During school holidays, parents often find themselves grappling with increased expenses, particularly in terms of groceries. With children at home for an extended period – a month gone and another to go – budgeting undergoes a significant shift, placing food at the forefront of financial considerations.
In the quest to navigate this fiscal challenge, the kitchen garden emerges as a practical solution, touted for its potential to slash expenses by half. A testimony to this is offered by Christine Anyango, a kitchen garden owner from Kiembeni, Mombasa. She attests that her kitchen garden has proven to be a financial savior, especially since the closure of schools in October.
“During holidays last year, my children ate like there was no tomorrow, and I found myself significantly exceeding my budget. This year, I took a proactive approach and started planning early. Right now, my kitchen garden is thriving with tomatoes, sukuma, spinach, and mchicha. I also have broilers, so I no longer need to buy eggs. The only thing I occasionally purchase is meat,” explains Anyango.
The financial relief she experiences is substantial. Anyango emphasises that she has saved a considerable amount compared to the times when frequent trips to the market were the norm for purchasing groceries.
Margaret Wakio, a 79-year-old from Msambweni, echoes the sentiments of many conscientious grandparents during the holiday season. She is meticulous about what lands on her family’s dining table, especially when her grandchildren come to visit. For Wakio, the assurance that her grandchildren are consuming chemical-free produce is paramount.
“I avoid using chemical pesticides because I don’t want to risk diseases that can be prevented organically. I utilize kitchen waste and even rabbit urine for my garden. With my grandchildren around, we make it a family activity to go to the garden, pick what we need, and cook it together,” shares Wakio.
The narrative is not limited to suburban areas; even in the bustling locale of Ongata Rongai, James Onyancha, a 54-year-old father of six, recognised the economic strain posed by rising grocery prices. In response, he proactively persuaded his wife to embark on establishing a kitchen garden.
“The escalating prices of groceries pushed me to think, why not plant these things ourselves? We started with tomatoes, and after witnessing success, we spoke to our landlord and secured a small space near the hanging lines. There, we planted dhania and onions in sacks, followed by spinach and sukuma. Since then, we haven’t needed to buy anything that we can cultivate. In fact, even our neighbors have started buying produce from us,” says Onyancha.
For those contemplating the initiation of a kitchen garden, a selection of recommended plants includes tomatoes, coriander (dhania), amaranth (mchicha), beans, carrots, and peppers. These plants not only cater to beginners but also offer diverse health benefits.
Various types of kitchen gardens cater to different preferences and spatial constraints.
Sack Kitchen Garden
Orient the sack horizontally, fill it with soil and manure, and position it in a sunlit, secure location.
Tyre Kitchen Garden
Cut a tire, remove the inner rims, and fill it with soil and manure. Multiple tires can be placed in close proximity, and some individuals opt to paint them for aesthetic appeal.
This innovative approach saves space by constructing ‘staircases’ using wood, where pails, wooden boxes, basins, or similar micro gardens can be placed and arranged.
Container Kitchen Garden
Primarily embraced by beginners, this method involves using containers of varying sizes. Larger plants may necessitate more substantial and deeper containers, positioned in areas with direct sunlight, either outdoors or on kitchen windowsills.
Agronomist Fred Munene advocates for the advantages of kitchen gardening, asserting that despite its initial intimidation factor, it is a beneficial endeavour. Munene notes that even individuals without vast farming areas can consider starting a container kitchen garden.
The benefits of kitchen gardening extend beyond mere financial savings. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables directly from one’s garden is touted as a crucial aspect of improving health.
Moreover, growing one’s produce can lead to reduced expenses during festive seasons, as kitchen garden vegetables contribute to lowering the overall food bill.
The opportunity to cultivate various organic vegetables, including onions, kales, dhania, and beetroots, adds another layer of appeal to kitchen gardening. Beyond the physical therapeutic aspects, engaging in gardening offers mental exercise, contributing to enhanced cognitive function and stress reduction.
Despite these advantages, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges associated with kitchen gardening:
Gardening, while often portrayed as a leisurely hobby, demands a considerable investment of time. Tasks ranging from garden preparation to planting, maintenance, and monitoring can become time-consuming.
Handling gardening tools and dealing with thorny plants poses the risk of injuries, underscoring the need for careful and cautious engagement.
A kitchen garden, as the name implies, occupies space within one’s compound. Whether in the ground or in containers on a windowsill, it necessitates an allocation of space.
Any activity requiring time and effort can lead to exhaustion. Spending extended periods in the garden, particularly under the sun, may result in fatigue.
While kitchen gardening demands dedication and effort, the myriad benefits, including substantial cost savings and enhanced well-being, make it a worthwhile pursuit for families, particularly during school holidays.
The ability to directly influence the quality of one’s food and the joy derived from cultivating one’s produce contribute to the growing appeal of kitchen gardening as a sustainable and empowering practice.