Farming starts here

Portable Farming: Growing Vegetables on Your Balcony

You have probably heard that vegetables grown in the city or town are toxic because they ar­­­e grown using human waste as fertilizer. The ones you get at supermarkets are not particularly appealing since they have sometimes been on the shelf for a long time. And the ones grown in greenhouses in Kenya, which use a lot of inorganic chemical inputs, are no better.

You are a health-conscious person who  wants lots of fresh vegetables but have nowhere to grow any since you live in an apartment or have a small compound in Kenya. So what do you do ?

Well there’s an easy solution, and it won’t cost you much: simply create what Moses Ngatia, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Health and Crop Production, calls a portable garden.

“Though this form of farming has not been fully embraced here, it is a bona fide form of peri-urban farming and I’d say it’s excellent, especially in this age of lifestyle diseases,” he says.

While an outside kitchen garden in Kenya is certainly preferable   — crops grow better because soil is more fertile due to the ever changing rock structures — Mr Ngatia says a portable garden is  the next best alternative since it is better than eating vegetables grown in sewage swamps or greenhouses.

This, he points out, is because kale grown in sewerage swamps has a higher content of potassium and other metals (kale has a high capacity to absorb metals and there are a lot of metals in human waste in sewers), while greenhouse vegetables, though fit for human consumption, are grown using large amounts of inorganic chemicals.

SUNLIGHT REQUIREMENTS

So what do you need to have a garden in your apartment?

“I prefer to call them portable gardens as they are not gardens in the sense of an  kitchen plot garden, but rather soil and other farm inputs, put in bogey bags, sacks, containers and even pots,”

Once you have decided on the containers you want to use, the  next step is finding the right soil texture, composition and fertility — this is relative to your geographical location— and then filling the right number of bags and containers, depending on the  space available.

When deciding where to place your containers, Mr Ngatia cautions that you should ensure that they are placed in the most ideal spots.

“Bear in mind that any crop, vegetable or otherwise, is not a piece of furniture as it needs sunlight for photosynthesis and thus having it next to your home bar in the basement or in the nook under the staircase is not an ideal location,” he offers with a chuckle.

Mr Ngatia says that, while many people in Kenya use their balconies as stores, you  can line it with pretty containers and grow vegetables and herbs instead.

“The reason why balconies are ideal when it comes to this type of farming is that they seldom lack sunlight,” he says, adding that  there is less danger of the vegetables being damaged on the balcony and since they need constant watering and aeration, you cannot dirty, say your living room, with  gunny bags or containers.

Another ideal location is the fire escape, although you should not block the walking path completely.

“If your apartment is on the top floor of the building, you can place your gunny bags there and if a section of your attic is roofed with plexiglass, you can place the bags directly below them since it allows sunlight through,” he adds.

Mr Ngatia, says another possible location  is the staircase, as long as it has plexiglass roofing. You can hang containers of say, capsicum, lettuce, ginger or any other herb you like.

If you live at the end of building with a free outside wall, you can practise vertical farming, but  make sure  you have strong structures to hold your containers because the last thing you want is to have your vegetables come crashing down because the containers were not firmly secured.

Mr  Ngatia  says you can grow just about any vegetable you like, with the exception of deep-rooted (mainly tap roots) ones for obvious reasons, and crops that need spraying with pesticides because the pesticides can be toxic to you and your family.

“The important  thing to note  is that most vegetables can grow, as long as you avoid dark areas such as behind  doors, nooks and crannies, and  observe the other rules of farming,” he concludes.

via Daily Nation