Kitchen gardening for beginners

Kitchen gardens can be a valuable addition to a house. We look at how home owners can go about setting it up in their homes, in the available space

Many people in urban areas are now keen to grow their own vegetables at home, as they wish to eat organic and healthy food. Consequently, home owners are turning to balconies and window sills, to accommodate small kitchen gardens. Says Meera Chavan, a Mumbaikar, who has a garden in her balcony: “I started two years ago, with just a few basic herbs and then, I began enjoying kitchen gardening. My family loved the fresh chutney of home-grown mint and curry leaves in sambar. Now, I grow chilies, methi, beans, okra, tomato, karela and cucumbers. Setting up a kitchen garden is not tough; all it needs is patience and some maintenance.”


What is a kitchen garden?

It is a garden where you grow your own food, such as herbs, vegetables and fruits, for consumption. Window sills, balconies, vertical walls and any such area can be used for setting up a kitchen garden. Edible container gardens can be set up with just a little bit planning. Start by planting things that you like to eat.

“A small kitchen garden can reduce waste and grow fresh, edible plants at home. Any place that receives some sunlight and any container (earthen pots, plastic pots, old bottles, take-away plastic containers, tetra boxes, etc., with holes for aeration) can be used to grow plants. Green, leafy vegetables can be grown in shallow pots. One can start with seeds easily available in one’s kitchen, such as methi (fenugreek), aliv (flax), dhania (coriander) or sabza (sweet basil),” says Deborah Dutta, a volunteer with Urban Leaves, which encourages urban farming to create community farms in Mumbai.

Leafy greens such as water leaf spinach and Malabar spinach, basil and lemon grass, are easy to grow and offer high nutritive value. Fenugreek, lal math, spinach, tomatoes, chillies, black-eyed peas (chowli) are vegetables/fruit that can easily be grown from seeds.


How to set up a kitchen garden to grow micro-greens?

One can grow nutritious micro-greens like wheat grass, radish, fenugreek, beetroot or spinach, etc. Micro-greens are edible vegetables and herbs that are harvested in less than 14 days after germination. They have an aromatic flavour and are packed with nutrients.

“Micro-greens are approximately one to three inches tall. For growing micro-greens one needs a shallow container (the bigger the area, the more the produce). Along with the soil, mix coco peat (a mixture of dust, as well as non-useable fibre ends) or coconut husk, if available. Soak methi seeds or wheat sprouting seeds in it, overnight. Place an inch of potting soil in the bottom of the container and smooth it out. Scatter the soaked seeds over the surface of the soil evenly. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and spray the soil with water. Spray water on the soil every day, to keep it moist. The micro-greens will be ready for harvest after 10-12 days. Cut the greens above the soil line and rinse well, before using,” explains Mumbai- based Priyanka Amar Shah, founder/eco-prenuer, iKheti which promotes urban farming.


Tips to set up a kitchen garden at home


Easy vegetables to grow at home in a kitchen garden

If you have always dreamed of a vegetable garden, here are a few simple ways, to get started:

How to cultivate mint plant from a stem

Take fresh mint with a thick green stem and place it in a glass of water. Change the water every day. After a couple of days, thin white roots start sprouting. Take the stem out from the water and place it in a pot. Ensure that the pot has holes for water drainage. Place the container in a sunny spot and water it regularly. Once the foliage increases, you can start cutting it for culinary purposes.

How to grow coriander and fenugreek from seeds

Coriander can be grown from the seeds which are available in the market. Break the seeds into two parts and then sow them. Spread the seeds evenly, so that there is enough space for each to grow. Similarly, you can sprinkle methi seeds and cover it with soil. Plant it in a tray rather than a pot, as it will provide more sowing area. Place the container under direct sunlight.

How to grow tomato from slices

Take a few slices of tomato and place it in a pot. Sprinkle a handful of soil on top. The sprouts will appear after 10 to 12 days. After about 2 weeks, once your tomato seedling has grown, transplant it to a bigger pot in your garden. One can also grow capsicum and chilies with seeds at home.

How to grow ginger from the buds on ginger

Ginger grows under the soil and can be buried about two inches under the ground and kept in a sunny spot. Pick a piece of ginger with many bumpy nodules (sprouts) at the tips (these are the buds). Put one or two inches of potting soil below the ginger and sprinkle just a half-an-inch above. Water the plant well regularly. Once the leaves dry up after six months, it is ready to be harvested.

How to grow garlic from individual cloves

Garlic can also be easily grown at home. “The greens (i.e., leaves) shoot up within eight to 10 days, while the bulbs take eight to nine months. Push individual cloves two to three inches into the soil. Ensure that the flat end points downwards. Place it in a sunny spot and water the pot every day. Once the greens are five to six inches tall, you can start using it in your dishes,” adds Shah.


How to make compost at home

Raw kitchen waste can be used to make compost, which adds fertility to the soil. There are various ways to compost organic matter. “A simple method is to use covered earthen pots to discard the organic waste (avoid cooked waste, onion peels or citrus peels in large quantities) and sprinkle each layer with red soil over it. Repeat the process till the pot is full. A 20-litre pot should last for approximately a month, for a family of four. Keep the full pot aside. The material in the pot would be ready for use in the form of compost after two months,” adds Dutta.


Benefits of edible kitchen gardens at home

Organic kitchen gardening or urban farming, not only gives home owners fresh, pesticide-free food but the process itself can be therapeutic in nature. Gardening has a positive impact on our well-being – it is a relaxing activity that can aid in overcoming anxiety. It can also be a great family activity, to help children deal with boredom and enhance their motor skills. One can also be creative, by recycling and painting and old pots, containers, plastic bottles, milk cartons, etc., to be used as planters.


Tips for beginners to set up an edible kitchen garden

  • Plants become healthy with nutrients in the soil. Add organic compost made of tea compost or vegetable peels, to the soil, to improve its quality.
  • Do not water the plants excessively. Check if the soil is dry and simply wet it with enough water, to keep it damp.
  • Water the plants in the morning or evening. Do not let the water evaporate in the heat of the day. On seeds that are sprouting, gently sprinkle water.
  • Remove drying, wilting leaves and flowers, to encourage faster new growth.
  • Excessive use of fertiliser can burn out the soil, the root system and leaves. Add fertilisers but only in recommended dosages, to keep the plants healthy.
  • One must be observant about pest attacks. Spray neem oil, to keep pests away.
  • Buy a couple of tools like spade and garden fork, for digging the soil when planting the greens.
  • Choose containers which can accommodate a full grown plant.
  • Read-up about kitchen gardens. There is plenty of information available online, as well as do-it-yourself tutorials on various websites.



Where can I set up a kitchen garden at home?

Home owners can set up a kitchen garden on the window sills, grill, or on vertical walls or balconies.

What plants are ideal for kitchen gardens?

Home owners can grow fenugreek, flax, coriander, sweet basil, spinach, tomatoes, chillies, black-eyed pea, as well as micro-greens like wheat grass, radish, beetroot, etc.


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