Discovering the Farmer in You!

Addis City Admin is making a campaign for urban vegetable gardening. A commendable action that everyone can sign up for.

There are a lot of reasons to practice urban vegetable gardening. Not the least of which is that anyone can affordably grow their own, organic, delicious veggies to eat healthy and reduce frequent trips to the market.  There is nothing stopping you even if you live in an apartment and limited compound space.

In the era of coronavirus, locust invasion of crops and uncertain logistics, urban food supply chains are more valuable than ever before. A global assessment finds that urban farming could yield up to 10 percent of many food crops on top of other benefits. That means a fresher product and less spoilage giving you the excitement of growing your own food. Evidence shows that countries around the globe begin to take urban agriculture more seriously as a potential force for food sustainability.

Ethiopia is no exception as well accommodating and encouraging urban agriculture. Urban agriculture can mean animal husbandry (e.g., breeding and raising livestock and chickens), beekeeping, and planting flowers but we are focused on edible gardening.  Obviously within our city limits we may not be able to grow everything we eat but we can play a role in bringing ourselves closer to our food making our compound or porch not only interesting and green but also a source of food.

Where to Find Seeds?

It is possible to buy vegetable seeds from plant shops around Addis Ababa with a reasonable price. Check out shops located at Old Airport area, near South African embassy, Bole international airport on the way to Megenangna and Urael near to Bambis supermarket. Incredible garden located at old airport sales tomatoes (ETB 50), salad (ETB 30), Habesha gomen (ETB 20).

Getting Started – What, Where, When?

Our tips are to make farming easier for you as little good advice can save a lot of disappointment and significantly increase the levels of success in your garden. Buy baby plants instead of seedlings as the latter requires a bit more farming skill to raise into a plant.

Start with the simple once to grow by cultivating tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, garlic, zucchini and yes, even potatoes!  All of these will do just as good as on the ground in containers you place on your balcony.

But always be mindful that while growing plants in containers intensive care is necessary to ensure that things that are usually available naturally in the garden (light, water, nutrients) are supplied in the proper quantities. Sunlight and watering need to be daily and even to good quality seed replenishing soil is vital to keep supply of soil nutrients.

A great option for making the most of your balcony is vertical gardening. You can use stack planters or a wooden shelf or a table to start a flourishing container gardening planting veggies and herbs.

If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, be sure to aerate the soil before planting densely packed, dormant soil may not give you the results you desire. Dig a hole that is 4-5 times the width of the root ball so that it has more space to grow. Do not plant on sunny days because the heat will dry out and kill the plant. The best time to plant is early in the morning or late afternoon.

Generally, you would probably plant potatoes all year around because it’s adoptive to weather changes but tomatoes for example do not resist frost. It needs constant sunlight and moisture but it’s ok even if you’re a bit earlier or later especially if you will be growing your vegetables in a somewhat protected area indoors in a balcony.

How to Grow Your Own Food! 

Although growing plants requires care it only requires three basic requirements: soil, light, and water. To start planting in your containers use soil from the ground. Always remove the plastic covering of the plant before planting because water and air free movement will be prevented.

Use plastic plant pots rather than clay pots. Plants in plastic dry out less quickly because the pots are not absorbent like clay ones. Ensure the container is big enough for the plants to have plenty of space to grow.

If you are using a plot, dig a hole and allow comfortable settling of the plant then backfill the remaining soil before watering the plant. Water it again in an hour. In the absence of rain plants need watering once a day.

No matter where you are planting soil depth is vital, shallow rooted plants require at least 15 centimetres of soil depth if they are under 30 centimetres tall, whereas deeper rooted plants need at least 30 centimetres of soil depth. For example, you would need at least a 19-litre container for a single tomato plant.

If you want to plant a bunch of herbs, they can easily grow in a single pot together. Almost every vegetable such as leafy greens, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and onions grow in a container as they do on the ground.

Taking Care of your Veggies!

Sunlight is crucial, make sure that you find a place where the plant has access to at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. Of course, this depends on the type of plant for example many greens and herbs require much less sunlight to flourish.

Remember that over-watering is the quickest and most common way to destroy a plant, always let the soil dry out and then fill it up. Make sure that you thoroughly soak the entire container or ground each time you water. Drainage is important to remember because the plants are potted so the water can escape, so make sure that your chosen plastic container has drainage holes.

If you live in high-rise buildings though, the plants might be exposed to unnecessary sunlight which can dry out the plant. Under these conditions, you may need to water your plants every day. Incorporating drought-tolerant plants is another great option. Protect the plant by removing weed to eliminate food competition and disease.

Keep an eye on the plant and note if any leaves start to lose the normal vigorous green color, curl, or droop and turning yellow indicate severe nutrient deficiency water them more.

The above tips will prepare you for the good news of producing your own food, tweaking your planting plan and available space to maximize how much food you can eke.