Social distancing has changed life as we know it for a second time. Simple tasks such as going to the supermarket or buying whatever we are in the mood for is no longer possible. There is no way to tell when this will end or if it would be repeated again. One unfortunate side effect of the “stay at home measure” is irrational panic buying and possible food shortages. Starting a kitchen garden is seeming to be a very appealing possibility right about now.
Forward thinking individuals such as yourself (since you are reading this article) have decided to take matters into their own hands by starting a kitchen garden. Here are a few tips to get you started on your own kitchen garden.
What you would need for starting a kitchen garden
This sounds simple, but is far from it. Yes, you would need some tools, dirt, water, etc. However, there are some more important things that should come way before you plant your first seed.
One of the first things that you would need to figure out is what you should actually grow. This would be determined by your regular grocery list as well as your climate. You would have to select crops that can survive your climate type, as well as soil type.
If space is limited, have no fear as a lot of food crops can be grown in a container like a plant pot or a 7-gallon bucket (pigtail bucket). If you have space, like a large back yard, your concerns may be soil type. Is it free draining, clay (retains water), gets a lot of or little sunlight and is it accessible to pests? These have to be considered because you don’t want all of your hard work going down the drain due to the fact that you did not cater for the neighbour’s chickens.
The last thing that you would need to consider before planting is your goal. Would this be a garden to supplement your current diet or replace it? How soon do you want to become food self-sufficient? These questions will determine your crop selection as well.
On the topic of tools, there is no need to invest in expensive tools. You can use what you already have or in most cases improvise with something from around the house that you no longer use. If you already have garden hand tools like a hand spade, fork and rake, you are ready to go.
Under normal circumstances, a trip to a home and garden store to purchase a soil test kit would be recommended by some enthusiasts, but these are not normal circumstances. If you are growing in your yard, soil preparation may be more difficult than someone who is using containers.
It is suggested that you use raised beds also known as grow boxes. Raised beds give you the ability to control soil conditions on a specific patch of earth. This method can also be used in situations where the location on which you want to grow is paved over with concrete or just too rocky. You can construct your raised beds using almost any material, from wood, galvanised sheets and even bricks. You can just stack the bricks one on top of the next without mortar to create your desired raised bed.
Planting seeds or buying seedlings
You have two options when starting your garden. You can buy seedings, that way your plants would have gotten a head start and you would be harvesting faster. This is obviously more expensive than buying seeds. For the price of one seedling, you could possibly purchase 100 seeds. There is also the risk of introducing pests or diseases that could wipe out your entire garden when you purchase seedlings.
Starting from seed takes longer obviously and is cheaper but you know for a fact that you have not introduced any unwanted disease or pest from the garden store. You can always start your seeds in a seed tray to give them the extra care that they need, then transfer them to a larger pot or to the designated site in the garden. Another benefit of buying seeds is that you have more to use.
If you purchase lettuce seeds you could plant all of them in a seed tray and let them sprout. While they are a couple of weeks old, you can start eating them as “micro-greens”, leaving the larger healthier sprouts to reach maturity. Lettuce generally takes three months to reach maturity, and it is doubtful that you would be able to consume 100 heads of lettuce should all sprout and reach maturity.
Some plants you can regrow from kitchen scraps are like chives and ginger. Kitchen scraps may not be successful in growing onions, garlic or carrots in the tropics. Pumpkin seeds are generally tossed away in kitchen scraps but could be planted. If you buy your pumpkin in the supermarket, the seeds may have already been cleaned off for you. Pumpkin purchased in the farmer’s market or retail market generally comes with the seeds still attached. You can dry them on a paper towel after washing them clean and then plant them in soil. Tomato, paw paw (papaya), squash, cucumber and watermelon seeds can be harvested in the same way.
Do not be afraid to experiment
Try your hand at growing as many varieties as possible, try heirloom seeds as well. They offer a better-quality crop with more taste and nutrients. You may do research on some crops and come to the conclusion that you may not have the right climate or soil type to grow it. When you try it for yourself, you will be amazed by the results.
You could even start looking into permaculture, provided that you have sufficient space and the patience to pull it off. Short-term food crops are generally ready in about 90 days, others 120 days and fruit trees generally take approximately 7 years. If you wait that long you would be rewarded with a bounty of endless fruits that you can eat, preserve or give away to friends and family.
Involve your friends, family and neighbours
Since you are spending more time home, you could use a household kitchen garden to bring the community closer. You could involve your neighbours, either by setting up a community garden in an empty lot, with the owner’s permission of course. Or each household be responsible for a specific food item. For example, you could grow tomatoes, another house grows cabbage, another lettuce and another bodi. Every time each household harvests, it is shared equally among the participants of this cooperative.
You may be surprised at how much of your household grocery bill could be supplemented with an activity like this. If you need resources on how to get started, see other articles on growing your own food. You could also consult this YouTube channel. It is very helpful in dealing with growing certain crops in the tropics.
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