BY UMAR NSUBUGA
The fact that you own a small plot of land in an urban area should not stifle your love for gardening. You can grow your own vegetables, fruits and herbs in a confined space. You do not need a big yard to do it.
Rose Ssanyu grows flowers and vegetables around her small compound. She first plants the vegetables in nursery beds, before putting them in sacks and buckets.
To maximise space, Ssanyu hangs some of the vegetables in tins, sacks and buckets. “I sell some of the vegetables, but the price varies according to the type of plant,” she says.
“I started by buying polythene bags and even collecting some sacks around my neighbourhood.
We have a poultry house, so, I was able to compost chicken manure that had accumulated in the compound. I mixed this with loam soil to enrich it. But I did not just fill the sacks with soil, I placed small pebbles in the sack, right from bottom to top, then filled the sack with soil,” she explains.
The stones ensure sufficient water distribution throughout the sacks during watering. She started with spinach, dodo and carrots.
Ssanyu says as her crops grew, she became more interested in the activity, and came up with the idea of using the whole space for vegetables.
She then added spring onions, celery and tomatoes.
How she plants vegetables
While planting, Ssanyu puts different species in separate buckets and sacks because they feed and grow differently. Before planting any type of seed, she applies fertilisers and adds more manure prior to the flowering stage.
Michael Gitta, a professional gardener, says when building houses, people put up structures in different types of soils.
He says these could be soils with poor drainage and that is why some people hang their flowers or vegetables with their preferred type of soil.
“Most people beautify their compounds by growing grass. For grass to grow, the type of soil one has matters, but those without much space get other ways like hanging their plants,” he says.
Farming is not a preserve of those living in the rural areas, with big gardens. You can grow what will be served on your dinner table and enough left over to sell.
How to utilise the space
According to Gitta, one can plant crops and keep livestock on a limited space by practicing integrated farming, growing vegetables, such as spinach and kale alongside livestock.
Gitta says size does not matter, that’s why some people put them in buckets they thrive.
In order to ensure maximum usage of the sack, some people grow crops on the sides of the bag.
Crops with big roots, such as carrots, grow in the compound and others in sacks, buckets and some on the verandah.
Ssanyu says she waters her vegetables and flowers daily, so, “I have no such thing as a crop-growing season. My garden is ever green,” she says.
How you may earn
Joseph Bukenya, an urban farmer, says a single tomato plant can produce up to 100 tomatoes a season if well maintained. All one needs is a few plants at different stages of growth to yield enough tomatoes for their family. There are two tomato seasons in a year, but one can produce tomatoes all year round with irrigation, as well as spraying to control pests and diseases.
“A few well-maintained tomato plants in one’s backyard or on the verandah or in planting sacks can save one a lot of money. All one needs are a few plastic containers or sacks. Fill them with fertile black soils, add compost or homemade manure and plant the tomatoes,” he says.
A sachet of high-yielding tomato seeds costs about sh1,500 in Nakivubo container village. This has got about 100 seeds.
Maintenance and advice
To keep the flowers fresh, Ssanyu consistently waters them in the mornings and evenings.
Ssanyu’s approach to farming, perhaps, points to the direction that many urban households with limited land should take. It does not only ensure that there is something for the family to eat, but also brings in a little money to meet other household needs.
A family of six in Kampala spends at least sh25,000 on food daily. This includes buying staple foods such as potatoes and bananas as well as sauce like fish, meat, beans and vegetables.
Families also have to buy fruits such as mangoes, pawpaws, oranges and passion fruit to eat whole or process into juice.
Urban dwellers can reduce their cost of living by growing some of their food. Any free space in one’s backyard, on the lawn and balcony, can be converted into a productive garden.
Below are some of the crops that can be grown in urban gardens.