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Kitchen Gardening

Guidelines for Irrigation

By only putting a little water over a wide area, only the surface will be kept moist. This can cause roots to stay near the soil surface and in strong sun they can dry out very easily. So it’s much better to irrigate less area with more water, so the moisture goes deeper in the soil. Then this area will not need watering again for a long time. In the hot season, irrigate in the evening or at night, and not in the daytime.


All farmers know that without fertility in the soil, crops won’t grow. But fertility can be as limited as water. If there isn’t enough compost for the field crops, it can’t be taken and used for the kitchen garden. So our kitchen garden needs to be self-reliant for fertility. Suggestions for sources of fertility are given below: –

Sweepings pit: by collecting everyday sweepings from the house and yard in one place, you can make enough compost for the kitchen garden.

Liquid manure: liquid manure made in a pit or a drum gives nutrients to the plants as well as protecting them from pests and diseases.

Mulching: putting a thick layer of biomass mixed with compost on the soil helps to increase fertility.

Green manures: sowing seeds of green manure helps to protect the soil and gives extra fertility for more production

Legumes: planting legumes such as peas, beans, Sesbania, sun hemp, etc., provides extra nitrogen to the soil which is good for other crops

Other sources: ash, oil seed cake, hair etc. are all resources which can be added to the soil to increase fertility, as well as helping to prevent pests and disease.

Seeds and Seedlings

A kitchen garden can provide very good food from local, traditional vegetables, and it’s important not to lose these local varieties. However, sometimes farmers are also interested to try new varieties. So it’s very important to save and protect any good seed – this is the farmer’s responsibility. Information about seed saving is given in the Seed Saving chapter. From good seed, it is important to be able to raise good, healthy seedlings for transplanting into the kitchen garden. Nursery techniques are described in the Home Nursery, Air nursery, Hot bed and Leaf Pots chapters.

Garden Design

More production in a small place

  • broad bean
  • peas
  • cauliflower
  • carrot
  • tomato
  • Swiss chard
  • garlic
  • marigold
  • onion
  • coriander
  • beetroot
  • comfrey
  • new seedlings

Species not shown, but also possible to plant

Vegetables :- cabbage, kale, radish, turnip, kohl rabi, chilli, broad leaf mustard, spinach, lettuce, aubergine, beans, etc. Vegetable or herb companion plants :- fennel, dill, basil, tansy, etc.

If seeds and seedlings are planted too wide apart, much of the space in between goes to waste, where weeds will grow. Weeds use precious water and compost, and cause extra work to keep clear. You also have to work harder to replace the water and compost which are lost to the weeds. This is why it’s best to plant vegetables densely. But if only one type of vegetable is planted densely, it will compete with itself for space above and below ground, and so not be a good crop. So it’s better to plant a mix of small and large types, to make different layers of crops on the same bed. These will also have different layers of roots in the soil. This means many plants can be grown in a small space, but there is no competition between crops for space, water and nutrients.


As smaller vegetables are harvested for food, this makes space for the longer lasting vegetables, while in between new seedlings can be planted.

Edge Planting

It’s not only the making of the kitchen garden, we must also be able to maintain it easily. It can be fun to create and plant a garden, but having to work every day to maintain it may soon become difficult, and so the garden gets neglected. Edge planting helps to make maintenance work easy in the kitchen garden.

“Edge planting” means the growing of support crops, or companion plants, in the edges around the garden and its beds. These plants help support the garden by providing mulch, protection from weeds, windbreaks, repelling pests, and producing other useful resources. Plants such as wormwood, Adhatoda vasica, marigold, comfrey, lemon grass, nettles, Lucaena, mulberry, basil, tansy, and many others are good for edge planting.

Benefits of Edge Planting

Edge planting helps with protecting the garden and also producing fodder, fuel, nectar for bees, herbs or medicines, soil conservation (terrace stabilisation), habitat for pest predators, etc.


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