Kitchen gardening-cheaper and healthier vegetables
Growing of vegetables and herbs in your house for household consumption is known as Kitchen Gardening. In old era varieties of vegetables were grown according to seasonal requirements. Now a days “food security” is considered a problem worldwide. Sometimes the food produced is enough to meet the dietary requirements but is not nutritionally effective. A poor man can hardly buy vegetables these days as the prices are highly fluctuating and sometimes become too costly as people have noticed the recent increase in potato prices in Pakistan.
According to FAO “Food Security” means that all members of a family, all the times, have physical, economic, sufficient, safe and nutritious food for their dietary needs. So food can be secured through kitchen gardening up to some extent. Instead of growing flower plants in houses and landscaping, use vegetables for producing similar eye catching effect. Vegetable landscaping can be done with a number of different colours of same vegetable like cabbage, capsicum and many others.
For living a healthier life; a nutritious diet is pre requisite. Healthier diet means including mix of rice, bread, pulses, vegetables, herbs and fruits etc in your daily meal. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, energy and maintaining body in good health. Vegetables can help people recover from diabetes, blood pressure and relieving stress.
Vegetables can be grown all around the year but you will find two main seasons for growing vegetables. A warm-season and cool-season; many vegetables are available to be grown in each of them. For example, cucumber, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, chilli peppers, pumpkin, egg-plant, avocadoes and hot peppers, etc are suitable for summer season. While some vegetables are suited for winter season i.e. onion, garlic, spinach, peas, broad beans, winter salad, beets and carrots etc. So it is very necessary to have the information which vegetable grows in which season.
For kitchen gardening, the following things demand attention:
• Site selection
• Design of the garden
• Local varieties and seeds and seedlings
• Planting properly
• Water management
• Harvest at peak quality
• Soil fertility
Choose the site which has plenty of morning sunlight and some afternoon shade. Most vegetables perform best where there is six to eight hours of full sun exposure. It is advised not to choose the site near trees as the fertility and shade will have bad a effect on the growth and health of plants. A loose, fertile and well-drained soil is ideal for gardening. Use the front portion of your house as the water from roofs will not be flowing there as compared to the backyard. Sand, sawdust, bark and composted material can also be used as soil medium.
Choose the vegetables according to the area available. If there is lesser area, use vegetables with erect growth pattern and if you have plenty of area, go for bushy type vegetables. Make proper layout before sowing the vegetables.
Proper planting of different vegetables at a time require more attention so be careful during planting. Planting should be according to type of vegetable and size of vegetable so that each plant has a recommended area around it for its better growth.
Choose good quality either from local market or from a well known hybrid seed company but the seed should have good vigour and germination percentage. Always add more seed in the soil because sometimes birds dig out the soil and eat them. Seed should be pure, uniform in size, free from diseases and weed seeds. Use of proper fertilizer helps in obtaining high yield of vegetables. Use properly composted material and organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers in smaller amounts. Dont add much fertilizer at once instead add frequently.
Irrigation is necessary and during summer times frequent irrigations are required. Look the plants and if you feel that they are running out of moister, water them. Dont add too much moisture in the field which may result in failure of the crop especially during winter season. There should be proper protection measures against diseases and if weeds are controlled, many diseases and insects can be prevented to coming there. Weeds can consume majority of the fertilizer added in the soil. Weeds compete for nutrients and many vegetables plants are unable to overcome them. Pests like birds and insects can be controlled through nests and repellents respectively.
Harvest the vegetables at full maturity and store with proper post harvesting techniques. If the vegetables have less moisture, you may dry them in the sun and store it for longer periods. Vegetables like tomatoes which have more than 90 per cent moisture cant be stored as dry product but as ketchup and tomato puree.
Now people have been kitchen gardening in small pots, cans, buckets and baskets, plastic bag, etc. Chilies, tomatoes, salad and egg plant can be grown easily in these containers.
Kitchen gardening is economically in terms of healthy and fresh vegetable source. Besides these benefits, you will be confident as you have grown these vegetables yourself. Wasteland around houses which remains vacant can be converted into a vegetable garden with the help of community. This will make the people healthy by providing them fresh vegetables and a source of joy for them.
Sowing of winter season vegetables is starting from next month. You may opt for Kitchen gardening and become healthier.
The writer Abrar Ahmad is M.Sc. (Hons.) Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at <email@example.com>