This is a 5th of a series on Backyard Farming. This article discusses simple structures for your garden and water conservation techniques.
A backyard farm or a kitchen garden will be usually small. Most of us will have a small yard, a patio or even some space with a window. Here are some of the structures you can use:
Yards: Instead of having a lawn, create space for an edible garden. This means you should have space in your lawn or yard for a bed or two. Use the borders of your spaces for vegetables too. We recommend you use raised beds for your farm or garden. Make sure they are at least 24 inches deep.
Containers: You can grow vegetables in containers too. Just make sure they get enough sun. Make sure your container is big enough for a full grown plant. You will also have to always water as containers dry out quickly. The soil will also have to be fertilized and changed every planting cycle. In our patio, we grow some of our vegetables in large black bags.
While you can already grow vegetables outdoors in raised beds or containers, you can put up small and cheap structures using bamboo, pipes or wood. Screen houses will protect your plants from insects and from nature: too much rain, wind or sun. You then use mosquito nets for your sides (buy these from general merchandise shops or those that sell fishing gear.) The rooftop is often made of UV treated hard elastic plastic. You can buy these from Hobee Packaging Co.
Our farm has built Bamboo Greenhouses. (Read more about our greenhouses.) Bamboo is treated with borax and boric acid. It is important to sit your post on cement to avoid termites and rust. We then use thick elastic plastic as a cover. We use Use U.V. stabilized greenhouse film. A short term structure can last you from 6 to 8 months. You can also build long term structures of 2 to 3 years.
As we have consistently stated, you need rich living soil with plenty of organic matter. The irrigation technique we recommend is TRICKLE IRRIGATION. This is a system where water drips slowly directly to the roots of plants through pipes (with small holes.) The mechanism allows the water to drip directly where it’s needed. You also do not have runoff or wasted water. The technique also reduce evaporation, soil erosion and deep drainage. More importantly, it gets rid of many foliar or root diseases that spread through the water.
When to irrigate
Irrigate plants closer to the evening so you decrease the loss of water through evaporation (except if you water by sprinkler. If sprinkler, do it in the morning to prevent fungus). Some other techniques we follow:
When it is a Full moon, there is an increase in the water element. We sow seeds two days before a full moon to take advantage of the water.
When it is a New moon, there is more water in the soil. Two days before a new moon, we do transplanting to take advantage of the soil’s increased water content.
Water conservation techniques
Here are other water conservation techniques we use:
•RAIN HARVESTING AND CANALS
Catch the rain. You can do so by having rainwater catchments like basins, ponds or canals. When it rains, the water falls from the rooftops to micro basins or canals, which catch them. What you can also do is line the canals with thick mulch (4 inches at least) to ensure less evaporation. It is best to take advantage of slopes in your garden so the rainwater gently seeps towards and is absorbed by your beds.
Plant legumes in between and at the boundary of your beds to act as windbreaks. The windbreaks again reduce evaporation.
Raised beds get more aeration in its roots so you do not need to till as often and protect topsoil. Also, a good topsoil won’t be washed out by rain.