Many households in Zimbabwe do some type of backyard gardening. Most people typically grow rape (kale) or maize.
There's really is no reason why more urban and suburban residents don’t grow some of their own fruit and/or vegetables in their backyards.
Growing your own food in your backyard gives you access to delicious, homegrown food. I love harvesting tomatoes when they have been left to ripen on the vine. When I pick them it's at the peak of their flavour. Cooking with these fresh tomatoes gives my food so much flavour.Many aspiring urban farmers struggle to get started because they lack the information they need for growing food. So if you have ever wanted to harvest your own food in your urban/suburban backyard here is some practical advice to help get you started.
1. Analyze and prepare your site
You need to know the size of the site you have available for gardening. The amount of space you have will help you determine the best crops to grow. A good starting point is to think about the vegetables that you love to eat and are most popular in your household.
You should note though that not all crops are suitable for backyard farming due to their size and dates to maturity (time it takes to harvest them). A fruit such as a watermelon takes up a lot of space so it would be better if you to bought it instead of grew it.
Another point to consider is that most crops require full sun to grow to their optimum size. Look for a site in your garden that is sunny and is away from big trees.
When you are ready, add compost to the top layer of your garden beds to help build nutrient-rich soil. Good soil leads to good plants.
2. Plant the right crop at the right time
Select the right plants at the right time for your site. If you plant the wrong crop at the wrong time it will not thrive to its maximum potential, no matter how much fertilizer, compost or time you put into it. The last thing you want to do is plant a summer cabbage variety during the cold months of June or July.
You can get information on what to grow and when to grow it by visiting the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) or any of the other agriculture extension stations around Zimbabwe.
3. Follow planting instructions
Buy good seed from a reputable supplier and follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet. On your seed packet, you will find instructions on proper crop spacing and depth of planting. It is important that you follow these guidelines. Seed companies know the optimum parameters needed to get the highest levels of germination.
If you choose to go with transplants from a nursery ask them for planting guidelines.
4. Mulching and weeding
Weeding is an important garden task and something you should plan to do. If left unchecked weeds can be disastrous to your crops. Many weeds attract pests which then attack your crops or take nutrients away from your crops and cause them to have stunted growth. Nature’s way of keeping weeds at bay is through mulching. Some organic mulches you can use around your plants include; leaves, straw, and wood shavings. The beauty of mulch (organic or non-organic) is that it keeps your soil protected and helps hold water so you don't need to water your plants quite as much.
Having your own garden is very rewarding. It connects you to your food. If you start having a surplus you could consider farming as a business like Perpetua and Dominic. The entire process of watching a little seed grow into a plant that later produces the food you put on your table is one of the miracles of life that everyone must experience.
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