Growing vegetables in hanging recycled containers can easily save a family the trouble of buying some food items. The gardening, primarily of crops such as sukumawiki, spinach, tomatoes and leeks is growing in popularity especially in urban areas.
If you do not have space for a kitchen garden, you can grow the vegetables on a balcony, patio, windowsill, roof terrace or even outside the front door where sunlight or rain can reach the crops.
Martha Wachira, an agricultural officer explained how to grow hanging vegetables at home, during the 2018 Mombasa International Agricultural show. Her vegetables, which she grew in cut bottles sprouted in a month.
“The garden occupies a space of three by two metres. I used about 70 bottles and planted one seedling in each bottle to avoid overcrowding,” Ms Wachira said.
She explained that her crops were leafy because they had enough space to grow.
‘‘You can actually grow a lot of food in pots and containers than many people realise. This will help a family to be self-sufficient and evade the high prices of the food and encourage clean eating,” she said.
However, she cautioned gardeners to avoid plucking out the first two to three leaves, saying it will reduce the growth rate of the vegetables.
“Let the kale or spinach have at least six leaves. Remove the outer leaves as it matures for a continuous growth cycle. Don’t pluck the centre of the kale plant called the bud because it is the part that continues producing fresh leaves.
To start a hanging garden, one needs a shade net, wires, fishing line (strings), plastic bottles, water, soil, seedlings, compost manure, concrete, nails and poles.
Dig four holes and reinforce the poles with concrete for them to be strong. Place the shade net on the roof and walls. Also, leave a small entrance, which will allow you entry into the garden.
Cut the bottles open on the bottom side, then link one bottle container from another using the fishing lines.
Then put soil mixed with the compost in the container, water the soil and then plant the seedlings.
Ms Wachira said vegetables grow well in moist soil and a strict watering routine should be adhered to ensure proper growth.
“Every plant requires enough water to grow. I water the vegetables every morning and evening for them grow faster,” she said.
Sunlight and pest control
The vegetables require sunlight. The shade nets help prevent direct sunlight from scorching the vegetables and the bottles overheating.
“The shade net also protects various pests for example caterpillars from feeding on the crops. Also, chicken will not be able to feed on the leaves of the vegetables because the area will be enclosed,” she said.
The bottles have a small opening, which helps drain excess water during the rainy season.
“Once you water the first plant, the excess water will run down. It will not be wasted but will enter the next container,” the agricultural officer said.
I learnt that the crops in the container do not have many weeds and this will save a gardener from the weeding stress. If any unwanted plant like grass grows in the container, it can be plucked out.
The agricultural officer said compost manure is best for a small garden.
“One can use droppings from chicken or cattle, sheep or goat as compost. They are very friendly to the crops,’’ she said.