FARMING: How to plant, maintain your cassava garden

Uprooted cassava. Courtesy photo.

Cassava is a perennial shrub – which produces enlarged tuberous roots. Its height ranges from about 1 to 3 m or more.

The stems are usually small and glabrous with nodes. The leaves vary in color from green to reddish. There is a great variation in tuber number, shape and size and the angle at which they penetrate the ground. Each cassava plant usually bares 5 to10 tubers.

A compound called hydrocyanic glycoside is present in each cassava variety at varying quantities and it’s this compound which makes the tuber sour some times. Cassava clones are often classified by taste ‘sweet’ or ‘bitter’.

The toxicity of a cultivar varies according to environmental growth conditions. However, in any one garden, it’s possible to find some cultivars bitter and others sweet so that a local separation between bitter and sweet can often be made possible.

In most East African countries, cassava is still planted by hand – and planting is done at the onset of the rain season, often in flat fields, though planting on ridges is desirable in wet regions.

You can cut the sticks diagonally or at a right angle to the stem being cut.

You can then plant your cutting vertically or at an angle, with half their length in the soil, or flat below the surface.

Weeding your cassava plantation is so important during the early stages.

It’s good to interplant your cassava with other crops like beans during early stages to suppress the weeds; you need to weed between 3 to 4 weeks after planting.

During weeding, you can earth up plants (add soil on plants) during weeding as this greatly helps in tuber formation.

Growing to maturity

Generally, cassava reaches maturity in 9 – 24 months or up to 36 months depending on the variety, climate and soil conditions.

Some quick growing cultivars can be harvested in 6-7 months, but good yields are normally obtained after 9-12 months.

More on this, how to make money from cassava, and other crops will be published on Wednesday

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