Category Archives: Gardening Solutions Made for Gardeners

Is Hydroponics love really justified?

What is hydroponics

Hydroponics is the cultivation of crops in a liquid nutrient solution with or without the use of artificial media. It is an alternative technique in which the soil is replaced by an aqueous solution containing the necessary minerals to grow crops.

The fact is, people are becoming health-conscious and choosing to eat more of the green stuff. You and I included.


Hydroponics tube

Hydroponics growing of spinach yields more


Moreover, considering increasing population and occupation of Agricultural lands by buildings, it is urgent to seek a new cultivation method that resolves the land issue without occupying it.

In my opinion, I believe that hydroponics is going to be a force to reckon with in modern farming. If you don’t believe me, read how hydroponics market is set to become a $28Billion industry by 2020 a report by BIS Research.

Recommended for you

Key point: Hydroponics is the growing of crops in a soilless media


First things first: The basics

A typical functional hydroponics comprises the following essential components;

  1. Growing substrates (Oasis cubes, Grow stones, Vermiculite, Peat moss, Perlite, Rockwool, Coconut fibre, Course Sand, Sawdust and Expanded clay pellets),
  2. Nutrient solution (Traditional solution, Home-made or Organic solution).
  3. System designs/Hydroponics system

There are hundreds if not a thousand types of a System designs/hydroponics system. The good news, you don’t have to know all of them since there are only six basic types of the hydroponics system. The rest are just modifications. These types are;

  • Ebb and Flow or Flood & Drain
  • Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T)
  • Drip systems recovery or non-recovery
  • Wick system
  • Aeroponics and
  • Water Culture

Let us discuss them in a little bit of detail


Hydroponics system

Basic type of hydroponics system


Ebb and Flow/Flood & Drain

As the name suggest, the Flood and Drain system works by flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. A submerged pump that connected to a timer comes on and off several times a day to perform this action. One natural advantage of using this system is its versatility. With Ebb & Flow, it’s possible to use a wide variety of growing mediums.


Nutrient Film Technique (N.F.T)

In this system, the nutrient solution constantly flows within the grow tray and back into the reservoir. Unlike Ebb & Flow, the timer is not required for the submersible pump. The drawback of N.F.T is that it’s very vulnerable to power outages and pump failures. However, it has a relatively lower costs incurred in changing the media after every crop (common in other systems) since it depends on the nutrient solution and air.


Drip Systems Recovery/Non-Recovery

This hydroponics system is probably the most common and widely used system worldwide. A timer controls a submersible pump that pumps the nutrient solution. The solution is then dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line. In a recovery system, the excess nutrient solution is collected back into the reservoir for re-use while in a non-recovery the run-off is not collected. Each system whether recovery or non-recovery there are pros and cons. Learn more about Drip Systems Recovery and Non-Recovery


Wick System

Probably the simplest of all the hydroponics system. It is a passive system in which the nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick. The Wick system has one disadvantage in that; some plants may use more nutrient solution than the wick can supply. The standard growing medium includes; vermiculite, perlite, and coconut et cetera.



Of all the hydroponics systems, Aeroponics is probably the most high-tech. It is similar to N.F.T because the roots hang in the air. But different because this system has a timer connected to a nutrient pump submerged into the solution that frequently injects the nutrients as mists to the roots. An aquaponic system is a good example of Aeroponics. You can get more information about aquaponics <<here>>


Water Culture

Water Culture is the simplest of all active hydroponic system. The platform that holds the plants floats on top of the nutrient solution. Air stone supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants. Water Culture is the best system for growing leaf lettuce that are fast growing and water loving plants. However, it doesn’t work well with other plants.

So, that’s all there is to the hydroponic system. I would advise you to experiment different types and chose one that fits your needs and one that you are comfortable. But wait, read on to confirm your eligibility to use hydroponic.


Who should use hydroponics?

In my experience, hydroponics is just for everyone who needs to get higher crop yields on a non-arable land (contaminated poor soils, dry deserts, and cold climate regions, arid and semi-arid areas).

Furthermore, if you happen to fall under any of the following category, urban farmer, landscape gardener, vegetable grower, greenhouse farmer, a beginner who wants to do farming as a hobby or for commercial purposes, and general garden enthusiast, please read on.

If you happen to fall outside this category, then hydroponics might not be for you neither is this article.


Why should you start or continue using hydroponics?

  • Low prevalence of plant pests and diseases

The Soil is a habitat for quite many living organisms including pathogens (disease-causing organisms) that affect the plants through the roots. With hydroponic, the plant roots are contained in a system that is well controlled minimizing the risk of disease infections.

  • Direct control over the crops roots zone

One of the most important aspects of crop nutrition is the ability to control what happens around the rhizosphere. Since in hydroponic the roots grow in either an inert medium or nutrient solution, things such as the PH and EC can be adjusted accordingly.

  • Easier to clean the system

Over time, any system is bound to malfunction due to one reason or the other. A hydroponics system is not an exceptional. Sometimes there are salts build up in the system that might reduce the systems efficiency. For that case, the whole system (aggregate growing media/inert medium) can be sterilized using 10% bleach, mild acid and thorough rinsing.

  • Efficient utilization of water and nutrients

In hydroponics, water and nutrients are supplied directly to the roots of the plants and in some scenarios recycling is possible. This recycling is contrary to plants grown in the soil culture whereby water may be lost wetting the soil beyond the reach of the plant roots. More water is even lost over the ground’s surface through evaporation.


Hydroponics gardening

Greenhouse hydroponics gardening


  • Higher planting densities (Utilizing minimum land). With hydroponics, it’s possible to increase the planting densities hence using smaller space. Hydroponics also encourages vertical gardening with structures such as garden towers.
  • High-quality produce, e.g. fruits will have more flavour
  • Crops do not suffer from transplanting shock (Easy transplanting)
  • In the hydroponic system, no cultivation or weeding is required.


Lies about hydroponics that you’ve probably heard or will hear in future


  1. Hydroponics is a pollutant

Lie: Hydroponics is not good for the environment and causes all manner of pollution.

Truth: No fertilizer runoff finds its way into the lakes, rivers and aquifers. Secondly, hydroponics uses approximately 70 to 90% less water compared to conventional gardening.

  1. Plants grown in hydroponics system are artificial

Lie: There is a perception that plants grown in hydroponics are unnatural and therefore not fit for consumption.

Truth: Hydroponic supplies the plant with basic essential requirements when needed. There are no genetic mutations that take place within the equipment. In fact, there are possibilities to grow completely organic produce with hydroponics.

  1. Hydroponics is in beta stages of development

Lie: Hydroponics is an entirely new cultivation technology that is still being developed.

Truth: In the ancient Babylon, hanging gardens were believed to be hydroponic gardens. Hydroponics is therefore not new, just different.

  1. Hydroponic is ‘rocket science.’

Lie: The system is too sophisticated and hard for an average person to comprehend or practice.

Truth: Hydroponics is growing of crops in a soilless media. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. I believe anyone can do this, of course, with the help of a few tricks.


  1. Hydroponics is an indoor thing

Lie: Hydroponic gardening is only applicable and successful indoors.

Truth: Growing indoors only ensures that we produce even when conditions outdoor do not allow. Indoor gardening is true whether you grow hydroponically or in the soil.

  1. Hydroponics is a substitute for pesticides

Lie: You don’t need to use pesticide when using hydroponic cultivation because there are no pest and diseases.

Truth: Vigorous growth promoted by hydroponic ensures that the plants are not susceptible to diseases. Isolation of the roots from the soil also eliminates soil-borne pests. But still, you need to put crop protection measures into place.

  1. Hydroponic produces super-food

Lie: Inferior plant varieties can be made better by growing in a hydroponics system.

Truth: Every seed like all other living things has a genetic make-up that will determine its general characteristics.


What You Can Grow – Tomatoes, Lettuce, Oregano, Celery, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Basil, Thyme, Mint, Watercress, and Strawberries.


Other recommended resources

Simply hydroponic

Fullbloom hydroponic



So, is the hype about hydroponics gardening justified? Yes and Yes. What are your thoughts? Let me know if the article has been of any help to you.


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How Marketing of Fresh Produce will make you Rich

Marketing of fresh produce

Introduction to marketing

Marketing of fresh produce forms an integral part of the produce value chain. Post-harvest losses in the developing countries amount to 30-40% of all crops. The number increases if narrowed down to horticultural produce. These losses are due to damages or wastage resulting from a poor marketing strategy.

In developing countries, most farmers lack the essential market intelligence that is the single most important factor in succeeding in Agribusiness. Production of fresh produce depends on a wave of peer producers.

If farmer X for instance, grows beetroots in a particular season and becomes very successful, all the neighboring farmers will follow suit without considering if the demand for beetroots is there or not at the time.

Subsequently, the glut in supply of beetroots fills the market thereby lowering the prices. The flipside is because farmers didn’t get good prices from their beetroots in the previous season, none will produce the following season creating a deficit in supply.

Another incidence is where a farmer waits until the crops attain the desired maturity before looking for a market. I believe that it’s every farmer’s objective to achieve zero losses or at least minimize postharvest chain losses and get the best price for their produce.


Marketing tomatoes

Tomatoes have proven to be very profitable


This article’s aim is to;

  • Explains the most important aspects of marketing
  • Tells you exactly what you need to do to get the return on your investment.



Marketing of Horticultural produces explained

To understand the marketing concept better, I’ll introduce the issue of production and distribution chain. It’s paramount always to remember that consumer is the first person in the distribution chain as well as the initiator of the process.

The biggest mistake made by many farmers is just to produce anything and impose it on the consumer. Keep in mind that the primary characteristic of most horticultural produce is perishability.

Therefore, to be successful, one needs to have the end in mind at the beginning and get everything right the first time. The diagram below shows a typical produce chain.


Marketing chain

Distribution chain


So what is marketing? In the words of a famous business author Peter Drucker “Marketing is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view….Business success is not determined by the producer but by the customer” For our case our business is farming, and the customer is the consumer of the fresh produce.

Master this concept and you’ve mastered all there is to marketing.

TIP: In marketing remember that customers/consumers buy benefits not products.



Importance of Marketing

The best way to understand the importance of marketing is to think of your farming business as a speeding vehicle, and marketing as the steering wheel. Without it, you’ll hit objects and even lose direction.

Marketing is therefore very essential to ensuring that the produce reaches the desired consumers as soon as possible. It is through marketing that one determines the distribution channel that will accommodate the perishability nature of horticultural produce.

To have a competitive advantage over your peers, you need to evaluate where your farming business is, where you want it to go and how you are going to get it there. Marketing in its most basic form is to help you achieve long-term profitable growth. In a nutshell, it’s your roadmap to a successful agribusiness.

TIP: Design a marketing strategy for your agribusiness and keep referring to it to stay on track.



Marketing trends of fresh produce

Over the recent past, the fresh world market as witnessed immense changes in consumers’ preferences, distribution channels and value addition. The modern consumer is willing to pay for extra value attached to the produce. Amongst the many trends, the following are significant and indicative of the many opportunities in the horticulture sector.

  • Margin pressure at all levels of the food supply chain
  • Many produce suppliers facing lower profits margins.
  • Growing concern for food safety, traceability and sustainability expectations all increasing cost of production.
  • The need for significant investments in information technology systems to match up with the ever changing market.
  • There is an increase in mergers are (retailers, foodservice, shippers).
  • Higher income and socially conscious foodies are driving demand; their preferences lean towards organic, convenience (fresh-cut), flavor, local.
  • For mainstream consumers, positive attitudes about wellness benefits of fresh produce not translating into higher purchases. Improving the flavor might help.
  • The perception that produce costs more and may perish quite fast. Better shelf-life might help.


Marketing of fresh produce

Packing fresh produce


TIP: Follow the market trends of fresh produce to enable you to make informed decisions that resonate with the consumers.



Despite the many opportunities, the horticulture industry still faces a myriad of difficulties ranging from unscrupulous middlemen who offer farmers very low prices for their produce. These middlemen get gross profits from extorting the farmers who have limited access to market information.

In most developing countries, the infrastructure necessary for preserving fresh produce is always lacking. This support involves things as cold storage facilities, small warehouses, inadequate transport systems and the list continues.

As if that is not enough, there are silly cultural beliefs (African tradition) that fruits and vegetables are for the children, old and sickly people in the society. For these reasons, there are always changes in demand for fresh produce.

TIP: Challenges will either make or break you. You decide.



I am going to categorize the challenges listed above into two;

  • Those that you have control over (e.g. Middlemen)
  • Those that you either have indirect control or none at all (e.g. Infrastructure)

For this session, I will recommend a few issues focussing on the first category only. These recommendations are according to the importance of marketing strategy by Nimble Division.

Recommendation 1: Conduct a situational analysis by studying the competition, reviewing and selecting the enterprise to produce.

Recommendation 2: Develop brand positioning by defining the target market, the frame of reference, a reason to believe and point of difference. Could be how you do your packaging etc.

Recommendation 3: Consider the “The marketing mix.” These are product, price, place and promotion.


Marketing of fresh produce

Carving your own brand


This post has covered the most fundamental aspects of marketing fresh produce, follow these essential tips and recommendations to get the return on your investment. Similarly, if you know someone who could benefit from this article, kindly share with them and let’s make market information public knowledge.


Similar resources

Natural resources defense council

Fresh Produce Association of Kenya

Connect with buyers and farmers around you to sell your produce.


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Intensive farming: The great secret to world food security

Intensive farming has recently become the new buzzword in town. You’ve probably heard about it more times than you can remember. But what is this intensive farming all about?

My short answer; intensive farming is the key to food security, long answer; read on.

Intensive farming is not a new concept in the history of agriculture. However, not so many farmers understand what it entails and what benefits can be derived from this farming system.

Factors of production are slowly dwindling into thin air, as world’s population increases. This means that the demand for food is increasing, but the resources are limited.


intensive farming

Intensive farming key to food security


Looking at the recent scenario, the following is an excerpt from a report by FAO and the OECD on the dimensions of food insecurity (2014).


  • FAO estimates that around 842 million people (12 percent of the global population, or one in, eight people) were unable to meet their dietary energy requirements in 2011-13. About one half of this total lives in G20 countries.
  • WHO estimates that close to 7 million children die before their fifth birthday every year, and a third of these deaths are associated with under nutrition.
  • One in three developing country children under the age of five (160 million children) are stunted due to chronic under nutrition, while another 99 million children are underweight.
  • Micro-nutrient deficiency or ‘hidden hunger’ affect around two billion people (over 30 percent of the world population) with serious public health consequences.
  • Food production will need to increase by 60 percent to feed a world population that is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050.


These statistics are painting a very gloomy future. If appropriate measures are not put into place, food security will just become a dream and poverty will continue to enslave our people. We need to either invest in farming or invest in farming to achieve the said 60% food increment required to feed 9 billion people. But how much soil do we have? Just how much land do we have?


intensive farming

Intensive land utilization


Geographically 75% of the earth’s surface comprise of water with 2/3 of the remaining surface of the earth being unfarmable (mountains and deserts).

At the time of writing, only 1/48 of the entire earth’s surface is left to potentially raise food for 6.5 billion people and many times more animals. Up to this point, you must be feeling bogged down and wondering if there is a way out.

Good news; we do have a way. Intensive farming which in a nut-shell is characterized by lowland ratio and higher use of inputs per unit land area. This undoubtedly increases the yields of food and fiber per acre as compared to traditional farming methods.

Intensive farming techniques

Intensive farming techniques might be different depending on the type of farming but one common denominator is the innovation. These listed techniques relate to crop cultivation

  • Deep soil preparation achieved by double digging to properly loosen the soil. This allows deep root penetration and improves the soil drainage.
  • Use of organic compost which is very vital in improving the soil structure. Besides other numerous, benefits of this technique, compost will provide nutrients as well as make nutrients already in the soil more available to plants.
  • Synergistic planting of crop combinations also known as companion planting and crop rotation
  • Reasonable close planting which ensures more plants are accommodated in a smaller area. This is actually made possible by double digging and use of compost.
  • Use of open pollinated seeds ensures that varieties are preserved for future generations. This technique saves cost and reduce reliance on outside growers.
  • A whole interrelated and integrated farming system


intensive farming

Interrelated farming system


‘Give back to the soil as much as you have taken – and a little bit more – and nature will provide for you abundantly’.    

Alan Chadwick


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Passion Fruit Growing Will Make You More Money Guaranteed

growing passion fruit

Over the past few months, you may have heard some chatter about the immense benefits of growing passion fruit. Not surprising.

According to Softkenya, passion fruit is third most popular fruit in Kenya after mangoes and bananas respectively, and this enterprise already boasts an area of 6000 hectares under production.

Passion fruit is only growing in popularity as the hottest new gold mine, and that’s why in 2010, passion fruit made Hit Wise’s list of the top most lucrative fruit ventures in Kenya, currently sitting at #3 and beating out big names like papaya and avocados.

growing passion fruit - ripe fruit

Juicy ripe passion fruit


And as with any hot new enterprise that comes onto the scene, farmers and gardeners are chiming in with, “Can I use it for income generation?” “…and, how?”


The short answer? Absolutely. The longer answer? Read on to find out how.

Recommended: Download your free sample of passion fruit farming course


Growing passion fruit step by step

Passion fruit is a perennial plant that allows farmers to enjoy yields for longer periods often exceeding three years depending on management. As with most other fruits, you can intercrop passion fruit with vegetables such as leeks, onions, beetroots, spinach, strawberries and any other crop that does not share pest and diseases with the passions.

Popular cultivars include purple passion fruit and yellow passion fruit.


The purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis f. edulis)

Suitable for areas with an altitude of 1100 to 2500m above sea level. The fruit has an aromatic flavor with a diameter of 4-5 cm.

Who are the consumers? Fresh markets and juice extractors

Purple form (Varieties)– Black night, Edgehill, Frederick, Kahuna, Paul Ecke, Purple Giant, Red Rover


Yellow passion fruit (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa)

Yellow passion fruit is suitable for low altitudes such as coastal lowlands. It’s more hardy and vigorous as compared to the purple passion. The fruit is bigger with a diameter of 5-7 cm, relatively acidic and used for juice extraction.

Of course, it’s also yellow, ha.

More fundamentally, yellow passion fruit is used as a rootstalk to purple passion fruit since it’s resistant to most diseases affecting the passion fruits such as Phytophthora blight, Fusarium, wilt, brown spot, and nematodes.

Yellow form – Brazilian golden, golden giant.

Related: What Most Agribusiness Experts Won’t Tell You 

Soil Preparation and Planting

I’m assuming that you have already plowed and harrowed your soil to a fine texture. I’m also assuming that you have a very clear plan of your yard depending on the size of your land. Next, you need to sterilize the soil since passion fruits are very sensitive to nematodes and other disease-causing agents such as Fusarium sp.

There are several ways for you to choose from when it comes to soil sterilization

  1. You can use fumigation method and
  2. Solarisation

Of course, there are several more other ways. Please feel free to use them. In this case, I’m going to focus on one that is cheap, economical and efficient – Solarisation

How to sterilize the soil using solarisation method

  • Wet the ground that you intend to grow the passions into –  this ensures that the heat reaches lower horizons
  • Cover the soil entirely with a polythene paper
  • Leave it there for at least a week

Assumption: You have at least five to seven hours of sunshine a day.

After this period elapses, remove the polythene and inoculate the area with the beneficial microorganism. The popular brand is the EM.1 found on amazon and shipped anywhere for free by This is because solarisation kills all micro-organism (both harmful and beneficial ones). I will address this topic in details in the future articles.

Good job! Your soil is now safe for growing passion fruits.

The best way to get good results is by growing your purple passion fruit from grafted seedlings. Yellow passion fruits serve as rootstalk.

Plant the seedlings at a reasonable depth and recommended spacing for your area. While doing this, ensure that the graft union is not covered by the soil to avoid rotting. Remember to water the newly planted seedlings before you call it a day.


Crop management

After 1-2 weeks, it is expected that the seedlings have acclimatized to their new environment, and therefore, you should start seeing some remarkable changes in growth. This only marks the beginning of more work to come.

And yes, it’s general crop management.

Growing passion fruits require some basic necessities; for example, feeding, and crop protection. The most important management practices will entail;

  1. Water application in the right proportions (Avoid under-watering or over-watering).
  2. Application of necessary nutrients in the form of fertilizers and foliar sprays (Always conduct periodical soil analysis to determine which nutrient elements needs supplementing). – Too much or too little nutrients might actually injure your plants.
  3. Periodical soil conditioning, for example, addition of compost and organic materials
  4. Weeding – or mulching with a polythene that suppresses weeds
  5. Frequent monitoring of the crop for pest and diseases and taking the necessary precautions (Use a holistic approach or Integrated Pest Management strategies to combat pest and diseases). It is also worth noting that in case you have to spray, use only recommended pesticides and observe Minimum Residue Levels (MRLs).
Related: 17 Reasons Why Your Agribusiness is Doomed!


Support and training

If you’ve done all your homework up to this point, your young plants should be growing more and more vigorously. You’ll realize this when you see dense foliage and emergence of tendrils. (Tendrils are rope-like structures used by passion vines to support themselves against other objects).

growing passion fruit - flowering passion

Flowering Purple Passion Fruit


Tendrils are an indication that your plants need support. You can support your passion fruit seedlings by erecting poles and some strong ropes or wires. Personally, I’d go for meshed wires – they do an excellent job!

Once you’ve put the support structure in place, it’s time to guide the growth of those plants along the support. In a nutshell, guiding your passion seedlings to grow in the desired way is what we call training. We don’t want the fruits lying on the ground.


Maturity and Harvesting

For most beginners, this is where the dilemma starts. How do you tell when your passion fruits have matured? How do you know when to start harvesting?

You don’t have to know!

Unlike other fruits that need an understanding of maturity indices, passion fruits are different. Once they attain a proper physiological maturity, they detach from the mother plant and falls on the ground. Now, all you have to do is get a crate and pick them one by one. This can be done twice a day depending on their volume. Just make sure you don’t leave them too long on the ground.


Packing and packaging

How do present your precious produce to your consumer? The answer to this question will differentiate you from your competition. Think deeply about your brand and communicate it through your packaging. You’ve worked so hard to feed the world don’t lose the opportunity to reap big by failing to pay attention to your presentation.

Keep in mind that whatever packaging material you chose;

  • It has to contain your produce
  • Communicate and
  • Protect your produce


The business side of growing passion fruit

Incorporating Passions into your farming venture might seem like a great opportunity for your business, but you need to make sure it’s generating results to make it worth your time and effort.


Related: How to Choose a Suitable Site for Growing Passion Fruit


Whenever possible, include a well-detailed business plan and a proper statement of inflows and outflows to give you a sense of direction.

Keep track of expenditures and income generated from your venture.

To start you off, this is how your income statement should look.


Income Statement per acre (passion fruit)

Production system (rain-fed) Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Output (kg)
Farm-gate price (KES/kg)
Gross Revenue (KES/Acre) 220,800 606,000 450,000
Cost of Production (KES)
Crop establishment
Grafted seedlings (670@40)
Posts (350@150)
Wires 120kgs@150
Sisal twines 110kgs@200
Planting holes 670@10
Manure 14tonnes
Labour cost
Total Establishment Cost 154,000 0.00 0.00
Crop Inputs
DAP/TSP 130kgs/Acre
Foliar feeds
Other Costs
Total Crop Input Cost 47,660 45,150 35,650
Total Costs of Production 201,660 45,150 35,650
Profit (KES/Acre) 19,140 560,850 414,350
Cost of production (KES/Kg) 10.56 4.01 4.96
Margins (KES/Kg) 2.60 25.99 25.04
Related: How to Export Fresh Produce from Kenya


You have learned how growing passion fruit can be an excellent income generator in the long run.

As you have seen, an acre can give you close to KES 1,000,000 ($10,000) in 3 years. But depending on your ability to follow the due process and all the recommendations, the results can be varied.

I have done my part and guarantee that growing passion fruit for money is not only a hype but a genuine agribusiness. Now it’s your turn to give it a try and thank me later.


How to Make a Fertilizer Regime for your Roses


Healthy roses need trace elements otherwise known as nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide to grow and flourish. Most of these basic requirements occur naturally in the crops environment. However to obtain maximum gains from roses, continual replenishment of essential nutrients is important.

Roses are hungry crops that need more nutrients than any other plant. If soil or media has an inappropriate composition for roses then they will not thrive (or maybe will not grow at all).


To prevent this being a problem, samples of soil are often analyzed, and nutrients added before planting the seedlings.

Fertilizer Regime

Roses typically responds to a given amount of nutrient in any of the following three phases

1. Deficiency Phase – Inadequate nutrient levels leading to starvation
2. Luxury Phase – Adequate nutrient levels leading to optimal growth
3. Toxicity Phase – Excessive nutrient levels leading to scorching

To achieve optimum rose performance, emphasis should be put on a fertilizer regime based on media analysis report. In commercial rose production, fertilization is normally through a nutrient solution applied through the irrigation system.


What is Nutrient solution?

A nutrient solution is a solution that contains all the nutrient elements in optimum concentrations and proportions. Experiments show that frequent application of water and nutrients is paramount to realize stability in water and nutrient supply. The more stable and uniform the provision and distribution of water and nutrients, the better the effect on the rose plant growth.

Some elements such Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are taken up by the roses in considerable large quantities and for that reason are rapidly exhausted. For this reason, you should supply all the necessary nutrients regularly to avoid any deficiencies. This requirement is not only based on the total uptake of an element but also the mutual relationship between the nutrient elements and the root environment.

The nutrient solution is supplied to roses in a process that is technically referred to as fertigation. Which in a nutshell means providing dissolved fertilizers through an irrigation system. In this process water quality is just as important as the nutrient elements required.


Water quality in a fertilizer regime

I happen to interact with technical managers responsible for crop nutrition. I see most of them get sub-optimal results in their feeding programs because they disregard the importance of good water quality. Please don’t make this mistake.
When we talk about water quality, three important aspects come to play;

1. Physical water properties
2. Biological water properties
3. Chemical water properties.

Physical water properties; comprises a broad range of factors such as temperature and suspended solids that may be a potential problem. How can they be a problem? Suspended solid for example soil particles can clog the irrigation system and drip lines thus causing damage to irrigation equipment. Clogging can also deny the nutrients a smooth flow to the roses. It is important to ensure that the water is well filtered to avoid this problem.

Biological water properties: Problems associated with this water aspect is that of microbes, algae, and diseases. Algae and bacteria can harm the crop by clogging the irrigation system and attract certain fungi that can infect the roots of the rose plant. To prevent algae from invading the water reservoir, it is recommended to cover it to avoid sunlight and by applying copper sulfate to suppress the algae from developing.

Chemical water properties: This is by far the most important aspect and should be given enough attention. Chemical water properties include parameters like pH, EC, alkalinity, hardness and nutrient composition. Let’s go through first two parameters separately.


pH and its implication on the fertilizer regime

A measure of a solution’s acidity or basicity is what we are referring to as the pH. It ranges between 1 and 14 with 7 indicating the neutral point. It determines, among others, the absorption of nutrients by the plant

The optimum pH level for a rose plant is between 5.5 and 6.5 with small variations depending on the growing media. For example, soil the range is 5.8-6.8 while for hydroponics it varies between 6.2 and 6.4.

The optimum level is that which all the elements are sufficiently available to the plant appropriate proportions. It is imperative to measure the pH more often and make necessary adjustments. You can achieve this by using a well calibrated digital electronic pH sensor.

Electrical conductivity (EC)

EC is a measure that indicates the amount of total dissolved ions in the water. EC should not be constant since it depends on the growing season and the media. Increasing the number of fertilizers increases the EC and vice versa.

Just like the pH, the EC should always be monitored with a well calibrated digital electronic sensor for both the solution and the media. Preferably on a weekly basis on the same day and at the same time.

Note: A higher EC level causes lower uptake of water in roses and hence less growth.


Nutrient elements in a fertilizer regime

The nutrients are grouped as macro elements that are needed by the roses in large quantities and trace elements (microelements) taken up by the plant in small amounts. All these groups are essential for the growth and survival of the roses.

The macro elements include; Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Calcium, Sulphur and Silicon. The micro-elements on the other hand, include; Boron, Molybdenum, Iron, Manganese, Copper, and Zinc.

Most of the times these elements are commercially available in the form of compounds. If any of these elements is has insufficient supply, deficiency occurs. Pay close attention because roses do communicate when this happens.

We would expect that supplying the required nutrients is enough but sometimes these nutrient elements counteract and reacts against each other. Alternatively, they may interact in ways that enhance each other’s effect. This unusual scenario is known as synergism and antagonism between elements.

Calcium is the most antagonistic element while molybdenum is the most synergistic. Keep this relationship in mind when making any fertilizer regime.

At this point, you should be able to compose a feeding regime/recipe with great ease having gone through all the technicalities involved.

Fertigation system

Using an advanced Fertigation system will help you to regulate total amount of fertilizer to apply, fertilizer proportions in the irrigation water, applications duration, and start and finish time. There are three techniques for using fertilizers.

  • Three stage application: It involves starting irrigation without fertilizers. The injection begins when the ground is wet. Injection stops before the irrigation cycle is completed. This allows the fertilizers to be flushed out of the system with the remainder of the irrigation water.
  • Continuous Application: Fertilizer is applied at a constant rate from irrigation start to finish. The amount of fertilizer is injected, regardless of the water discharge rate.
  • Proportional application: The injection rate is proportional to the water discharge rate. There are two types of Fertigation system commonly used namely inline system (direct injection) and indirect injection (less concentrated solution). Before, you settle on one system make sure you think about the maintenance and operational expertise.

For more information on Fertigation system, consult your nearest regional agronomist or you can contact us.
Have we made a fertilizer regime that your roses will love? Let’s meet in the comments as you give us your thoughts


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