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Gardening tips: 8 easy steps to set up a kitchen garden at home

[ecis2016.org] A kitchen garden at home can be a valuable addition to a house. We look at how home owners can go about setting it up in their homes, in the available space

Many people in urban areas are now keen to grow their own vegetables at home, as they wish to eat organic and healthy food. Consequently, home owners are turning to balconies and window sills, to accommodate small kitchen gardens. Says Meera Chavan, a Mumbaikar, who has a garden in her balcony: “I started two years ago, with just a few basic herbs and then, I began enjoying kitchen gardening. My family loved the fresh chutney of home-grown mint and curry leaves in sambar. Now, I grow chilies, methi, beans, okra, tomato, karela and cucumbers. Setting up a kitchen garden is not tough; all it needs is patience and some maintenance.”

You are reading: Gardening tips: 8 easy steps to set up a kitchen garden at home

kitchen garden at home

kitchen garden at home

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Kitchen garden at home: What is it?

A kitchen garden is where you grow your own food, such as herbs, vegetables, and fruits, for consumption. Kitchen farming in urban areas leads to better health. There is joy in harvesting one’s veggies on window sills, balconies and vertical walls and any such area can be used for setting up a kitchen garden. Edible container gardens can be set up with just a little bit planning. Start by planting things that you like to eat.

What is kitchen gardening

What is kitchen gardening

Kitchen gardening

Kitchen gardening

“A small kitchen garden can reduce waste and grow fresh, edible plants at home. Any place that receives some sunlight and any container (earthen pots, plastic pots, old bottles, take-away plastic containers, tetra boxes, etc., with holes for aeration) can be used to grow plants. Green, leafy vegetables can be grown in shallow pots. One can start with seeds easily available in one’s kitchen, such as methi (fenugreek), aliv (flax), dhania (coriander) or sabza (sweet basil),” says Deborah Dutta, a volunteer with Urban Leaves, which encourages urban farming to create community farms in Mumbai.

Leafy greens such as water leaf spinach and Malabar spinach, basil and lemon grass, are easy to grow and offer high nutritive value. Fenugreek, lal math, spinach, tomatoes, chillies, black-eyed peas (chowli) are vegetables/fruit that can easily be grown from seeds.

Tips to set up a kitchen garden at home

How to set up a kitchen garden at home in 8 easy steps

1. Set up a kitchen garden at home in the right location

Kitchen garden at home

Kitchen garden at home

For setting up a kitchen garden at home (on a window sill, balcony, terrace, or outdoor) choose a location that receives a minimum of four to five hours of sunlight. Make as much use of vertical space as horizontal space by growing things on walls, fences, and trellises in a sunny spot. If you are planning to grow vegetables on a window, ensure that the window grill is strong enough to take the weight. Remember that the plants and pots get heavier, when watered.

2. Kitchen gardening: Select nutrient-rich soil

Kitchen garden at home

For a thriving kitchen garden, get the right mix of soil, as the nutrients in the soil determine how healthy the vegetable and fruits would grow. Along with regular soil from a nursery, add compost, coir peat and natural manure to it. You can add cow dung too. Coco peat derived from coconut husk is important to retain moisture and control the soil temperature.

3. Choose the right planters or raised beds for the kitchen garden at home

Kitchen garden at home

Kitchen garden at home

Kitchen gardening does not require a lot of space. You can nurture a kitchen garden in containers, as well as in raised beds or on the ground. Greens can grow in small pots or hanging baskets but tomatoes, potatoes, ginger and brinjals need a big container. The advantage of growing vegetables in pots is that with limited space, you can put the pots where they will receive the maximum sunlight. Carrots, herbs, peppers, potatoes, radishes, salad greens and spinach, can grow easily in containers. When choosing containers, ensure that they are of appropriate size for what you are planting – for example, potatoes need a deeper pot compared to coriander. Raised bed gardening is a great way to grow vegetables if the native soil is poor or has poor drainage as one can fill the bed with good quality soil.

 

4. Start your home kitchen garden with micro-greens

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Kitchen garden at home

Always include an herb or microgreen in the kitchen garden as your starting point and plenty of leaves for a healthy salad. One can grow nutritious micro-greens like wheat grass, radish, fenugreek, beetroot or spinach, etc. Micro-greens are edible vegetables and herbs that are harvested in less than 14 days after germination. They have an aromatic flavour and are packed with nutrients.

“Micro-greens are approximately one to three inches tall. For growing micro-greens one needs a shallow container (the bigger the area, the more the produce). Along with the soil, mix coco peat (a mixture of dust, as well as non-useable fibre ends) or coconut husk, if available. Soak methi seeds or wheat sprouting seeds in it, overnight. Place an inch of potting soil in the bottom of the container and smooth it out. Scatter the soaked seeds over the surface of the soil evenly. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and spray the soil with water. Spray water on the soil every day, to keep it moist. The micro-greens will be ready for harvest after 10-12 days. Cut the greens above the soil line and rinse well, before using,” explains Mumbai- based Priyanka Amar Shah, founder/eco-prenuer, iKheti which promotes urban farming.

5. Expand your kitchen garden at home with vegetables

If you have always dreamed of a vegetable garden, here are a few simple ways, to get started:

How to cultivate mint plant from a stem

kitchen garden at home mint plant

Take fresh mint with a thick green stem and place it in a glass of water. Change the water every day. After a couple of days, thin white roots start sprouting. Take the stem out from the water and place it in a pot. Ensure that the pot has holes for water drainage. This is one of the valuable kitchen gardening tips to safeguard your plants against damage. Place the container in a sunny spot and water it regularly. Once the foliage increases, you can start cutting it for culinary purposes.

How to grow coriander and fenugreek from seeds

kitchen garden at home Fenugreek

Coriander can be grown from the seeds which are available in the market. Break the seeds into two parts and then sow them. Spread the seeds evenly, so that there is enough space for each to grow. Similarly, you can sprinkle methi seeds and cover it with soil. Plant it in a tray rather than a pot, as it will provide more sowing area for your kitchen farming. Place the container under direct sunlight.

How to grow tomato from slices

kitchen garden at home Tomato

Take a few slices of tomato and place it in a pot. Sprinkle a handful of soil on top. The sprouts will appear after 10 to 12 days. After about 2 weeks, once your tomato seedling has grown, transplant it to a bigger pot in your garden. One can also grow capsicum and chilies with seeds at home.

How to grow ginger from the buds on ginger

kitchen garden at home Ginger

Ginger grows under the soil and can be buried about two inches under the ground and kept in a sunny spot. Pick a piece of ginger with many bumpy nodules (sprouts) at the tips (these are the buds). Put one or two inches of potting soil below the ginger and sprinkle just a half-an-inch above. Water the plant well regularly in your home kitchen garden. Once the leaves dry up after six months, it is ready to be harvested.

How to grow garlic from individual cloves

kitchen garden at home Garlic

Garlic can also be easily grown in a kitchen garden at home. “The greens (i.e., leaves) shoot up within eight to 10 days, while the bulbs take eight to nine months. Push individual cloves two to three inches into the soil. Ensure that the flat end points downwards. Place it in a sunny spot and water the pot every day. Once the greens are five to six inches tall, you can start using it in your dishes,” adds Shah.

How to grow okra from seeds

kitchen garden at home Okra

 

Okra or lady finger is a sun-loving plant. It can grow in raised beds, as well as in containers kept under open sunlight. It is grown by direct seeding and most of the okra varieties cannot withstand transplantation. Sow okra seeds in well-drained soil, rich in added organic manure. After almost eight to 10 weeks of planting the seeds, one can harvest ladyfingers.

6. How to water a vegetable garden?

kitchen garden at home

kitchen garden at home

Always use a watering can with a gentle sprinkler for the home kitchen garden. While regular watering is a need for plants, excess water can cause damage and also wash away nutrients from the soil. In summer, water the plants twice and during monsoon, on alternate days. To make sure your plants get optimum water, check the moisture of the soil by pressing it with your fingers and then water the plant as per requirement. Add manure to the soil after rainfall as excess rains can wash away nutrients from the soil. Excess water harms the plant, as the roots tend to shrivel up and cannot be revived.

7. How to make compost for a kitchen garden at home

kitchen garden at home

If you are planning to grow a vegetable garden in your balcony or outdoor space, it is important to know about some kitchen garden essentials.

Raw kitchen waste can be used to make compost, which adds fertility to the soil. There are various ways to compost organic matter. “A simple method is to use covered earthen pots to discard the organic waste (avoid cooked waste, onion peels or citrus peels in large quantities) and sprinkle each layer with red soil over it. Repeat the process till the pot is full. A 20-litre pot should last for approximately a month, for a family of four. Keep the full pot aside. The material in the pot would be ready for use in the form of compost after two months,” adds Dutta.

8. Harvest the produce and enjoy the benefits of kitchen farming

kitchen garden at home

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Organic kitchen gardening or urban farming, not only gives home owners fresh, pesticide-free food but the process itself can be therapeutic. The best benefits of a kitchen garden at home are that it provides a fresh variety of vegetables, free from harmful chemicals that can cause health issues. The importance of kitchen gardening is that you also reduce waste that goes to landfills, by making compost at home from kitchen waste and helping the environment. Kitchen gardening has a positive impact on our well-being – it is a relaxing activity that can aid in overcoming anxiety. It can also be a great family activity, to help children deal with boredom and enhance their motor skills. One can also be creative, by recycling and painting and old pots, containers, plastic bottles, milk cartons, etc., to be used as planters. The home kitchen garden improves air quality and also enhances the aesthetics of the space and gives a sense of accomplishment and joy

15 easy kitchen gardening tips for beginners: How to set up an edible kitchen garden?

1. The kitchen garden needs care and maintenance. So, start small and initially choose six to eight varieties of vegetables as a beginner and then, gradually keep adding more varieties of vegetables.

2. Plant seeds nearly three times as deep as the diameter of the seed, unless otherwise written on the packaging of the seed. Cover the seeds fully with soil and water them thoroughly ensuring that you do not expose the seeds. Also do not sprinkle seeds too close to each other.

kitchen garden at home shutterstock 1916149120

3. As a beginner when planting seeds, it is better to mark the rows with sturdy labels, so you remember what you planted. Not all seeds will grow or sprout. Gardening involves trial and error and you learn as you go.

kitchen garden at home

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4. Plants become healthy with nutrients in the soil. Add organic compost made of tea compost or vegetable peels, to the soil, to improve its quality.

5. Do not water the plants excessively. This is one of the Kitchen gardening basics that will help protect your plants. Check if the soil is dry and simply wet it with enough water, to keep it damp.

6. One of the kitchen gardening tips is watering the plants in the morning or evening. Do not let the water evaporate in the heat of the day. On seeds that are sprouting, gently sprinkle water.

7. Prune regularly for sturdy growth but do not cut more than one-third of the plant.

8. Remove drying, wilting leaves and flowers, to encourage faster new growth.

9. Regularly mulch the plants by adding grass, paddy straw, dry leaves, etc. Mulch is a weed suppressor and acts as a wall between the soil and the heat, cold and wind. Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil.

10. Excessive use of fertiliser can burn out the soil, the root system and leaves. Add fertilisers but only in recommended dosages, to keep the plants healthy.

11. One must be observant about pest attacks. Spray neem oil, to keep pests away.

12. Buy a couple of tools like spade and garden fork, for digging the soil when planting the greens.

kitchen garden at home

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13. Choose containers which can accommodate a full grown plant for your kitchen gardening.

14. For vegetables growing in vines, like tomatoes or cucumber, install vertical support.

15. Read-up about kitchen gardens. There is plenty of information available online, as well as do-it-yourself tutorials on various websites.

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Kitchen Gardening FAQs

Where can I set up a kitchen garden at home?

Home owners can set up a kitchen garden on the window sills, grill, or on vertical walls or balconies and of course, on the open garden space.

What plants are ideal for kitchen gardens?

Home owners can grow fenugreek, flax, coriander, sweet basil, spinach, tomatoes, chillies, black-eyed pea, as well as micro-greens like wheat grass, radish, beetroot, etc.

What is companion planting and how does it help the kitchen garden?

Companion planting is when two plants are grown close together for the benefit of one or both of those plants. It helps in pest control and pollination too. Basil and tomatoes are great companions. Basil repels certain pests and also disorients the moths which lay tomato hornworms. Dill is an ideal companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The cabbages support the dill, while the dill attracts the helpful wasps that control cabbage worms. Planting radishes besides spinach will draw leaf miners away from the healthy greens. Similarly team up beans with corn and carrot, onions with cabbage, etc.

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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