Kitchen Gardening: At Home with Health
The nature of our food distribution system is such that the veggies in the market are often grown hundreds of miles away, with days of gap between the harvest and your table. This often compromises the quality of the produce, in terms of freshness and nutrition. Not to talk about GMOs and pesticides, which pose additional challenges for healthy living.
Fresh vegetables and fruits, grown in your own garden, are absolutely healthy and naturally delicious. Growing your own kitchen garden may appear overwhelming, but it is not. You can do it even without too much of a space. All you need is a penchant for fresh produce and a heart that rejoices in the freshness of homegrown food.
When it comes to space, you can use your terrace, windowsill or balcony, because the major requirement for growing vegetables is good sunlight.
A good kitchen gardener does need a few qualities to attain success:
- Patience – a lot of patience is needed since potting, planting, watering, and then growing all are slow processes.
- Muddy hands –you cannot enjoy the homegrown fruit without muddying your hands; one should be prepared to handle soil and compost.
- Time – you should be able to spend at least 30 minutes every morning to check your plant’s growth and water them, and one hour every weekend to tend to the potting & weeding of the plants.
- Stay away from the temptation to grow fast: You must withhold the temptation to buy pesticides, chemical fertilisers, etc. which are promoted as yield stimulators for your plants.
- The importance of a kitchen garden can be felt in many ways. It ensures an inexpensive, regular and handy supply of fresh vegetables. Apart from our favourite leafy vegetables, you can also grow several roots and tubers like potato, suran, radish, carrots etc. These roots and tubers can be substituted for cereals in our daily meals.
Different vegetables can be grown at home in pots and in a limited space. Most food-bearing plants are seasonal; these plants have a short span of life usually lasting only one season.
You should select the right plants suitable for your garden. Usually, regular vegetables such as tomato, chillies, potato, mint, coriander, brinjal, lady’s finger, methi can be easily grown in pots. However, it is better to experiment with just two in the beginning. Seeds of these plants can be bought in any agricultural shop or a horticultural nursery.
If you don't have a spot in full sun, you can still grow leafy vegetables like methi, lettuce and spinach. Herbs like mint and basil grow well in pots in a shady area too. In a hot-summer climate, cool-season varieties such as beans and peas do better in part shade. Tomatoes are in fact, the most dynamic vegetables you can grow in pots. Peppers and chillies can be grown in containers. They need a sunny and warm place to thrive, and you can be assured of a heavy yield.
Tips for Starting a Kitchen Garden
1- Select the right spot: The perfect spot for a kitchen garden is one that receives plenty of sun and also has an area that is partially shaded to grow shade-loving herbs and vegetables. It should also have good drainage and soil. Starting a vegetable garden on a balcony or even on a sunny windowsill is possible. Vegetables like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers give good yields in pots too.
2 - Grow Vertical: Install wall planters, railing planters and even hanging baskets to support crops that grow vertically. Growing vegetables vertically simplifies the maintenance part because you can reach them easily.
3 - Space Out Well: Spacing out well is the key to get a good yield from each bed. If crowded, plants don’t reach their full potential, in terms of size and yield.
4 - Use Transplants: Since the transplants have survived the initial teething trouble, they will be healthier when you transplant them and adapt faster than the directly-seeded plants.
5 - Water properly: Water your plants with the correct amount, neither too much nor too little.
6 - Plant and harvest at the right time: Neither too early nor too late. Every vegetable has its own planting dates so be sure to check the seed packet.
Organic, seasonal and locally produced food ensures a healthy living. Having a kitchen garden where you get a regular supply of vegetables and herbs, grown organically, straight from the garden to your table, ensures healthy and delicious meals. If a kitchen garden is not feasible due to the constraint of time or space, you can buy it from organic producers, who offer organic veggies and fruits right from their own farms and tie-ups with organic growers.
So go ahead and get your hands muddy and have the heart brimming with the joy of fresh garden produce.