What you need to know:
- From capillary systems to moist gardens, there are an array of technologies that you can use to grow crops without relying on land or the increasingly erratic rains.
- Under a multistorey capillary system, a farmer has a layer of crops planted vertically and only requires a stand, which can be made from wood, plastic pipes or metal.
- The Portable moist garden can be moved from one place to another.
As arable land shrinks due to increased subdivision and the rains become erratic, farmers in both urban and rural areas have no choice but to adopt innovative farming methods to continue producing food.
Some of these methods were on display at the ongoing central region agricultural show in Nyeri, which returns after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19.
Seeds of Gold sampled some of the technologies that were exhibited at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (JKUAT) stand.
Fountain capillary system
This smart farming system uses the principle of capillary action to deliver water to the plants, where the roots suck water and distribute it to other areas including the stalk, trunks, branches and leaves, explained John Karika, a fourth-year Bachelor of Science in Horticulture student at JKUAT.
According to him, one only needs to create a trough made of plastic material, metal or anything that can retain water.
This is followed by making planters, which are containers that host the crops.
The planters should be able to hold the growing media which can be soil, sand, cocopeat or pumice.
The planter should have a hole at the bottom that serves as a breather for the plant.
Spacing from crop to crop is dependent on what one is growing but it should allow the plants to flourish.
The water in the trough should be mixed with foliar to ensure the crops get the nutrients necessary to enhance growth and production.
“The plants suck water from the trough through the holes. The advantage of using this system is that it saves water, uses less media to grow crops, it is portable and there is reduced fungal infection," said Karika.
One can grow sukuma wiki, spinach, broccoli, onions and tomatoes using this system.
Multistorey capillary system
Under this system, a farmer has a layer of crops planted vertically and only requires a stand, which can be made from wood, plastic pipes or metal.
The planters are cut in two halves where only the top part is filled with planting media that include soil, sand, pumice or cocopeat.
According to Karika, using the upper part of the water bottle is recommended because it already has an opening that is easier to attach to the stand that hosts four gardens.
Beneath each planter is a smaller one-litre bottle attached to the stand carrying a mixture of water and nutrients used to feed the crops.
“The two are linked with a piece of blanket that sucks water from the container and delivers it to the plants,” explains the student, adding that a farmer can either use plastic bottles or any other material that can hold water.
The system can be used to grow any type of crop on a small-scale or large-scale.
Portable moist garden
Just like the name suggests, this kind of garden can be moved from one place to another.
One needs to make a wooden rectangular trough, have a plastic bag, coarse material preferably pebbles or medium-sized stones as they help in creating a vacuum necessary to collect water.
They should be laid at the bottom before covering them with dry material such as leaves and grass. A farmer should then add a mixture of manure and growing media like soil, cocopeat, sand or pumice.
“The dry materials prevent soil from getting into the water reservoir and increase fertility,” said Karika.
The portable moist garden can be used to grow crops such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and beetroots.
“The depth depends on the crop but the deeper the better for water retention,” he added.
John Wambugu, an agronomist at the Wambugu Agricultural Training Centre in Nyeri acknowledged that the methods are innovative but advised that they are good for kitchen gardens and not large-scale farming.
“They are economical because they save and materials used are locally available,” he said.