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What You Should Know Before Growing Tea

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Cultivation

There are three considerations in planning a tea estate – climate, soil acidity and labour availability.

Suitable climate has a minimum annual rainfall of 45 to 50 inches (1,140 to 1,270mm), with proper distribution.

It is advisable that you plant during the beginning of the rainy season.

Tea soils must be acidic; tea cannot be grown in alkaline soils. A desirable pH value is 5.8 to 5.4 or less. You can find out the pH after doing a soil test from Kawanda or Makerere University, among other places.

These soils can be found across many parts of the country and not necessarily the southwest, west in Toro and Mityana.

Parts of Luwero, Mukono, Busoga and the north have similar soils too, hence they can ably practise tea growing.

Tea is planted using seedlings

One should dig a hole that is three feet deep, with a spacing of four feet between rows and two-and-half feet between plants in the same row.

A hectare of tea requires five workers to pluck the tea shoots and perform other fieldwork. Mechanical plucking has been tried, but because of its lack of selectivity, cannot replace hand plucking.

Care

Watering

In the early stages, watering two to three times a day is necessary and should be regulated depending on the weather.

Hardening of plants

As more leaves are formed, plants need exposure to more sunlight for better growth. This must be done gradually as sudden exposure may lead to leaf scorch.

Between the fourth and sixth months, based on the elevation, the side of coir matting should be raised and the plant exposed to direct sunlight until the shade is completely removed.

Encouraging early spread

For maximum gain, plants should be encouraged to form a low spread at any early stage.

The following operations would encourage the formation of lateral branches from lower level of the main stem.

Disbudding: To induce effective lateral branching, the terminal bud should be removed at four to five leaf stage. This should be repeated from auxiliary shoots also as they grow.

Thumb nailing: At about seventh to eighth leaf stage, after the root system is well-developed, terminal bud and the two leaves immediately below should be pinched off to induce growth of lateral branches.

Planting

About 13,000 plants are planted in one hectare following double hedge system of planting (spacing: 4 X 3 X 3ft).

One-year-old plants are planted in pits with a dimension of 30 X 45cm. The selected plants for planting should have six to 12 healthy mature leaves and the root system should have reached the bottom end of the sleeves at the time of planting.

The stem should be about pencil thick and brown. Soil and water conservation measures must be adopted while planting.

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