• The Agriculture ministry is encouraging urban dwellers to set up kitchen gardens
• It has set up a demonstration and learning site at Kilimo House open on Wednesdays
Kitchen gardens have been proven as one of the easiest and fastest ways households can ensure inexpensive, regular and handy supply of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.
Agriculture CAS Anne Nyaga says well-planned kitchen gardens can also guarantee households access to a healthy diet that contains adequate macro and micronutrients as many different kinds of foods can be produced.
The ministry is encouraging people who live in urban areas to even have kitchen gardens at their verandas.
To demonstrate different technologies available for the establishment of a kitchen garden, Nyaga says the Ministry of Agriculture has set up a demonstration and learning site at Kilimo House.
The site showcases 12 kitchen garden technologies that can be used in different agro-ecological zones, urban and rural areas.
Elizabeth Nzambuli, the chief agricultural officer, Dagoretti South subcounty, says the model kitchen garden was established to ensure every Kenyan has safe and the right food to consume.
“In urban set-ups, many people may not have pieces of land but they can use the available spaces,” Nzambuli says, adding that they want to promote technologies that can use little water and yet ensure food security.
“There are several gardens that would suit the city person and even a person who lives in an area where water is a challenge, especially now with climate change.”
Nzambuli explained a few of the kitchen gardens that you can set up depending on the space you have.
1. Tire gardens
Using a used tire, which would otherwise have been thrown, cut the top of the tire and leave the lower part. Then line the base of the tire with a silage plastic paper to help hold the soil and water.
It is advisable to put in small tables to hold the soil in place. Then fill up the tire with a mixture of soil and manure at the ratio of 1:1 and plant vegetable, herbs or spices that you want. You can have the tire garden raised up if you do not want to keep bending, especially for elderly people.
2. Key hole garden
It is a raised-up garden that has a shape of a roundabout and is ideal for people with big compounds. It is fenced around using stones and then you put locally available waste material, such as dried grasses, twigs or branches, at one foot.
Cover the materials with soil mixed with manure at 1:1 ratio at another one foot. The garden is ready and you can subdivide it to plant the kind of crops you want in your kitchen. This can support a family of six for daily vegetables for a month.
3. Oasis garden
To prepare an oasis garden, dig one foot deep, fence across with timber to hold the paper you put at the base. Once you put the paper, put a pipe that has perforation where the wicks absorb and transport water to the plant root. Then put soil, (preferably red forest soil, which is good for agriculture) and well-rotten manure at 1:1 ratio. The width of the garden has to be one metre to give you enough space to work on the garden without much trouble, but the length can go as far as your space can allow.
“We are encouraging this kind of garden because it helps reduce evaporation. If you water your crops from the top, some of the water will evaporate. But watering from down, the plant will use more of the water because it is not exposed to the sunlight,” Nzambuli says.
4. Jerry can garden
Cut off one of the parts of the jerry cans and then put your soil and manure mixture of 1:1 ratio, and you can grow your vegetables, herbs or spices.
5. Drawer gardens
If you have some drawers in the office or home that you are not using, don’t throw them away. The drawers can be used as small gardens to grow vegetables or fruits, such as strawberries.
Mix manure and soil in the 1:1 ratio, fill up to three thirds and then plant your plant. If planting strawberries, use mulch to help reduce water loss and also to keep the fruit clean.
6. Wick irrigation garden
Here, you use five-litre containers that are not in use in your home. Make a small wooden structure to help support the containers. Cut a third of the container which will be used to supply water to the plant, while the other part is used to plant the plant.
This is called wick irrigation because it uses highly absorbent materials to absorb water to the plant. Half the wick stays in the water and another half in the soil. You do not water the plant directly; the crop only absorbs water when it requires it.
7. Flower vases
You can plant crops such as climbing beans, which are high in iron and zinc, in flower vases.
“This is important especially during this Covid-19 pandemic, when we have advised to take iron and zinc. Some people may not afford the tablets, but you can get the nutrients from the beans,” Nzambuli says.
8. Corn garden
It forms a corn and it is wider at the base and narrows as you go up. The garden can stay for five to 10 years in place, and all you need to do is keep replacing manure every time you plant. This can feed a family of six with vegetables throughout the year.
9. Shade net garden
This is ideal in hot areas, where evaporation and perspiration levels are high to the detriment of cultivation.
“We are encouraging this type of technology as it stays cool throughout the day. It is cool because it keeps heat out at a given percentage and just allows in enough that can support plant growth,” Nzambuli says.
You can put the shade and then have different beds at the ground or grow your crops in old basins, containers or soda bottles. You can be creative with the available materials and plant your crops. The structure costs about Sh40,000, inclusive of the shade net, and it is long lasting.
10. Staircase garden
It is made in a way that looks like a stadium. You can have this and put tires, crates used for selling tomatoes or packing bread, waste drawers or cement bags, and you can plant fruits and vegetables.
11. Food robe garden
In the food robe, one can use old buckets or basins and drawers to plant, depending on your kitchen requirement.
You can also use cement bags to grow tomatoes and fruit trees as they are also important in nutrition.
Nzambuli advises farmers to use pesticides only when it is necessary and observe the post-harvest interval (withdrawal period).
“Every pesticide has a number of days that one needs to stay before harvesting the produce. It is important to observe that interval because by then, the active ingredients in the pesticides have disintegrated and the produce is safe for consumption,” she cautions.
12. Three-in-one garden
This entails one structure, with the top having vegetables, the middle holding a chicken or rabbit house, and the floor is a fishpond.
Vegetable remains feed the chicken or rabbits, while the droppings feed the fish. Fish and chicken are for food and income generation.
The three-in-one garden allows low-income families to meet their needs for vitamins, minerals and plant protein by providing direct access to fresh, nutritious vegetables and meat every day. They can also offer a source of extra income from the sale of surpluses.
These kitchen gardens models, the agricultural officer says, promote the use of every available material, such as tires, drawers, old basins and buckets, shampoo and tomato sauce containers, and soda bottles that would otherwise have been thrown and polluted the environment.
“When preparing the gardens, engage the agriculture officers so they can help you set up the garden and advise if the soil is good for growing food. It is important to get it right from the beginning,” she says.
CAS Nyaga said the site is open to the public every Wednesday to enable them experience firsthand the different technologies in home/kitchen gardening.
“The ministry is also finalising a training manual for the kitchen garden technologies for use by extension service providers,” she said.
She advised parents to involve their children now that they are at home when establishing the kitchen garden.
“This will be the first step to introducing the kids to agriculture as they await to open school, where they can practise agriculture through 4K-clubs,” she said.
An excerpt of this story first appeared on Sasa Digital, accessible on Sundays by dialling *550*3#