With Covid-19 pandemic restricting people from movement, it is high time we discuss how you can grow food in available spaces at home. For example, planting one tomato plant can provide you with 5 kilos of fruit over the course of the season.
Identify the available space
A kitchen garden should not necessarily be located next to your kitchen. When living in an apartment, you can consider making use of the available space for example the balcony or the corridor.
Just like the indoor plants, vegetables can be grown comfortably within these spaces. What is important is that the spaces should have adequate sunshine. You can also innovate and place pots or containers on your windows where you can grow greens and herbs which may not interfere with the natural lighting of the room. More advanced growing such as vertical farming is popular in Asian countries as a way of using small spaces to produce food.
Choosing the containers and planters
After identifying available space for crop production the next step is to decide on the appropriate containers and planters that will fit your space. For example, if you have a balcony, a combination of planters will apply; boxes and pots will be ideal. To keep the floor organised and easy to clean, create layers. Layers will also increase your growing space. If you choose to apply vertical farming then, wall mounted planters are used.
Choose the crops to grow
Start with crops that are easy to grow and suited to the climatic conditions in your location. Ordinarily, spinach, kales, lettuce, pepper and spring onions are easy to start with. Tomato is also ideal but it would at a point require a lot of space and supporters during flowering and fruiting. Wide range of herbs are also good options to start with. Mint, coriander and rosemary are common herbs you can start with. As you gain more experience in kitchen farming, you can now start trying other crops that you need for your daily needs.
Get the right planting media
Soil is the common planting media. However, be careful on what kind of you are choosing as your planting media. This is because, if you source soil from an area infested by soil borne diseases, it will transfer the same diseases to your crops. You can buy a readymade potting soil from certified nurseries. When preparing the planting media, take note that each crop has different soil and nutrient requirement.
Buy certified seeds or seedlings
When planting a vegetable garden, you can either plant seeds, raise your own seedlings or purchase seedlings from your local nursery. While seeds are inexpensive when compared to the cost of vegetable seedlings, there are other factors to consider in making your decision. Growing vegetables from seeds may not be practical for long-season plants in regions with short growing seasons. That’s why, when it comes to long-season plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, most gardeners buy seedlings or established potted plants from the nursery or start their seeds indoors weeks before planting time.
Once you choose your seeds or seedlings, the next step is planting. Make sure you provide water for your crops. Take care not to overwater. Check under the leaves of plants to spot any insect attack as soon as it starts, so that you can take control measures to nip it in the bud. Look out for drooping or yellowing leaves as these usually point to the plant not getting the right amount of water or nutrients. Remember to ask a friend or neighbour to take care of your plants while you are travelling, so that they continue to thrive in your absence.
[The writer is an expert on sustainable agriculture]