Plums growing tips and guide
By Alex Wachira
Plums are juicy and delicious fruits when consumed fresh. In value addition plums are processed into jam, wine and juice notes selinawamucii.com or either dried to increase their shelf life.
Plums come in a wide range of colours from red, green and yellow though red is the most common in Kenya.
Their health benefits include reducing the risks of chronic diseases, lowering blood sugar, promoting heart and bone health and are antioxidants.
Plums season is normally between mid-December to early February.
Their varieties include: Methly, Beauty, Santa Rosa, Shiro, Harry, Cherry plum and Kelsey according to online website oxfarmorganic.co.ke
The fruit is mainly cultivated in central highlands which offer best-growing conditions for the fruits.
Plum trees require minimal attention and are adapted to a broad range of climates notes oxfarmorganic.com
The tree flourishes in cool and wet conditions.
Online publication, farmlinkkenya.com states that it does well in areas with an altitude of 1800m above sea level with temperatures of 15 to 24 degrees Celsius.
The ideal rainfall for plum cultivation is between 1000 to 1200 millimetres.
Deep, well-drained loamy, clay loam and sandy loam are ideal with a soil PH of 4.5 to 6.5 adds farmlinkkenya.com
Plums require full sunlight exposure for a minimum of six to eight hours per day for optimum growth.
Plum trees are grown from grafting and begin to bear fruits from four to six years.
A farmer is advised to always source grafted fruit trees from licensed tree nurseries for quality and disease-free planting material.
Planting is recommended at the onset of rains or use drip irrigation in dry areas.
The planting holes should be filled with soil mixed with manure and watered regularly for root establishment.
Mulching should be done to preserve moisture, suppress weeds, increase soil fertility on decomposing and prevent soil erosion.
Honeybees are the major pollinators for plums.
Pruning is necessary to avoid excessive vegetative growth, remove unproductive branches that are diseased and have been attacked by pests.
Pests that attack plum trees as listed by farmlinkkenya.com include plum stem borer, mealy bugs, aphids, plum moths, wasps and nematodes which appropriate insecticide and pesticides are used to eradicate them.
Diseases include root rot, brown rot, powdery mildew, plum rust, blossom wilt, bacterial canker and fruit rot which appropriate fungicides are sprayed.
Field hygiene and use of clean planting materials helps in disease control states farmlinkkenya.com
Plums are ready for harvesting when the skin becomes very soft when pressure is applied gently using fingers.
After harvesting, plums continue to ripen at room temperature.
For longer shelf life once the fruit reaches desired ripeness they should be refrigerated to last for a week or more.
Plums usually have a white or silvery colored coating on them which is a natural, waxy, protective coat produced by the fruit itself and is often washed off when packing notes farmerstrend.co.ke
However, the fruit should always be thoroughly rinsed with water before eating.
Bruised fruits should be kept away to avoid damaging other healthy fruits.