Roses grown at high altitudes are known for their longer stems, larger heads, brighter colors and thicker foliage. High altitudes areas are characterized of cool and rich fertile soils but growers in these areas require high crop managerial skills to grapple with challenges associated with the region.
Balaji Flowers which was initiated in 2013 sits on such a climate; at an altitude of 2,580m in the scenic view of Arbedare Mountains. This is one of the reputable grower and supplier of roses ,located in Tumaini area of Nyandarua County.
The farm is well renowned for cultivating of various varieties of premium roses such as Athena, Upper class and Mariyo. These are some of their best varieties with high production rates and good income generation in the flower market.
To counter the devastating effects of diseases such as downy mildew and botrytis, the company has adopted various ways and more so several cultural hygienic methods. For instances, regular cleaning; removing the fallen leaves is key in their greenhouses. Pruning of blind, barren shoots and lower drying leafs is done on weekly basis to keep the diseases at bay as well as increasing air circulation to the plant.
“Preventative measures are important in averting diseases such as downy mildew and botrytis. When they attack roses, it’s very hard to control them due to their high multiplication rate. They can wipe out an entire greenhouse in a very short time,” explained Benson Kamau the Farm Manager, Balaji Flowers. “Opening the vents of the greenhouse is imperative to regulate the humidity which usually leads to dampness hence leading to outbreak of the diseases,” Kamau in addition expounded.
“We in the high altitudes usually experience few flushes compared to low altitude farms. This is brought about by low temperatures; for example in this farm it takes 60-70 days for one flush to be achieved, which leads to 5 flushes in a year. In low altitude farms it ranges from 40 to 45 days leading to 8 flushes,” Mark Riga,the Production Manager of the farm explained.
“One fundamental advantage high altitude farms have is we are not prone to major pests such as thrips and white flies which are brought about by high temperatures. We solely concentrate on tacklingdiseases which crop up due to the cold temperatures,” he continued.To curb diseases which find solace in the soil, they uproot the infected plants and also drench the soil.
All the flowers on the farm are grown on soil. This is because the soil is highly fertile and free from nematodes infestation. They are expanding to more varieties as demand of flower keep on increasing.
Currently, the flower farm exports their roses to Netherlands, Middle East and United Kingdom. Being a relatively young farm, they export about 15,000 stems of roses on daily basis. They have employed 78 employees who assist in the day to day work load.