Turn those used bottles, buckets and closets into gardens

Gladys Nakhulo, a Kibra-based agricultural extension officer working with the Ministry of Agriculture explains a point on how grow crops in a raised moist bed at the ministry's kitchen gardening demonstration farm in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Brian Okinda | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • From keyhole and wick gardens to shade house and food robe, you can make your own kitchen farm at home using what you may consider waste and enable your family to enjoy a balanced, nutritious meal as you boost food security
  • One easy way of growing your own food is through the use of kitchen gardening technologies made from recycled materials that are readily available at home.
  • Arrowroots, sweet potatoes, all kinds of vegetables, herbs and fruits are among crops one can grow using home-made technologies in their backyards for quality food.
  • Producing your own food comes with joy, an assurance of quality, great taste, empowerment and saves you money.

The need to produce your own food is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that you should embrace, whether you are an urban or rural dweller, living on a large or small land.

Producing your own food comes with joy, an assurance of quality, great taste, empowerment and saves you money.

One easy way of growing your own food is through the use of kitchen gardening technologies made from recycled materials that are readily available at home. These include plastic bottles, buckets, old tyres, disused cupboards or closets.

Gladys Nakhulo, a Kibra-based agricultural extension officer working with the Ministry of Agriculture, notes one can, for instance, grow a tomato plant in a plastic container for worthwhile results.

“One tomato plant can give you between seven and 10kg of fruits. This is a valuable source of green groceries by any means,” said Nakhulo as she showed samples of various kitchen gardens at the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters in Nairobi, where farmers visit for lessons every Wednesday.

Arrowroots, sweet potatoes, all kinds of vegetables, herbs and fruits are among crops one can grow using home-made technologies in their backyards for quality food, according to Nakhulo. Here are some of the kitchen gardens you can adopt.

Oasis garden

According to Nakhulo, the garden is made by making a shallow rectangular trough on the ground, then lining it with a heavy polythene material.

A pipe with perforations is then laid along the length of the trough and at one end, it is bent vertically to slightly protrude from the trough.

A bottom layer of stones is then laid, before a soil and humus mixture is added to fill the trough ready for crop cultivation.

When water is supplied through the protruding pipe, it flows into the soil where the crops are grown. A wick can also be used to minimise the amount of water that is released into the soil.

The lining prevents loss of water, ensuring that its use is maximised in growing the crops.

Staircase garden

This is a garden built in the form of a staircase. Different crops – grown in sacks, crates, cut water cans, old basins and buckets – can then be arranged on the staircases.

The structure, often made of wood, should be strong enough to support the weight of the loads of crops it is supposed to hold.

Clockwise: A food robe, an oasis garden and tyre gardens, Elmina Okusimba, an extension officer based in Dagoretti explains to farmers how to build a keyhole garden, and a shade house, all being showcased at the Ministry of Agriculture Headquarters in Nairobi in a bid to promote urban farming. 

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu, Brian Okinda | Nation Media Group

Potatoes, vegetables and fruits like strawberries are among crops that can be grown on it.

Raised moist bed

This is a reverse of the sunken moist bed. The structure in this case rises from the ground, with a lining material placed extending from beneath and spreading to the sides.

The sides of this structure, which rises to the knee level, are supported by strong materials such as wooden stakes to prevent collapse.

Stones are arranged at the bottom then fertile soil added and enough water sprinkled whenever needed to keep the soil moist enough during the course of the crops’ cultivation.

The plastic material prevents loss of the water. Vegetables and herbs, among other crops, can be grown in this structure.

Sunken moist bed

Using this technique, one can grow crops that require plenty of water or moisture like arrowroots.

To build it, Ms Nakhulo explained that a trough measuring two feet in depth and one to 1.5 metres wide is dug in the ground and lined with a polythene material.

It is then filled with manured soil and allowed to accumulate enough water – rainwater preferably – before the arrowroots are planted.

Since the water hardly seeps away, the soil will remain waterlogged and the arrowroots planted will have the conditions similar to those of their riverbed habitats.

“The 1.5 metre width of the trough dug ensures that the farmer can work on the plants – weeding or harvesting – without stepping inside the sunken moist bed,” said Ms Nakhulo.

Wick garden

This technique uses plastic bottles cut into two parts, the top holding the soil and the plants and the bottom water.

A wick from the container holding the plants is dipped into the water at the bottom so that it supplies the soil and plants with just enough water.

The two containers are linked by the wick.

Keyhole garden

The garden is made using stones arranged in the form of a keyhole, with a mesh added for support.

Elmina Okusimba, a Ministry of Agriculture extension officer based in Dagoretti sub-county, explained that the raised garden has a compost basket made of bamboo sticks created in the middle, and a keyhole-shaped path for easy access during tending or harvesting.

Ms Nakhulo explains to a farmer how to build a wick irrigation garden. Lightweight vegetables, including spinach, small-sized cabbages, and sukuma wiki can be grown using this technology.

Photo credit: Brian Okinda | Nation Media Group

“One can plant vegetables of all types on this garden. Ideally, these crops should be planted at different times for a year-round supply,” says Ms Okusimba.

Food robe

Just like there are wardrobes for clothes, there is also a food robe for growing crops in one’s backyard, built in almost a similar way only that they are open.

Mini-farms including crops grown in containers or sacks, are arranged on the shelves that the structure has, increasing the space on which one can grow their vegetables or herbs.

It should, however, be strong enough to avoid collapse.

Shade house

Elizabeth Nzambuli, a Ministry of Agriculture extension officer based in Dagoretti sub-county, said the house is made of wood and covered with a meshed shade.

This cuts the effects of strong sunrays/heat by up to 50 per cent, minimising water evaporation for the crops to use.

The farmer can then install hanging gardens or simple drip irrigation systems to supply water to the plants.

A structure called a H-stand can as well be built inside the shade house, which can be erected in the backyard.

The H-stand is used for holding potted plants, or those grown in sacks, buckets or old basins, to maximise on the available space inside the shade house.

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