Kitchen Gardening In India
Jyoti Prakash MSc.(Agri), Consultant, Agriculture and Market Research
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More articles, in this series of articles on kitchen gardening in India, will be added in the weeks ahead.
Introduction To Kitchen Gardening
How To Get Started In A Kitchen Garden
Introduction To Kitchen Gardening
It is worldly wisdom that we should eat our greens. That is the way to health, and if we grow our own greens, we will have health and happiness. Whenever you take up any creative activity you are bound to be happy, gardening included. Kitchen gardening adds so much spice to one's life. Our elders laid much emphasis on the importance of garden produce for good diet, well before doctors started advising us about vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Growing our salads using vegetables and having an occasional fruit tree to provide, lemons, mangos, and coconuts - the table will be very inviting with the occasional tomato, cucumber or lettuce picked minutes before eating.
Nature is a SHE, none can match her in wrapping, preserving and presenting food. You will appreciate all these things when you are gowing food yourself in your own backyard.
One more thing - you can be sure that they are free from all chemicals and poisons when you grow your own. You plant a good seed, provide organic manure and kitchen waste and water - that is all. No fertilizer, no poisonous insecticide, fungicides, viricides, bactericides, or weed killer. Any poison you put on your crop, you have to eat it yourself in the end. Just remember this simple truth.
Just raise a good crop, share something with the birds and the beasts. Even when you buy produce, buy only that fruit or vegetable with a mark on it showing you that it was visited by an insect. It is your guarantee that it has been tasted and found fit for your consumption. The more shiny and blemish free the produce, the more chance that they are loaded with residual poisons. Insects are nature's food tasters in this chemical infested agriculture.
The principal requirements are seeds, manure, land /containers, handy implements and supports. Decide which seeds to buy after getting the consensus of the family, only choose that which is liked by all, a judicious mix, and raise them in very small quantities just to meet your requirements. Also space them properly so that the crop matures in stages and not all at once.
The manure of the kitchen garden can be supplemented by kitchen waste and sweepings. If we inoculate it with vermiculture it would enrich the soil.
It would be prudent to divide the available space into three parts: Seed and Stem crops, Root crops, and Greens. Rotating these crops by interchanging will give them a spurt in growth and productivity.
Seeds and Stems; Beans, Capsicum, Cucumber, Lettuce, Peas, Sweet Corn, Tomato, Spinach
Root crops; Beetroot, Carrot, Onion, Potatoes, Radish.
Greens; Cabbage, Cauliflower, Knolkhol,
If serious interest is given for land preparation, all the better. You can improve your soil condition by putting in red earth, sand, and lime depending on availability. It is not necessary to kill all the other plants and sterilize the soil in the name of weeding. A live soil will be vibrant and your sown crop establishes its own harmony by striking a relationship in the root zone and establishing a mutually helpful neighbourhood called mycorrhiza, just like local people welcoming new families in their neighbourhood. We interfere only when the weeds start competing with the sown crops by moderate thinning.
So it is all very interesting!
Gardens do not grow on water alone. Plants need more than seventeen mineral nutrients. We have yet to make a complete food for plants. It is not necessary. Organic manure, animal manure, and kitchen waste all have the food your garden needs, because all these three are from the plant source and moreover it has the food in the right balanced quantities, no less no more, just the right amount. No harm in putting your tea leaves or old battery cells, they work wonders with your roses and citrus plants. But not the fertilisers which are nothing but acids, salts, and petroleum which carry fire within and burn the soil, killing the soil environment.
Fertilisers are hot because they are loaded with energy and fire, whereas manure from natural sources is cool and nutritive like mother's milk. It is nature. It requires very little thinking to know what is right and what is wrong. If we honestly analyze most of our diseases we should be concerned about chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We have used so much energy, power, and pressure, in the process of manufacturing them. All that energy has to manifest itself somewhere in the food chain, and we who eat have to face the music. The safest way is to be with Nature.
We are masters in our own garden. Let us do what we think is correct. OK?
It would be nice to have a few little tools to tinker with in our garden. It may just be a trowel, a spade, a shovel, or a garden scissors, only just what you need. You will start alone, but gradually your family will join you. You will have lots of critics and expert advisors all for free!
How To Get Started In A Kitchen Garden
The first requirement is space for the garden. If one has some free space in the backyard it is most ideal, but your garden is not a fussy customer. It can sit on any free space you suggest, on the compound wall, window-sill, balcony, or pathway anywhere you can spare a little space without inconveniencing the family. If open land is the problem, one can go for container gardening, using the available material around the house - the planter boxes, troughs, hanging baskets, barrels, clay pots, ceramic pots, paint tins .It can accommodate any of your imaginative utilization of otherwise waste or disposable item in the household .Containers have the added advantage of being able to move them in the garden area for creating the appropriate effect .Each one of the above items has its advantages and disadvantages.
Plastics break down in the UV rays of the sun, wood rots, clay pots are porous. If you can keep saucers below the pots it is better. Gravel or pebbles below the pots are also a good idea. They can also be kept on bricks to drain the excess water freely and keep the surface clean. If you are hanging the baskets it would be a good idea to give a lining of moss, or fiber to improve water retention. Grouping containers of similar plants together builds up a microclimate that is mutually beneficial. Small salad greens such as leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, fruiting vegetables of capsicum, brinjals, carrots, radish and spring onion are options. For our convenience we can grow a variety of herbs in our containers such as mint, garlic, ginger, oregano, thyme, green chilies, coriander for our requirements.
Compost makes an excellent potting soil. You can buy the compost (organic manure) and supplement it with kitchen waste and all other possible organic wastes around the house, which will decompose. If you can introduce some earthworms they will do a fine job of turning the waste matter into rich manure.
If you have free ground it is better to divide it into small manageable plots so that you can rotate the crops. By rotating the crops you will enrich the soil, reduce the continuity of pests and diseases considerably as the new plant may not be a good host for the existing pest in that plot. While preparing the soil, the disturbance of the soil should be kept to a minimum, as it requires a long time for the soil to develop its own structure. Good structure will support the root system for proper aeration and drainage of water and for removing toxic material away from the healthy root zone. And another important thing, the prepared soil need not be dead or sterile. It should have life including both organisms and plants. Weeds need to be managed not eliminated. Life thrives best amidst life.
After the space is settled either by way of plots or containers, one has to plan how to water the plants, and find a place to keep the garden tools, seeds, manure, solar caps, and garden footwear. None of them are welcome in your living space and need to be accommodated separately in the interests of family peace.
Now we are ready to start our personal garden. It is time to plan when we can put "time" into the garden, "time" being the most important input. Weekends are fine to tackle major operations like sowing, weeding, staking, moving around the containers for better sunlight or clearing the obstacles in the way of the other family members who are still skeptical of joining the garden club! But the garden demands the odd 30 minutes or an hour in the cooler parts of the day to enquire the general health, progress in growth, and of course the mundane job of watering. You need not have a schedule or time-table but the more time you spend in your garden the more you learn about your plants requirements. They start talking to you and you must be prepared to listen to them.
We shall talk about individual crops in detail next, about their history, the care they need, what they give in return, whether they can help if somebody is sick in the family or a special recipe by which you can surprise your family guests. Well there are so many things to talk when you join the garden club. One thing is for sure, you will never be bored and another thing, you will smile more often because plants are very special (not like neighbours or relatives)! Plants keep you happy, they keep you smiling, and they keep you healthy and free from strain and stress.
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