Urban dwellers can save more than Sh1,000 spent on vegetables per month by recycling plastic containers into parachute vegetable gardens.
The containers, which have to be hanged along strong roof edges, are filled with soil.
Kenya Prisons Service agricultural officer Fredrick Misoi, who has been practicing this farming for more than two years, said utilisation of aerial space can help urban dwellers save on the vegetable expenditure besides giving them a variety of greens.
This method got the name ‘parachute’ because of the suspension of the soil and the crops, away from the ground. They remain airborne always.
Misoi, however, cautioned that the container must be tied well to the eave rafters to avoid the danger of falling and injuring people.
“Aerial farming only requires a strong holder of the soil container. This parachute garden allows one to grow a mix of vegetables just outside their houses, even when ground space is limited,” he said.
Veges to grow
Some of the common vegetables that do not miss in most urban resident delicacies include capsicums, onions, kales, coriander, spinach, among others.
Black nightshade (managu), spider flower (saga), nderema, and many other expensive traditional vegetables, which have to be got from rural areas, can be propagated in this aerial garden.
A family of four will require an onion, a capsicum, coriander, one and four bunches of spinach and kales for a simple ugali delicacy. One onion, capsicum, coriander, cost Sh5 in middle-level settlements. A bunch of kales and spinach also cost Sh5 in the same area.
One will need Sh40 for vegetables alone for such a simple meal. Even with a variation on the type of delicacy, one will spend at least Sh40 to buy these essential for various combinations of food. This translates to about Sh1,200 per month.
The same family may require spider flower or black nightshade of Sh100 to complete an ugali delicacy.
Congestion is good
A 20litre bucket can host between five and eight crops- black nightshade, spider flower, kales, spinach, nderema, cow peas-at the same time, constable Misoi said.
“Spacing does not matter in this case. Various vegetables have different mineral demands. Despite being congested, they will not compete for the same nutrients. Tall types like the spider flower will utilise upper space while the lower room will be for short varieties like black nightshade and spinach,” he said.
Poultry and other small animals will feed on them. Similarly, selective pests that destroy one variety will not affect the other, therefore, the farmer will enjoy continuous supply of vegetables.
Parachute is pollution solution
Plastic containers do not decompose easily. They present an environmental challenge to dispose, for both urban and rural residents.
“Cracked plastic containers are no longer useless. They can be turned into rich orchards from where one harvests various vegetables every day, while enjoying the varied nutritional benefits. We have tried it and it is working well,” he said.
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Irrigation of such crop is easy too. Plastics hold water. If one pours one or two litres of water per day, they are sure most of it will be utilised by the plants, although little may be lost through evaporation.
For proper distribution of water, the officer, said a layer of small stones has to be put at the centre of the parachute garden.
One requires a tube, which is to be placed at the centre of the container before filling the outside with soil. The tube will be filled with the small stones. It will be removed leaving the stones behind.
Kitchen remains can also be recycled into manure for the parachute gardens.