting!