Scarcity of land is becoming a big concern to many farmers in urban areas in Uganda. This is why Harvest Money has on several occasions partnered with other stakeholders to train farmers in greenhouse and backyard vegetable growing. This is to equip farmers with skills on how to reap big from small plots, yet yielding much.
Walter Lanek, an expert with Balton, says farmers interested in greenhouse farming should look for high yielding seeds.
“We are using very little space. So to benefit much, you need to plant the best seeds,” Lanek says. He also said that preparation for a greenhouse starts from where one erects the structure.
The area has to be flat. The soil to be used in planting must be sterilised to kill bacteria that may cause your plants to rot. Walter said greenhouses come in different sizes. For instance, a 6x12sqm backyard garden takes 290 plants, a 9x15sqm enterprise size takes 560 plants and 9x30sqm take 1,120 plants.
“This is not the exact space needed to place your greenhouse because there are ropes and other things attached to this greenhouse to be firm,” Lanek adds.
“This sterilisation can be done by miniaturisation using a can of water, where pipes from the can are connected to a wooden box filled with soil to be sterilised. The water in the can must boil. Soil is sterilised for eight hours. This system is better than those who cook the soil because moisture can penetrate every soil particle. With cooking, it’s the outer part of the soil that is boiling and when it rains the bacteria is reborn,” Lanek says.
He saysthe other method of sterilisation is the solar heater sterilisation system, where one heaps the soil and covers it with a black polythene bag that absorbs heat and burns the soil killing all the bacteria.
Lanek adds that since it may take about a week or more to prepare all the soil needed in the greenhouse, as a farmer prepares the greenhouse, he can plant his nursery bed in pallets.
Nursery beds for greenhouses should not be planted like those for open farms.
“They should be planted inside a greenhouse to enable them acclimatise,” he says.
Lanek explains that farmers should use wooden or plastic pallets, or any other material.
He says they should use coco peat instead of soil because soil may have bacteria that cause diseases to the plants. Within 21 days the seedlings are ready for transplanting.
They can also be transplanted to open space gardens. Tomatoes Greenhouses are mainly used to grow vegetables like cabbage, onions, tomatoes, hot and sweet pepper, among others.
“You should never grow anything if the market price doesn’t cover the expenses you invest in its production,” Lanek advises.
He explains that for climbing breeds, you need to help them move along the strings and lower them to keep them short for easy management, pollination and pruning. Since there are no insects in the greenhouse, a farmer must help pollinate his tomatoes. To do this, you should get a stick and bang on the vertical strings on which the strings used by your tomatoes to climb are tied. This must be done between 10:00am and noon when the flowers have opened.
To help your tomatoes yield much, for example, you need to cut off all the buds that come on and only leave one stem.
After harvesting, cut off all the leaves at points where you have harvested to reduce competition for food. When harvesting, do not pluck the ripe tomatoes, but rather cut or break the node. This helps to give your tomatoes a longer shelf life.
How to care for crops in a greenhouse
Farmers ought to know that water is essential to greenhouse farming. Farmers need to have a reliable water supply because after transplanting, they start irrigating their plants the following day. These plants should be irrigated thrice daily (morning, noon and evening for 15-25 minutes, depending on the weather).
However, piped and underground water are the safest for irrigation. This is because rain water may have encountered air pollution. Likewise, swamp, lake and river waters go through different farms that may have bacteria.