Establishing a coffee farm



There are two types of coffee – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta grows in low altitude areas and Arabica in high altitude areas. Below are tips on how to ensure you establish a coffee garden.

  1. Spacing: The spacing between Robusta plants is 10 feet by 10 feet and between Arabica ones is 8 feet by 8 feet.
  2. Dig right size holes – 2 feet long x 2 feet wide x 2 feet deep.
  3. While digging holes: heap the top soil on one side and bottom soil on another side.
  4. Add manure to the dug-out soil and return it into the holes.
  5. Mark the center of the holes and leave them for 2 – 3 months before planting.
  6. Obtain coffee plantlets from Certified Coffee Nurseries.
  7. During the planting season, plant very early in the morning or late in the evening.
  8. Remove the polythene pot cover before planting the seedling/cutting.
  9.  Provide temporary shade to the newly planted coffee plantlets and water in case of water stress. Water conservation channels/bands are important in coffee.
  10. When the coffee plantlets have attained a height of about 11/2 foot or 6 – 9 months after planting, they should be trained (bent in an east to west direction i.e. sunrise to sunset direction) to initiate multiple branches from which the lowest and most healthy 2 are selected and maintained together with the original plantlet. This ensures higher yield and profitability per tree.
  11. The coffee garden should always be mulched and “weed free
  12.  Beans and bananas are good intercrops for coffee.
  13. Continuous de-suckering of the coffee plants should be practiced in order to prevent development of a micro climate that encourages pests such as Black Coffee Twig Borer (BCTB).
  14. At maturity, harvest only the red-ripe cherry and dry it immediately on tarpaulins, raised platforms or cemented floor to preserve its good quality.

Importance of Shade Trees in Coffee

During this era of climatic change, shade trees are without a doubt very important in coffee farming. Their umbrella shaped canopies provide shade thus mitigating against excessive temperatures and heat stress that are responsible for flower and fruit abortion. Shade trees also provide numerous other benefits.


Deep rooted shade trees recover soil nutrients from deeper soil horizons and transport them to their leaves. When the leaves fall and rot, they provide organic matter or manure which is released to the coffee plantation. This organic matter improves the soil texture and water retention thus availing the much needed water to the coffee. Besides, deep rooted trees don’t compete with the coffee for water and other nutrients. In addition, shade trees of the leguminous species capture much needed Nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into nitrates which are used by the coffee for numerous purposes. 

Shade trees act as windbreakers to protect the coffee trees from excessive and destructive winds and some even repel dangerous pests found in the environment. 

Some shade trees are a source of foliage for domestic animals and at the same time an important source of firewood in rural households when they are pruned to regulate shade. This process is called pollarding.

Trees to avoid

However, the tree species with the following traits need to be avoided: 

  • Trees that are alternate hosts to the Black Coffee Twig Borer e.g. Avocado and Albizia chinensis.
  • Hardwood trees that attract pit sawyers e.g. Grevillea robusta and Maesopsis emimii or Musizi in Luganda.
  • Trees that take very long to grow e.g. Milicia excelsa  or Muvule 
  • Trees that can only provide conical shaped shade e.g. eucalyptus and jack fruit trees.
  • Trees that have leaves that take very long to decompose.
  • ·Trees that produce thorns as these are very difficult to tame e.g. Erythrina
  • Poisonous trees,


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