Kenya is a country full of opportunities, and one of the upcoming opportunities is butternut farming. 

This is a great type of squash as it is highly nutritious, easy to grow, and in high demand. 

It is an ideal crop for small-scale farmers to start growing since it requires minimal inputs and equipment to get started. 

In this article, I will cover the varieties of butternut, how to plant the crop and how this farming can be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Kenya

So, let’s get started now!

Well, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Butternut?

Butternut is a popular type of winter squash. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family just like pumpkins. 

It is a multi-purpose vegetable that is used in so many dishes – soups, stews, roasted vegetables, and casseroles.

Usually, it is identified by its long, cylindrical shape that has a tan-colored skin and a sweet flavor. 

Butternut has bright orange flesh. When cooked, it has a creamy texture. It is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber.

Butternut Farming In Kenya: Varieties

There are many different types of butternut squash in Kenya. 

But the most common ones are the Waltham butternut, the Butternut Royal, and the Butternut Carnival

However, the most grown varieties in Kenya are Waltham and Atlas F1.

We will cover other varieties so that you can start your butternut farming in Kenya on a good footing.

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Waltham

Waltham butternut farming in Kenya
Waltham butternut

Characteristics

  • It is a medium-sized squash, with a long neck and a bulbous base. 
  • It has light tan color skin. 

Weather conditions

  • Plant it where there’s a lot of sunshine
  • Butternut doesn’t prefer cold temperatures; it should be moderate

Soil type

  • It performs wonders in drained fertile soils
  • The ideal soil pH is between 6.5 and 7.0

Water requirements

  • Water the plant at all times
  • The principle is that you should not let the soil dry – moderate watering
  • If water them excessively, this may result in root rot

Yield and weight

  • Expect to harvest between 5 to 10 fruits  from one plant
  • Typically, each fruit can weigh anywhere from 1.5 to 3kgs.

Duration to mature

  • It becomes ready for harvesting within 90 to 120 days from planting day

Atlas F1

Atlas f1 butternut
Atlas f1 butternut

Characteristics 

  • It is cross-bred – It is a hybrid variety of butternut squash 
  • The squash has a deep orange color

Weather conditions

  • It flourishes in temperatures that are not less than 18°C 
  • Atlas F1 needs a lot of sunshine

Soil type 

  • Plant it in acidic soils ranging from a pH of 6.0 to 6.5
  • The soil should be well-drained and rich in organic matter

Water requirements

  • The plants should be watered at  all times
  • Soil needs to be always wet. But don’t water the plant excessively.

Yield and weight

  • Atlas F1  squash can yield between 8 and 12 fruits
  • A fruit weighs roughly between 2 and 3 kilograms

Duration to matur

  • It takes roughly 85 -105 days to be ready for harvesting

Pluto F1

Pluto F1
Pluto F1

Characteristics 

  • This is another hybrid butternut squash 
  • The Squash has a deep orange color
  • Don’t judge them by their size, Pluto F1 has high yields

Weather conditions

  • Plant it in warm temperatures  (18-29°C) to do extremely well
  • Pluto F1 doesn’t prefer too much frost – it only needs light frost

Soil type

  • Plant Pluto F1 in fertile soil that is well drained
  • The soil pH should range from 6.0 to 7.0
  • Apply compost manure to the soil

Water requirements

  • It requires watering though the soil should be allowed to dry once in a while
  • Pluto F1 plants need watering from the day of planting to maturity

Yield and weight

  • You can harvest fruits ranging from 8 to 10 fruits
  • These  fruits usually weigh between 1 and 2 kg

Duration to mature

  • They mature between within 90 to 100 days 

Quantum F1

Quantum F1
Quantum F1

Characteristics 

  • This is also a hybrid variety of butternut squash 
  • It usually has a long, cylindrical shape and a light orange color

Weather conditions

  • Plant it where there’s a lot of sunshine
  • It doesn’t do well in cold temperatures – Low temperatures reduce yields

Soil type

  • Plant it in fertile and well-drained soil
  • The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0. 
  • It is an enemy of waterlogged soil. It doesn’t do well in waterlogged soil

Water requirements

  • This plant requires a lot of water
  • The Quantum F1 should be watered right from planting up until it reaches maturity
  • The soil should be moist at all times

Yield and weight

  • Usually, you can produce 4 to 6 fruits
  • The fruits weigh between 1.5 and 2kgs each

Duration to mature

  • This fruit becomes ready for harvesting between 90 to 120 days 

Butternut Carnival

Butternut Carnival - Butternut Farming In Kenya
Butternut Carnival

Characteristics

  • This is a vining plant
  • It has a light orange-brown skin
  • It is another example of a  hybrid squash

Weather conditions

  • Butternut Carnival needs a lot of sunshine
  • It often performs well in warm climates

Soil type

  • Plant it in soils that are fertile
  • It enjoys  well-drained soils
  • The soil pH should be between 6.0 to 7.0 

Water requirements

  • The plant needs to be watered at all times

Yield and weight

  • It usually yields from 4 to 6 fruits per plant
  • Mostly, each fruit weighs between 2 and 4 kilograms

Duration to mature

  • Expect butternut carnival to mature  between 75 and 85 days from the date of planting

Honeynut Butternut

Honeynut Butternut
Honeynut Butternut

Characteristics

  • This squash is small in size
  • You can easily identify Honeynut Butternut by its deep orange color

Weather conditions 

  • Look for an area with warm temperatures
  • Honeynut Butternut requires a lot of sunshine

Soil type

  • The soil should be rich in organic matter
  • Its soils should be acidic with a pH of  between 6.0 and 6.5
  • The soils should  be well-draining

Water requirements

  • The plant requires constant watering

Yield and weight

  • Mostly, you can yield between 5 to 8 fruits 
  • Each squash usually weighs 2 or 2.5 kilograms

Duration to mature

  • It typically takes between 100 and 110 days to be ready for harvesting

Sweet Mama Butternut

Sweet Mama Butternut - Butternut Farming In Kenya
Sweet Mama Butternut

Characteristics 

  • It is usually identified by its long neck and bulbous bottom.
  • Sweet Mama Butternut has a light tan color 

Weather conditions 

  • This squash requires a lot of sunshine
  • Sweet Mama Butternut doesn’t favor cold temperatures

Soil type 

  • This squash needs soils rich in organic matter 
  • The soils should be well-drained 
  • The soil pH should range from 6.0 to 6.8.

Water requirements 

  • This plant should be watered at all times so that the soil is kept wet
  • It should not be watered excessively to avoid root rot

Yield and weight 

  • Expect between 5 to 7 butternut squash fruits per plant
  • A fruit weighs roughly weighs  between 4 and 6 kilograms

Duration to Maturity 

  • You have to be patient for about 3 months. It typically takes 90 to 120 days to reach maturity.

Buttercup Butternut

Buttercup Butternut
Buttercup Butternut

Characteristics

  • This is a round medium size squash
  • Its flesh is thick

Weather conditions

  • It likes warm-weather squash
  • The temperatures should be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • This plant doesn’t like cold temperatures

Soil type 

  • The soil should be well-draining 
  • The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.0. 

Water requirements

  • Water the plant most of the time
  • However, don’t water the plant excessively to avoid root rot

Yield and weight

  • You can harvest 3 to 5 fruits from one plant
  • The fruits can weigh 2 or 3 kilograms

Duration to mature

  • The Buttercup Butternut takes between 90 and 120 days to reach maturity

Barbra Butternut

Barbra Butternut -Butternut Farming In Kenya
Barbra Butternut

Characteristics

  • This squash has large seeds

Weather conditions

  • It likes warm climates
  • Barbra Butternut requires a lot of sunshine
  • It doesn’t yield much in cold temperatures

Soil type

  • It performs well in well-drained fertile soil.
  • The soil should have a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Water requirements

  • Water the plant most of the time
  • The plant needs an excessive amount of water

Yield and weight 

  • You are likely to get 5 to 6 fruits from each plant 
  • They may weigh anywhere between 4 and 6 kilograms

Duration to mature

  • Barbra Butternut squash takes approximately 90 to 100 days to reach maturity.

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General Conditions For Growing Butternut

Butternut squash is a popular vegetable and so it is easy to grow in different climates.

This is a hardy plant and tolerates a wide range of temperatures and soil conditions.

However, this does not mean that it can grow in all conditions.

Let’s explore certain conditions that must be met for butternut squash to flourish.

Climate

This type of squash grows well in a warm, sunny climate with temperatures ranging between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, it does not like very low temperatures. Low temperatures affect the plant yield negatively. The yields are not usually high when temperatures drop too low.

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Land Preparation And Planting

The land should be cleared of all unwanted vegetation and debris. 

The soil should be turned over and any stones or clumps of soil should be removed. Then manure should be spread over the soil.  

Growing From Seeds: Two Options

There are basically two methods of growing butternuts from seeds.

Here are the two options:

  • Indoor growing
  • Direct outdoor growing

Indoor growing

You can start your seeds indoors if the temperature is higher than expected.

Simply fill biodegradable pots of reasonable sizes with earth and plant two seeds per pot. 

Then put the pots in a sunny window and make sure the soil stays moist. 

When both seeds germinate, select the healthiest seedling and pinch out the other. 

When the seedlings develop two leaves, continue placing them near a window where there’s light. This is aimed at hardening them.

Once they harden, they become ready to be planted outdoors under normal temperatures.

Direct outdoor growing

But if the temperature is suitable for the germination of the seedlings, you can plant the seeds directly outdoors. 

To succeed, you are required to make hills and plant about five seeds per hill. 

Spacing

The spacing for butternut planting will depend on the variety being planted and the soil type. 

In general, plants should be spaced about 3 feet (1 meter) apart in rows that are 6 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 meters) apart.

Water Requirements 

The amount of water required by butternut plants will vary depending on the soil type, climate, and other factors. 

On hot days, the leaves normally go limp during the day, but they usually perk up as the sun sets.

However, if the leaves are still withered in the morning, then water the plants immediately.

In general, butternut plants need about 1 inch of water per week. Remember, they don’t need to much water as it may lead to root rot.

Fertilizer requirements

Butternut plants need fertilizer in order for them to remain healthy. Plant them in soils that are rich in organic matter.

Then a light application of organic fertilizer, such as compost or manure, in the spring will help to promote healthy growth.

However, if they are not growing healthy, add fertilizer every fortnight to help the plants grow healthy.

Harvesting

Harvest the plant when it is ready.

Butternut is usually ready for harvest 120 to 150 days after planting when the fruits are about the size of a small cantaloupe.

So how can you know that the butternut squash is ready for harvesting?

There are indicators that can help you determine when butternut squash is ready to be harvested. 

Look out for the following indicators:

  • Size of the squash. When it reaches maturity, it is usually 9 -10 inches long and 4-5 inches in diameter.
  • Skin. When ready for harvesting, the skin is hard and difficult to puncture. 
  • Color. The butternut is usually deep orange when it is ready to be harvested. 
  • Stem. Once the squash reaches maturity, the stem becomes dry and brittle.

To harvest the butternut squash, simply cut it from the vine with a sharp knife at 3 inches from the top of the mature fruit.

Why are the 3 inches cutting?

The stems ensure that the squash lasts longer without going bad if it won’t be consumed right away.

How To Take Care Of Seedlings

Tips to help you take good care of butternut seedlings in Kenya.

  • Improve their soil fertility. You need to add compost manure to the soil so that your plants can get the necessary nutrients from organic matter.
  • Water them. The seedlings need to be watered moderately as too much water may lead to root rot.
  • Prune away diseased plants. Pruning away diseased plants will help you prevent the disease from spreading to the other seedlings.
  • Be proactive to protect them from pests. Don’t wait for pests to attack your seedlings to start spreading them with a pesticide. Start using pesticides to keep pests away from your seedlings.

Butternut Farming In Kenya: Diseases And Pests

One of the weaknesses of butternut is that it is susceptible to a number of diseases and pests in Kenya. 

These are some of the most common diseases and pests that affect this type of squash.

Butternut canker

Butternut canker -butternut farming in Kenya
Butternut canker – A fungal disease

This is a fungal disease that can cause the leaves of the plant to change their color to brown and later die.

Butternut mosaic virus

Butternut mosaic virus
Butternut infected with mosaic virus

This virus can cause the leaves of the plant to become mottled and distorted, and this can result in the fruit being smaller than normal.

Butternut beetle

Butternut beetle
Butternut beetle

This beetle can cause significant damage to the plant. It damages the plant by eating its leaves and fruit.

3 Reasons You Should Start Butternut Farming In Kenya

Butternut farming is an incredibly sustainable business model you should try in your lifetime. 

It has the ability to provide a steady income and is environmentally friendly. 

Are these the only reasons for farming butternut?

No, this plant has so many incomparable benefits.

Let’s explore the other reasons.

Reason #1. There are low start-up costs: Startup costs are normally minimal. This makes it a great option for smallholder farmers.

So you just need to acquire a piece of land, ordinary farming tools, and seeds. Once you have these, you can start your farm.

Reason #2. Yields are high: Most farmers like cultivating butternut because it yields high returns.

If you follow the best practices for growing butternut, an acre of land produces between 9,500 and 10, 000 butternuts.

So it is a good crop for smallholder farmers looking to get high returns on their investments.

Reason #3. It is in demand: This plant is in high demand both in the local and international markets.

So there is a ready market for the crop in Kenya and outside the country. This will enable farmers to build a sustainable business model.

Final Thoughts On Butternut Farming In Kenya

Butternut farming is a lucrative business in Kenya. But just like any other business, it’s important for you to research the business.

To start this farming venture successfully, you will need to find a piece of land and purchase the necessary equipment.

Then plant the crop – strictly follow the instruction on the packet, take care of it, and harvest as soon as the crop reaches maturity in readiness for consumption and selling.

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