Beginner’s Veggie Guide

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As individuals passionate about growing vegetables and edible plants at home, we wanted to share a simplified ‘starter’ guide for the newer and prospective urban farmers, particularly those with less space available.

Full-fledged farms are known to use a variety of techniques and inputs. Here, we share about some pointers to guide you towards a healthy and happy kitchen garden.

Organic compost/manure
Compost in soil helps increase soil health, provide nutrition and retain water. You can buy this locally or make your own from kitchen waste and garden waste.

Seed trays
Plastic trays work wonders but for those seeking a biodegradable option, you have coir trays.

Watering Can and Mister Bottle
A watering can with fine holes helps avoid over-watering. If you keep a mister spray bottle handy, you will be able to increase humidity for tropical or big-leaved plants.

Containers
When growing indoors, on terraces or balconies, instead of pots, you can use containers of various depths depending on what’s being grown. The need is to hold adequate soil, moisture and space for plants and their root systems to grow, while also draining excess water. An average depth of 40 cm (just under 16 inches) is suitable for most plants. Keep deeper containers for plants with longer roots. A metal container may heat up, causing soil temperature to rise as well which might not be good for the roots. If you do use metal containers use newspaper and/or cardboard lining as insulation. Window boxes are a good alternative to using containers, for windowsill planting.

Waste Crockery
Use shards of crockery to line the bottom of the containers to prevent the soil from filling the drainage holes.

Mulch
To protect the soil from the sun and to help retain moisture, dress the top of the soil with 2-3 cm of mulch, pebbles or grit.

Trowel/spade and garden clippers
These are your basic tools for plant care and upkeep.

Soil moisture check
An optional investment is a soil moisture meter. The alternative is to feel the soil – if it’s powdery or slushy, you know it’s got too little or too much water.

If you have the luxury of space, a kitchen garden can extend across inside and outside the house. You can start by sowing the seeds indoor and move the plants out when they are bigger. Harvest some months down the line and repeat the cycle.

Sowing the seeds
Dig over the soil, add some organic compost and tamp it down to rid the soil of air pockets. Draw a line in the soil with a stick. Place the seeds, spaced out along the line then cover the seeds with some soil from the sides.

Watering
Use a watering can with fine holes so the seeds and soil aren’t disturbed. Too much water may cause the seeds to wiggle out, move away and lose contact with the soil.
Alternatively, place the bottom of the seed tray into a larger tray of water for around 30 minutes. The soil will soak adequate water without disturbing the seeds.

Seed sprouting
Sprouted seeds can be transferred from the seed tray to their designated containers. Growing plants require light, water and space. Having to compete with their neighbours may cause many of them to suffer.

What to grow
For those looking to jump right in and make the most of it, plan your kitchen garden in such a way that you plant some herbs that are easy to grow and use, and vegetables with short growth cycles to be sown every few weeks such as salad leaves, radish, beets etc.