Vegetable gardens are commonly found in Nigeria in almost every home. One can see rich green vegetables like bitterleaf, ugwu, ewedu, waterleaf, etc. tomatoes, pepper, etc growing from people’s balcony, backyards or any other free space available in their compound. It is therefore to imperative we talk about vegetable gardens and how to maintain one.

The beautiful thing about vegetable gardens is the ease of maintenance. It also doesn’t require much space or technical know-how and of course ensures that one never runs out of vegetables to eat, and permit me to add the word “fresh” – having a Vegetable garden completely eliminates the fear of consuming inorganic or stale vegetables and ensures that one eats the good stuff (*smiles*). Then there is the part of saving money which having one’s own garden affords. Your pot of soup doesn’t have to lack the colour green and one doesn’t have to break the bank to get enough veggies needed to be healthy growth well.

However, as much as a vegetable garden doesn’t really require technical know-how, some things are non-negotiable. Like air, water, sunlight, soil, care, etc. These things are necessary for the proper growth of any plant whether grown in a garden or on a farm.

In addition, there are other salient factors to consider when starting a garden:

  1. Location – The site of the vegetable garden is just as important as the garden itself. It will be unwise to situate a garden in a place where the plants have to compete for sunlight to grow. Vegetable crops need an average of about eight hours of exposure to sunlight to grow well, hence it is important not to locate a garden close to a shady area or under a tree.
  2. Tools and supplies – Like other aspects of agriculture, there are basic tools that should be available before starting a garden. They include: watering can, gloves, pots, etc.
  3. A plan – Nothing goes well without a concrete plan. Things like what to garden, the how-to, the question of when to garden, type of soil, manuring, weeding, pest control, harvest, etc, all come in a plan. Planning the garden before ensures that the work of the gardener is easier and the process smoother. It also reduces all forms of surprises.
  4. Weeding and Pest management – It is important to know the type of pest and diseases that affect whatever crop one is interested in cultivating so as to properly know how to control them.

CROPS THAT CAN BE GARDENED

Many vegetables can be gardened. But the commonest include carrots, greens, pumpkin, tomatoes, pepper, sweet corn, cucumbers, okra, spinach, garlic, beets, leeks, beans, eggplants, potatoes, waterleaf, etc.

HOW TO START A VEGETABLE GARDEN AND MAINTAIN ONE

After successfully selecting the type of crop one wants to cultivate, the next thing is getting the right type of soil ready.

Loamy soil is preferable or soils rich in compost and manure.

After this, the next question will be how to go about gardening. Planting vegetables, generally do not require extensive know-how like farming itself as such, depending on the space available, vegetables can be planted either in a container, on a raised bed or directly on the land.

  1. Container or pot garden –

The size of this can range from as small as a 12-inch flower pot to the size of a half whiskey barrel. However, the bigger the vessel, the more successful the garden. Vegetables like beans, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, etc are examples of vegetables that do well in containers.

Containers require more watering and irrigation, especially as the plants grow and mature, so a constant supply of water is needed, which can be done first thing in the morning and at dusk before night time.

  • Raised bed –

This is more common in the western region but an effective method of a vegetable garden. Any material can be used to construct raised beds but it is important not to use materials that will leach chemicals into the soil. Also, because the soil in raised beds heats up faster and stays warm even in colder weather, they require more frequent irrigation.

  • Directly on the ground –

This is commonly practiced by those who have enough space in their houses, e.g. people with vast backyards. In order to maximize available space, it’s best to plant in a bed. Using beds allows for more rows to be planted together and for the removal of weeds. It is also easy to maintain and doesn’t require as much irrigation as the pot or raised bed methods.

In conclusion, the success of your vegetable garden chiefly depends on the location, the type of soil used, method of gardening and care. Vegetables should be watered at least twice a day and monitored for weeds. If necessary, vegetables like ugwu can be staked to allow for better access to sunlight and growth.