Introduction: Growing a Small Kitchen Garden in Your Backyard
Growing your own kitchen garden gives you fresh vegetables, makes you spend your spare time in a productive way, brings you happiness and makes you feel relaxed. You do not require large patches of land, nor any specialized tools or any special skills. Even if you are living in an apartment, you can grow vegetables in containers or make a hanging garden in the balcony.
Let us start with easy to grow vegetables like tomatoes and chilies.
Step 1: Seeds
First thing you need to start you vegetable garden is seeds. You can find agriculture based shops selling seeds almost everywhere. You can also order seeds from some online stores like Amazon or eBay. Alternately, you can collect your own seeds from the vegetables available with you.
- For tomato seeds, just cut a fully ripe tomato and collect the seeds from the fruits. You can collect seeds of your favorite variety from almost all store-bought tomatoes.
- For chilies, brake open few completely dried red chilies. The seeds will fall out of the chilies which you can collect.
- After planting, store your extra seeds separately for next season. You can write the name of the seed variety in a piece of paper and put it along with the seeds. This will help you identify your seeds in future.
Step 2: Sow Seeds in Baskets
Plants like tomatoes and chilies can be transplanted by growing seedlings separately.
- Use baskets with lots of openings as shown in these pictures.
- Make a lining with old plastic sheets inside the baskets. This will allow the baskets to retain the soil and at the same time provide proper drainage of excess water.
- Mix farm-yard manure or vermicompost with equal amounts of sand and normal garden soil.
- Fill the baskets with soil mix to about 1 or 1-1/2 inches below the rim of the baskets.
- Sow your seeds by spreading them evenly on the soil mixture.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and water lightly using a watering can.
You can combine seeds like tomatoes and chilies and sow them together in a single container. Here, in a blue colored basket, I have sown tomato seeds in one half and chili seeds in another half. It may take about 10 to 15 days for the seeds to sprout The sixth picture shows that the tomato seeds have sprouted earlier than the chili seeds. Water them regularly so that the soil is just moist not wet. Watering 2 to 3 times in a day in small quantities keep soil moist and the seedlings healthy.
Step 3: Prepare Your Vegetable Patch
When seedlings have grown 5 to 6 true leaves, they can be transplanted to the vegetable patch. The seedlings to grow to this stage may take something between 30 to 45 days. So keep patience.
Prepare the vegetable patch 2 - 3 days in advance before transplanting the seedlings.
- Mark the area where you are planning to transplant. It may be a very small patch, no problem.
- Remove all vegetation.
- Till the soil using a spade or any such tool.
- Remove stones and brake any lump of soil
- Spread well composted manure over the soil and mix well
Step 4: Harvest the Seedlings
You can see in the first picture that tomato and chili seedlings in the basket are well grown and ready for transplant.
- Water the seedling basket and make the soil moist.
- Pull out the well-grown seedlings one by one from the basket. The seedlings are very tender. Do not use any force. If you feel hard to pull out the seedlings, water more and wait for some time.
- Pull out as many seedlings as your vegetable patch can accommodate. Rest can stay in the basket for transplanting latter or gifting to your neighbors.
Step 5: Transplant the Seedlings
You can transplant the seedlings at 1 feet apart from each other starting from one end. So, if you have prepared a patch of about 4 ft x 4 ft, you can transplant about 20 seedlings in that patch. Fruits from 20 plants are more than sufficient for a small family.
- Using a tapered piece of stick make holes of about 2 inches deep, one ft apart from each other from one end.
- Place a seedling in the hole and cover with soil.
- Lightly press the soil around the seedlings with your fingers.
- Water the transplanted seedlings generously.
You can see in the pictures above that I have transplanted the seedlings in so many small patches wherever space was available.
Step 6: Let the Transplanted Seedlings Take Root
Please see the first picture. This is the next day after transplanting the seedlings. The plants look limp and wilted. Never mind that. Water well and keep the soil moist. If the climate is very hot, you can put some short of shade over the seedlings. In a day or two the transplanted seedlings will take root and come to life.
Step 7: Maintain Your Vegetable Patch
By the time your transplanted seedlings start growing well, the weeds also grow and compete with them. You can pull out most of the weeds by hand. Otherwise use a small spade or a trowel to work around the plants and remove the weeds.
- You can deposit the uprooted weeds in the vegetable patch itself. They will decompose in time. They will also work as mulch and prevent water evaporation from the vegetable patch.
- Make small mounds of soil around the base of the plants as shown in the picture.
Step 8: Provide Vertical Support to Plants
Some plants like tomatoes need support to stay erect. Otherwise they spread along the ground which may cause rotting of leaves and young fruits.
- I have provided support to each and every tomato plant with coconut leaf stem, which are easily available in our place. You can use any kind of support like pvc or plastic pipes.
- The plant stems are also loosely tied with the support using jute twine. Banana stem fibers can also be used to tie the plants with the support.
- Chili plants do not require any support
Step 9: Fertilizer for the Plants
- When the plants start flowering, add a handful of farm-yard manure or vermicompost around the base of each plant and mix well with the soil.
- You can make your own compost with kitchen and garden waste using a old bucket by drilling holes at the bottom and sides.
- If you have any cattle like goats, you can use their dung as manure for the plants.
- The fully digested slurry from a Biogas plant can also be used as a liquid fertilizer. Dilute the slurry with water and add to the plants once in a week.
Step 10: Flowering
In about 30 to 40 days after transplanting, the plants start to flower. You will find lots of tiny little yellow tomato flowers and white chili flowers in the plants. Both tomato and chili plants are self-pollinating. Just do nothing and watch the flowers take shape into tiny fruits.
Step 11: Baby Fruits
The flowers will turn into baby fruits shortly.
- Provide additional support for the tomato plants.
- As the plants grow vigorously, train them along the support and tie loosely with jute rope or banana stem fiber.
- Carry out weeding operation if necessary.
- Water well to keep the soil moist.
Step 12: Matured Fruits
The baby fruits will mature shortly. At this stage reduce water for tomato plants. If you over-water then the tomato fruits will start cracking and splitting due to the rapid changes in soil moisture levels. Over-watering causes the tomato fruits to expand quicker than their skin can grow and get spoiled.
Water normally for chili plants.
Step 13: Harvest the Fruits of Your Labor
You can harvest the tomato fruits once the green color of the fruits start to change to light yellow. Within a day or two the harvested fruits will fully ripen and change to red in color. You can store the partially ripen tomato fruits in the refrigerator for a week.
Green chilies are not used in our cooking in large quantities as other vegetables. So harvest as necessary and leave the rest in the plant itself. These chilies may ripen and changes to red in color. You can harvest these red chilies and dry them for making red chili powder which can be stored for a long long time.
Step 14: A Single Tomato Plant From a Compost Pit
We had a small compost pit in the garden where we used to dump kitchen and garden waste. A single tomato plant grew from the compost well over five feet in height and bore more than 100 fruits. I had to provide a very strong support to the plant to keep it erect. So keep an eye for any stray plant from your waste dump which may turn into a gold mine.
Step 15: Few of the Garden Tools You Need in Your Garden
Though the list is very exhaustive, these are some of the basic tools we use in our home garden
- A medium sized spade for tilling the soil
- A small spade for weeding operation
- A small crow bar for digging deeper and for making pits
- A hand rake for weeding and breaking lumps of soil
- A trowel. Actually this piece of equipment is salvaged from the kitchen and I use it frequently for almost all garden chores.
- A watering can
Our place is mainly agriculture based. You can find all types of garden tools and equipment being sold in open shops and weekly markets at surrounding towns. You can buy most of the tools very cheap from these sellers.
Hope this instructable will inspire you to start your own kitchen garden. Have fun...