Butternut squash farming in Kenya can be done by both small scale and large scale farmers in Kenya. Butternut squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a type of squash that grows on a vine. Its leaves are heart-shaped and broadly rounded. It has flowers that are yellow to deep orange in colour. It is a good source of vitamin E, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and fiber. In Kenya, mothers wean toddlers with it. You can boil or roast and mix it with your baking ingredients. Its seeds can be roasted and used as snacks, or added into the preparation of bread or pies. Roasted or boiled butternut can be added to salads or mashed.
The plant requires full sunshine for about six hours a day and can be grown together with other plants such as corn. Butternut squash growing in Kenya is on the rise and there are various varieties of butternut squash in Kenya.
There is the Argonaut hybrid which is ready in five months after planting. Its fruits are large, have a bright orange skin with very tender flesh. There is the Autumn glow which is ready in three months. It has a golden yellow skin and flesh which is tough, tender and sweet. The Butter Boy hybrid has light orange coloured skin and is ready after two and a half months after planting. The Waltham butternut is the most common. It has pale yellow skin and orange flesh, and it is also ready in about three months. It can easily be stored and is good for most soils. Burpee’s butter bush is ready within 75 days after planting. It has pale orange skin with orange flesh that is tender and has a buttery texture.
Like other vine vegetables, cultivation begins with a hill. Draw your soil into a hill 18 inches long. This will allow the soil to heat around the roots and seeds. Your soil should be well fertilized and moist. Plant four to six seeds per hill. The seeds should be four inches apart and an inch along.
After ten days, the seeds will sprout and when they are six inches high, the weakest will thin out leaving three plants on each hill. It will take around 110-120 days for the fruit to mature.
Butternut squash farming takes a lot of space since each hill needs at least forty square feet for growing, its seeds can also send out vines up to 14 feet long. Fertilizing and cultivation should be done during the growing season. Regular use of manure will help the crop to produce in abundance. Cultivation should be done carefully and it should be done by hand. Using a hoe may uproot or damage the roots.
While cultivating you should also watch out for bugs and if you find some, use insecticides. Due to the yellow flowers, you may find bees on your crop. Bees are important for effective fruiting of butternut squash and thus application of insecticides should be done at night or during the evening after the bees have gone. Your butternut squash will be ready for harvest as soon as the skin turns hard and cannot be pealed by your nail. It will also be heavy in hand and the fruit will be firmly attached to the stem.
Butternut farming in Kenya can yield a lot of profits. Seeds worth Kshs 4,500 grown in a fertile land and cultivated with natural manure can be worth Kshs 20,000 if sold. If you don’t have ready market, you can start by selling to your neighbors since it is consumed locally.
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