A kitchen garden is where herbs & vegetables are grown around the house for household use.Since early times a small plot near to the house has been used for growing a variety of vegetables according to the season. Local varieties such as radish, broad leaf mustard, chilli, beans, pumpkins etc. are all grown in the kitchen garden.In this chapter we provide information on how to establish and manage kitchen gardens with minimum input for maximum output, and show how to produce varied and nutritious crops of herbs and vegetables for use in the kitchen. For people to stay healthy it's very important to have a healthy diet. A healthy diet means a balanced mix of rice, bread, pulses, vegetables, herbs, fruit etc. Vegetables are a very important part of a good diet as they contain various nutrients for many body functions. For growing,energy and protection against disease,vegetables play an essential role.
Vegetables are especially important for the young, and for pregnant and nursing women.
Because there's often no tradition of kitchen gardens, many people can't grow the vegetables they need for a good diet. Or they spend lots of money on vegetables, or their health suffers from lack of vegetables.It may be that you haven't been able to make a kitchen garden. There are several reasons why it may be difficult to make a kitchen garden, or if you have made one, it is not successful. For example:
These vegetables have wilted because of lack of water. In this chapter easy methods are described to solve these sorts of problems, and so help the family to be able to grow good produce from their kitchen garden.
Good management of the garden needs knowledge of all these. Then we can make our kitchen garden more successful.
If you already have a kitchen garden you may not need to choose a new site, it's enough to improve the old site. If you are making a new garden, there are many factors to consider. For example: -
When these issues are considered, the best site can be chosen and the work of making the garden will be easier.
The kitchen garden area needs protection from the very start. It should not be possible for livestock to enter the area. A permanent fence should be made. Thorny plants can be cut and used to make a fence, but the best method is to plant a living fence to protect the garden.
Then, the crops within the garden will also need protection from damage by many types of pest and disease. There are many ways to do this. Mixed cropping, rotations, liquid manure, etc. are all ways of protecting crops. There is more information about crop protection in the chapter Integrated Pest Management.
It is important to provide enough moisture for the kitchen garden. There are many ways of conserving and increasing the moisture available. For example:-
By only putting a little water over a wide area, only the surface will be kept moist. This can cause roots to stay near the soil surface and in strong sun they can dry out very easily. So it's much better to irrigate less area with more water, so the moisture goes deeper in the soil. Then this area will not need watering again for a long time. In the hot season, irrigate in the evening or at night, and not in the daytime.
All farmers know that without fertility in the soil, crops won't grow. But fertility can be as limited as water. If there isn’t enough compost for the field crops, it can't be taken and used for the kitchen garden. So our kitchen garden needs to be self-reliant for fertility. Suggestions for sources of fertility are given below: -
A kitchen garden can provide very good food from local, traditional vegetables, and it's important not to lose these local varieties. However, sometimes farmers are also interested to try new varieties. So it’s very important to save and protect any good seed - this is the farmer's responsibility. Information about seed saving is given in the Seed Saving chapter. From good seed, it is important to be able to raise good, healthy seedlings for transplanting into the kitchen garden. Nursery techniques are described in the Home Nursery, Air nursery, Hot bed and Leaf Pots chapters.
As smaller vegetables are harvested for food, this makes space for the longer lasting vegetables, while in between new seedlings can be planted.
It's not only the making of the kitchen garden, we must also be able to maintain it easily. It can be fun to create and plant a garden, but having to work every day to maintain it may soon become difficult, and so the garden gets neglected. Edge planting helps to make maintenance work easy in the kitchen garden.
"Edge planting" means the growing of support crops, or companion plants, in the edges around the garden and its beds. These plants help support the garden by providing mulch, protection from weeds, windbreaks, repelling pests, and producing other useful resources. Plants such as wormwood, Adhatoda vasica, marigold, comfrey, lemon grass, nettles, Lucaena, mulberry, basil, tansy, and many others are good for edge planting.
Edge planting helps with protecting the garden and also producing fodder, fuel, nectar for bees, herbs or medicines, soil conservation (terrace stabilisation), habitat for pest predators, etc.