By Beatrice Nakibuuka
Buying green vegetables from the market could be unhealthy and unreliable due to the fact that some may not be available when needed, and those available are usually sprayed with chemicals.
The good news, however, is that with very little space, you can have healthy vegetables by growing them in your courtyard or veranda.
You can plant them in garden beds or grow them in containers to make harvesting easy.
According to Christine Kaiso, it is important you choose seeds or seedlings from an authentic trusted source, to ensure that you get the best quality and high yields.
“Do not just pick your seedlings from anywhere. Have a trusted source because it will have an impact on the quality of yields and how long you will have to harvest your vegetables,” she says.
Kaiso uses planters instead of containers. Each planter, costing Shs 25,000, can hold more than 40 seedlings depending on the size.
When planting, prepare soil and manure, and when it is ready, place the pitcher at the centre of the planter, then fill the planter with the soil around the pitcher.
The pitcher is where you pour the water. Plant the seeds or seedlings vertically in the planter through the holes.
If the seedlings are very young, you ensure to fill the pitcher every morning.
You will only be pouring the water in the pitcher and it will distribute the water to the plants all through the day. On rainy days, you only water when it is necessary.
When it comes to disease and pest control, you have to be very vigilant about the shape and colour of the leaves.
Identify and pick out any diseased seedling before other plants are affected.
“Home gardens are usually manageable because they are small. With the planters, you even minimise weeds. The most common pests in my garden are the snails, but I use salt to keep them away,” she says.
When choosing varieties to grow, depending on the amount of space you have, you can classify them depending on how they are eaten.
They can either be for salads (eaten raw) or cooked, braised, deep-fried, stir-fried or steamed as a side dish. Greens with tender leaves such as beet greens, kale, spinach, mustard greens and chard, are tasty and eaten raw in salad mixes.
Many people considered kale a cooking green, but raw kale salads have gained popularity. It is also great for sautéing, braising, adding to soups or smoothies.
It is a highly nutritious vegetable that is tolerant to all weather. Mature kale plants will be ready for harvest 55 days after transplanting and can reach three feet tall or higher.
According to Moses Lumu, an agronomist, if you choose to grow for a longer time, find a place with more space for it with regular watering and full sun.
You can harvest the leaves when they are 8 to 10 inches long, by cutting at the base of the stem.
Although beet plants are commonly grown for their roots, their leaves are also delicious and nutrient-rich.
You can add them to salads when they get to about two inches.
However, this reduces the size of the beet root that will grow underground. They require moist soils and full sun with a little shade.
Lumu says: “Alternatively, you can grow beet plants as you would grow them for the roots, allowing about 6 inches spacing between plants.
“Harvest a few outer leaves from each plant throughout the season and once you eventually harvest the beets after seven to eight weeks, don’t throw away the greens.”
Commonly known as Sukuma wiki, this is one of the commonest vegetables across East Africa. When you have seeds, open up shallow furrows, scatter the seeds lightly and cover with a little soil.
“Sprinkle some water on the seeds to enable germination. Within eight weeks, you will start harvesting when the leaves are the size of your hand, if you have as much space,” Mrs Kaiso says.
Other vegetables you can grow in small spaces include cabbage, springe onions, cucumber, amaranthus (doodo), egg plants, spinach, gynandropsis gynandra (ejjobyo), and many others.
It is advantageous to use planters over containers
Buckets, tins or sacks do not have enough space compared to planters. They also have poor drainage yet some plants do not grow in soggy soils.
Using buckets or sacks is very tiresome because the soil may pour out any time while watering or putting holes.
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