Vegetables occupy an important place in our daily life particularly for vegetarians
Vegetables are the only source to increase not only the nutritive values of foods but also its palatability.
For a balanced diet, an adult should have an intake of 85 g of fruits and 300 g of vegetables per day as per the dietary recommendation of nutrition specialists
But the present level of production of vegetables in our country can permit a per capita consumption of only 120 g of vegetables per day
Why Kitchen Garden?
Considering the importance of vegetables, to produce our own vegetable requirements in our backyards using the available fresh water as well as the kitchen concept has emerged
This will only facilitate successful production of our own requirement of vegetables.
Cultivation in a small area facilitates the methods of controlling pests and diseases through the removal of affected parts and non-use of chemicals.
This is a safe practice, which does not cause toxic residues of pesticides in the vegetables produced.
Kitchen Garden Site Selection
There will be limited choice for the selection of sites for kitchen gardens and the final choice is usually the backyard of the house.
This is convenient as the members of the family can give a constant care to the vegetables during leisure and the wastewater from the bathrooms and kitchen can easily be diverted to the vegetable beds.
The size of a kitchen garden depends upon the availability of land and number of persons for whom vegetables are to be provided.
There is no restriction in the shape of the kitchen garden but wherever possible rectangular garden is preferred to a square one.
With succession cropping and intercropping, five cents of land would be adequate to supply vegetables for an average family of four to five persons.
Firstly a through spade digging is made to a depth of 30-40 cm.
Stones, bushes and perennial weeds are removed.
100 kg of well decomposed farmyard manure or vermicompost is applied and mixed with the soil.
Ridges and furrows are formed at a spacing of 45 cm or 60 cm as per the requirement.
Flat beds can also be formed instead of ridges and furrows.
Sowing and planting
The main objective of a kitchen garden is the maximum output and a continuous supply of vegetables for the table throughout the year. By following certain procedures, this objective can easily be achieved.
Direct sown crops like bhendi, cluster beans and cowpea can be sown on one side of the ridges at a spacing of 30 cm. Amaranthus (meant for whole plant pull out and clipping) can be sown after mixing 1 part of seeds with 20 parts of fine sand by broadcasting in the plots. Small onion, mint and coriander can be planted/sown along the bunds of plots.
Seeds of transplanted crops like tomato, brinjal and chilli can be sown in nursery beds or pots one month in advance by drawing lines. After sowing and covering with top soil and then dusting with 250 grams neem cake so as to save the seeds from ants. About 30 days after sowing for tomato and 40-45 days for brinjal and chilli and big onion the seedlings are removed from nursery and transplanted along one side of the ridges at spacing of 30-45 cm for tomato, brinjal and chilli and 10 cm on both the sides of the ridges for big onion. The plants should be irrigated immediately after planting and again on 3rd day. The seedlings can be watered once in two days in the earlier stages and then once in 4 days later.
The perennial plants should be located on one side of the garden, usually on the rear end of the garden so that they may not shade other crops, compete for nutrition with the other vegetable crops.
Adjacent to the foot path all around the garden and the central foot path may be utilised for growing different short duration green vegetables like Coriander, spinach, fenugreek, Alternanthera, Mint etc
A cropping pattern, which may prove helpful for kitchen garden under Indian conditions (except hill stations), is given below.
Drumstick, Banana, Papaya, Tapioca, Curry leaf and Agathi.
2. It may be observed from the above crop arrangements that throughout the year some crop is grown in each plot without break (Succession cropping) and where ever possible two crops (one long duration and the other a short duration one) are grown together in the same plot (companion cropping).
Economic benefits of gardening
Gardeners feed their families first and then sell, barter or give away surplus garden foods. In certain contexts, however, income generation may become the primary objective of the home garden. In any case, it is counterproductive to impose the nutrition objective to the exclusion of the income generation objective, since in most contexts they are linked and compatible. The potential economic benefits of home gardening include the following:
Gardening gives dual benefits of food and income generation;
Gardens provide fodder for household animals and supplies for other household needs (handicrafts, fuel wood, furniture, baskets, etc.);
Marketing of garden produce and animals is often the only source of independent income for women.