Five steps to get the most from a backyard garden

Monday August 1 2016

A well managed small vegetable backyard garden.

A well managed small vegetable backyard garden. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MWAURA SAMORA
By MWAURA SAMORA
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Backyard gardening is one of the most preferred hobbies by many farm-loving urban folks, since it gives them an opportunity to vent their farming passions.

But these pastime shambas can be managed in a way that they produce enough yields not only to support a family kitchen and cut the costs of visiting the green groceries, but also earn the owner a small income.

The following is a five-step programme to increase yields from your backyard garden according to Carol Mutua, an expert from Egerton University’s department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils.

Weeding and watering

Watering is critical during the dry season where one should ensure their garden is watered twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening. This is determined by the types of crops since vegetables need more watering than maize or tubers like sweet potatoes.

However, weeding calls for much more attention since it’s a key determinant factor of the volumes of harvest.

“It can be done culturally which involves the manipulation of the environment to suppress the growth of weeds and promote growth of plants which involves mulching, cover cropping, early planting and proper spacing,” Mutua explains.

“Other methods include using a slasher or a jembe (hoe) and use of chemicals, which should be the last option in a backyard garden owing to its proximity to the house”.

Proper use of manure

This is the best form of additive in a backyard garden given the fact that the quantities needed are very small, Mutua explains.

“Sometimes you find there is chicken or other livestock in the compound which means the manure will be readily available,” the expert says. “It’s one of the most affordable and easiest ways of increasing the soil fertility of a backyard garden”.

Crop rotation

Different crops need different soil nutrients to thrive and interchanging them, Mutua says, gives the backyard garden space to regenerate a particular nutrient. “This should be done in a manner informed by expert knowledge of the nutrients needs of every plant,” she explains.

“Shallow rooted crops like cabbages and carrots should be alternated with deep rooted ones in a garden like maize, sugarcane and bananas”.

She says while crops from the same family such as Irish potatoes and tomatoes should not follow each other in a backyard garden rotational scheme, it’s important to always include legumes like groundnuts or peas to improve soil fertility.

Choosing the right crop

The best crops to grow in a backyard garden, according to Mutua, are vegetables because they mature quickly, hence can easily be used beyond the family kitchen with surplus earning an extra income.

They include garden peas, cabbage, spinach, onions, coriander, sweet pepper, amaranthus, spider plant, garlic and any other vegetable that can grow in the given area.

Pest control

Controlling pests in a garden takes into account its proximity to the family living quarters, hence excessive use of chemicals should be avoided as much as possible. “Natural methods like garden hygiene, crop rotation and scaring away animals like birds should always be encouraged in gardening.”

“In a backyard garden fencing is also key in keeping away livestock like goats and chicken from destroying things like vegetables.”