Traditionally, vegetables have been cultivated in household gardens that vary in size, variety, and seasonal yield while being tailored to the resources and interests of the local community. Vegetables are typically grown in pots or on rooftops and are dispersed across the backyards or front yard. Traditional gardens, which lack advanced knowledge and rely on limited resources for maintenance, can only cultivate a small number of vegetable and fruit species. Kitchen Garden is an art form to grow vegetables in a planned manner on a tiny plot of land close to a dwelling or residential structure in order to provide the family with fresh food on a regular basis throughout the year.
The success of vegetable growth has a pattern to it. It is the outcome of careful design, regular maintenance, and the desire to grown them with nutrients. Kitchen wastewater is used. Generally, the vegetables or fruits grown are for domestic use.
I’m familiar with these since my childhood. From a variety of fruit trees to herbs or flowers, it’s a nostalgic experience to enjoy these in the garden. In assamese, my mother toungue, Kitchen Garden is known as Haak-Pasoli Baari; in Hindi, Grih Vatika or Poshan Vatika.
Shramik Bharti has promoted kitchen gardens as a natural way of agriculture to assist farmers in gaining economic and dietary resilience through the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, and pulses. It increase farmers’ nutritional intake by diversifying their meals while remaining cost-effective. It also increases their household income if they sell the produce, and reduces household expense if they consume it themselves.
Multi-layer kitchen gardens are actively promoting organic nutritional habits among individuals. It has also pushed regenerative agricultural practices throughout the community. Food security, however, remains a major issue for small and marginalized farmers. Shramik Bharti tries to solve it by developing these gardens. It is done in seven steps.
Step 1: Assessment of a family’s requirement
For this, number of members in a family are counted. We then calculate their nutrition intake of vegetables, fruits, and herbs for a balanced diet for a year, so that they build strong immunity and prevent falling ill. A chart is prepared, to show what needs to be grown.
Step 2: Selection of the place and size of a garden
The kitchen garden can be made on any type of small or big place, in any empty space near home or on rooftops. This decision depends on a person’s/family’s requirements. One thing to keep in mind while selecting a space is whether it can be protected from extreme weather conditions across the year. Also, it must be near a water source or drainage of household wastewater. Such a setup would not require extra source of water for the growth of plants and soil.
Step 3: Layout
Based on the quality of the soil and weather conditions, the layout is designed. A 20×30 feet land size is prepared with a tunnel every 3-4 feet, for manure and irrigated water. The soil is prepared with cow dung and other homemade organic mixture which makes the manure. The irrigated water can come from canal, handpump, or household wastewater to moisturise the soil. The land is left with these for 2-3 days.
Step 4: Making saplings with seeds
As per the food chart prepared in step 1, we procure seeds of crops to be grown. They are then nourished for 2-3 days with organic manure acting as a fertilizer. This is required to be done only for certain types of plants such as pumpkin, all kinds of gourds, and can be done in seedling trays like at a small nursery.
For most of the green leafy vegetables such as spinach, coriander and fenugreek (methi), seeds can be directly thrown on the soil to be grown in different beds (knows as kyari). Vegetables that grow underground such as radish, carrot and beetroot grow in the tunnels. Appropriate distance must be maintained between each plant for their healthy growth and nourishment.
Step 5: Machaan formation for climbers
Machaan is a temporary setup for supporting the climber vegetables such as gourds, beans, pumpkin. It is made with bamboo poles, metal wires, and ropes. It is also known as scaffolding formation, a temporary structure for support. The machaan also provides shade for plants on the ground.
Step 6: Protecting and nurturing the plants
This includes giving irrigated water and organic fertilizers to plants and/or saplings, plus protecting the plants from crop diseases by using homemade pesticides and/or insecticides such as neem, flour, gur, besan, and cow urine. This must be sprayed on all vegetables and fruit plants to prevent them from damage.
Step 7: Harvest
Freshly plucked organic and nutritious vegetables can be enjoyed from one’s own kitchen garden.
Due to unpredictable weather conditions and animal attacks, these gardens are not always able to fulfill a family’s consumption requirements. But they are defintely helpful in promoting healthy and nutritious food in their diet. People also share their produce with their neighbours and relatives or with other people in need.