Tea Care and Husbandry Management

Site Selection

  1. Should be near a permanent source of water
  2. Should be well sheltered from prevailing winds
  3. Not under a shade
  4. Soil should be free draining
  5. Soil PH between 5.0 and 5.8 ideal.

Shade Construction

Types:

(a) Low Shade

Dimensions:

-external 6ft x 14ft long

-Internal 4ft x 12ft

-Top shade height 4ft

It is good for small-scale grower use locally available material. It is cheap to construct in terms of labour and material costs. The plants will take less time to mature

(b) High shade

-External 8ft x 16ft

-Internal 4ft x 12ft

-Top shade height 7ft.

NB: Allow a ventilation of 1ft at the top in low shade.

Soil Filling

  1. Use sleeves of size 4” x 10”
  2. Put separately top soil ( 1ft from top) and sub-soil 1-4ft deep.
  3. Mix 8 wheelbarrows of sub-soil with 1/4kg of D.A.P (enough for 1200 sleeves)

Stacking

-Arrange the sleeves in the nursery bed such that every 200 sleeves occupy 2ft x 4 ft.

Selection and Preparation of Cuttings

  1. Select vigorously growing bushes for cuttings or acquire from a well-known source like Kangaita Farm or the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya.
  2. Avoid the woody and the very succulent parts of the branch
  3. Using a sharp blade, make one-node cuttings taking care not to damage the bud.
  4. The cuttings should be put in water as they are prepared to allow a continuous xylem flow.

Planting of the cuttings

  1. Plant the cuttings in the soil ensuring that the leaf does not touch the soil avoiding touching the woods.
  2. Water the cuttings thoroughly but gently.
  3. Stretch the polythene sheet over the hoops to cover the cuttings.
  4. Bury the sheet 1ft deep to exclude any exchange of air.

Nursery Maintenance

  1. Water the beds 21 days after planting or when sheet is noted to be dry
  2. Regulate shade depending on the weather.

Hardening Off

  1. Done after 3-4 months after planting
  2. Remove the polythene sheet gradually at an interval of one week.
  3. Water after every 2 weeks at the same time apply NPKs fertilizer at the rate of 10g in 10litres (1 tablespoon on 1 watering can) Water the plants thoroughly to – remove any excess fertilizer
  4. Reduce the watering and shading 1-2 months before field planting.

Land Preparation

Involves initial preparation and secondary land preparation

Initial Preparation

-If the area has big trees or forested, ring barking is recommended. This will cause slow drying of the tree hence reduces food reserves in the roots thereby reducing risks of armillaria infection.

-Fell the trees and uproot the stumps.

Secondary Preparation

-Plough and harrow the land. The thrash collected after felling and uprooting stumps should be burnt away from where tea is planted.

Field Planting

Spacing: 

4ft x 2.5ft (4356) – Newly recommended

5ft x 2.5ft (3485) - Conventional

Holes: 

9” x 18”. Double size for infilling i.e. 18” x 36”

Separate topsoil from sub-soil. Mix the top soil with 15gm D.A. P. or 30 gm of S.S.P before filling it into the hole.

Bringing your Tea into Bearing

This is any operation aimed at forming a permanent branch system from the time the plants are in the nursery to the time they are tipped-in to form a plucking table.

Methods:

A) Formative pruning:

  • Prune all shoots at 6” above ground when they are pencil thick at that height.
  • Prune all shoots at 11” when most are pencil thick.
  • Prune all shoots at 16”when most are pencil thick.
  • Tip-in for three rounds at 20”.

NB: This method limits roots development in relation to branch system. Do not pluck in between formative prunes.

B) Tipping Method: 

  • Decentre at 6” when plants are 12” tall
  • Tip for two rounds at 8”, 12” and 16” by removing shoots as soon as they develop three leaves and a bud above those heights.
  • Tip-in 20” for 5 rounds by removing 3 leaves and a bud as soon as they develop above this height to form plucking table.

C) Pegging: 

  • Decentre at 6” when plants are 12” tall
  • Peg he plants when they reach a height of 20” to 26” and the bark at the base had started turning brown. Nip all pegged branches by removing 3 leaves and a bud. All branches should radiate outwards and upwards.
  • Shoots, which are too short for tipping on this round, can be pegged later.
  • Use one peg per shoot, which should be closer to the center of plant so that it slopes upwards.
  • Tip-in to form table at 18” for five rounds by removing 3 leaves and a bud as soon as they develop above this height.
  • Only 3-5 branches should be pegged per plant.

NB: This method encourages extensive root development to march the branch frame and fast table formation.

Weeding

(a) Physical Methods: 

  • Slashing using panga
  • Use of plain jembe
  • Uprooting using hands

b) Chemical Method:

  • Use of round up for perennial weeds such as couch grass.
  • Gramaxone for broad weeds like black jack.

NB: Incase of wondering jew, uproot and bury them to the depths of at least two feet or put them on the roads, it is resistant to chemicals.

Tea Plucking

1. Introduction: 

No matter how well a grower may have looked after his tea, if he does not do as well during plucking, then he would be wasting the fruits of his labour and his sweat.

2. Plucking Standard: 

KTDA standard is 2 leaves and a bud. A very soft banjhi is also acceptable. The finer the plucking the better the quality of the Tea, but:

  • Plucking one and a bud and premature shoots would result in high quality tea, but the price obtained cannot compensate for the low weight of leaf plucked.
  • Plucking 3 leaves and a bud results in poor quality tea which sells at low prices and may be unacceptable to many buyers.

3. Equipment: 

  • Plucking basket fitted with straps
  • Plucking stick about 10ft long
  • Plucking cap.

Good Plucking

i) Pluck all the mature 2 leaves and a bud appearing above the plucking table, but leave the fish leaf on except occasionally when it can be plucked to even out the table. Use the plucking stick all the time.

ii) After plucking table must be broken back without delay. With proper timing of plucking round breaking back should be at a minimum.

iii) A good plucker must use both hands and carry a plucking basket on his back. Leaving the basket at one end and moving to and fro carrying leaves in the hands waste plucker’s time and causes heating up of leaf. Every plucker should aim at plucking at least 30kgs green leaf a day.

iv) Banjhi shoots above the table must be plucked in order to stimulate new actively growing plucking points.

v) Plucking Round:

a) The frequency of plucking or the plucking round is variable depending on the rate at which the tea produces new shoots after plucking. This may vary from 5 to 10 days. A grower should make all necessary effort to know when his tea is ready for plucking.

b) Growers with large holdings should divide up their plots into 2 or more portions such that each portion can conveniently be plucked in one day. This would also help to even out daily deliveries of leaf to the factories. A factory receiving too much leaf in one day is likely to make poor tea.

Faults and how to correct them

a) Under-Plucking: 

This occurs when the plucking round is too long, allowing more than 2 leaves and a bud to appear above the table, thus resulting in wastage of leaf. Breaking back becomes a big task and if neglected, as is often the case, the table rises quickly becoming too high and inconvenient to pluck long before the pruning is due.

b) Over-Plucking

Continuous hard plucking results in a condition known as :crows feet”. To avoid serious reduction in yields, this is corrected by allowing the plucking table to rise up by 1”-2”. Allow shoots to grow 3 true leaves and a bud and then pluck 2 leaves and a bud, leaving the third leaf to form the new plucking surface. This is referred to as “Plucking over a leaf”.

c) Uneven table

Results from poor table management. Yields decrease as shoots in depressions grow slowly due to shading and are also missed during plucking. Only minor corrections should be attempted until the next prune.

d) Plucking side shoots

Must never occur as the aim is always to encourage maximum lateral prune.

e) Hail Damage

After this pluck over a leaf.

Pruning

Reasons for Pruning

  • To maintain a manageable plucking table
  • To remove diseased, dead and knotted branches
  • To rejuvenate the plant.

Tools: 

Pruning knife, file, graded/marked stick.

Timing: 

Should coincide with the end of the peak-growing period (July – August) when there is still adequate moisture in the soil.

Method:

-The pruning should be a rim lung to the slope of the ground

-The cut on each stem should slope slightly

-To achieve the correct pruning height, a stick clearly marked at the required height is

placed vertically at the center of the bush.

-On sloping ground use a horizontal stick will be parallel to the ground at the correct 

height.

-The pruning MUST NEVER be removed from the field. 

They help:-

  • To suppress weeds
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Improve soil structure
  • On decomposition release large amounts of plant nutrients into the top soil
  • Form a mulch which reduces loss of water be evaporation

NB:

a) If pruning is carried out during hot sunny weather, the pruning should be 

Placed over the pruned bushes immediately to avoid sun scorch.

b) The speed of recovery of a bush depends on the plant’s starch reserves in the roots.

c) Since the starch reserves are used during the dry season to sustain the rest of the bus, the end of the dry season is a bad time to prune.

Pruning Heights:

-The first normal pruning is done 5 years after the field planting at 16”

-The duration of the successive prune depends on style of plucking, the nutrient status of the plant and the locality. Normally 3-4 years.

-The second pruning is done at 20”. Subsequent pruning are done 2” above the previous.

-After 28” down-prune at 21”. The pruning height should never go below 20”.

-Use a pruning knife and not a panga.

Tipping-in

Objectives

Done after pruning to produce a dense and upper level surface for efficient 

Plucking and leave an adequate depth of maintenance foliage on the bush.

-Normal plucking should not start until the shoots are 6”-8” above pruning height. This ensures replacement of all food reserves used up in the development of new shoots.

-Tipping in height is best at 4” above pruning height.

-Use a tipping board or two pegs and a plucking stick to achieve an even plucking level.

-At least three rounds of tipping-in are carried out at the same level before normal plucking is introduced.

-Delay in tipping-in will result in buds just below tipping-in height becoming mature and thus will take longer to develop into new shoots.

Infilling - Disease and Pest

Cause of death of tea bushes

  1. Bad weather
  2. Mechanical damages e.g during weeding or pruning

Reasons for infillings:

a) For maximum utilization of land under tea

b) To reduce cost of weeding

-Done immediately after pruning or planting, incase of the young tea.

Hole size – twice the normal hole size of new planting i.e. 18th deep by 18” diameter.