Small food gardens near the family home have traditionally made an important contribution to family nutrition. Home gardens help provide variety in the diet and supply vital vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. Good nutrition helps the body to resist disease and help improve family health.
The home garden is the most direct means of supplying families with most of non-staple foods year round.
A well-developed home garden contributes significantly to daily food needs. It can supply households with nearly all non-staple foods that are needed, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and root crops as well as spices and herbs, medicines and flowers for ornamental purposes or for sale.
Income from sale of home garden produce, can make a substantial contribution to family’s income, to buy daily essentials and other goods and services. Food items that cannot be produced in the home garden or other family land can be purchased from sale of other items in the home garden. For example, coconut oil or woven mats from the home garden can be sold to traders or shops and the money used to buy foods that the family cannot grow.
Women are usually key to improving nutrition through home gardens. Pregnant and nursing mothers and young children are more likely to suffer from malnutrition. Women usually prepare, process and store family food supplies.
Planning a home garden.Before planning your home garden, take time to assess local nutritional problems and consider how to solve these. Where lack of protein is a serious problem, home garden projects should include the growing of high-protein crops, such as beans of all kinds, as well as the raising of fish, poultry and small animals.
In situations where deficiencies of iron (anemia) and calcium are common, cultivate vegetables with high iron and calcium content like fluted pumpkin leaves (Ngu) cabbages, spinach. Where Vitamin A deficiency causes ill health and blindness grow plants such as sweet peppers and carrots which are rich in Vitamin A.
In urban areas, there may be small area of land outside the home or by the roadside which could be cultivated. Otherwise herbs, tomatoes, peppers and leafy crops can be grown in tubs made from old tyres or plastic buckets by windows or doors and watered regularly.
Setting up a home garden project: key points for success
Consider carefully how to organize production – in either individual or communal plots and how to co-ordinate support.
Choose crops well
Crops should be:
Easy to grow, with short growing cycle or long cropping season.
Adapted to the local climate
Popular, with good flavour
Pest and disease resistant
When choosing suitable vegetables, study the diet of poor families with good health. Also study the diet of older people with more traditional food customs.
When water is scarce, other domestic needs are likely to take priority. Improve the water available to plants by:
Covering soil around plants with leaves or grass.
Shading young plants
Removing weeds (they compete for water)
Add manure and compost to improve water retention
Protect and Feed soil
Consider using techniques such as cover crops to cover soil and contour barriers which prevent soil from being washed away. Practice compost-making to improve soil fertility.
Pests and disease
Learn to identify and treat pests with organic pesticides.
Tool for empowerment and community development
Home gardening work may lead to empowering women and contribute to more effective broader, social and community development.
The traditional home garden in Nigeria is a mix of herbal vegetables, staples and fruits and livestock, especially of small animals. The modern home garden can be established in a small space of the home where there is fresh soil for planting. Vegetables and fruits can be grown in pots in roof top gardens, balconies, terraces, courtyards or raised beds, if soil is not fertile.
Suitable plants for the home garden staples include: cassava, cocoyam, potatoes, yams, plantain, bananas and maize; legumes (beans, peas, nuts); leafy vegetables: Amaranthus species, Fluted pumpkin leaves (Ngu), Spinach, Lettuces, Bitter leaf. cabbages, scallions, okras; Root vegetables: Carrots, Radishes, Beetroots; Vines: Pumpkins, Cucumbers, other marrows and Squashes, Egg plants; Herbs: Mint, Curry leaf, Parsley, Celery, Lemon grass, Coriander, Thyme, Chamomile, Tomatoes and Peppers; Small fruit trees: Dwarf citruses, Pawpaw, Coconut, Mango, Guava, Bananas, etc.; Integration of small livestock like rabbits, grasscutters, Poultry, Fishpond, Bee keeping and Snail keeping.
Benefits of growing your own food
Fruits and vegetables from your own garden are higher in nutrients than the ones that have travelled thousand miles to get to the market. Growing your own fruits and vegetables would save money
Having your children assist you in the garden can increase the chance that will eat more of the fruits and vegetables they have helped to grow.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can offer you the opportunity to reduce the amount of pesticides that you use in your garden, making them healthier.
The fruits and vegetables will promote health because they are rich in nutrients, especially in phytochemicals, antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and foliate.
Gardening increases physical activity and a great way to engage the whole family in physical exercise and help take responsibility for the garden.
Gardening gives a real sense of appreciation when you can see the bounty of your efforts.
Growing a garden gives a new appreciation for nature, when you can have an opportunity to see how things grow.
Gardening may stimulate many new interests. You may want to learn more about Botany, Landscape Architecture, Photography, Nutrition and Agric farmers’ markets.
Gardening gives you an opportunity to give back. If you have an abundant garden, you might give some of the produce to neighbours, the local orphanage, prisons, charities.
This can be a great time to create memories with your children. Memories that can last for a lifetime.
Your garden can lead to new skills and knowledge for you and your family. Your child may have found a new interest in becoming a Chef or Horticulturist!
Become creative. There is a potential to grow innovative gardens like futuristic horticulture gardens that are cost-effective and require substantially less space.
Home gardens can create a food-secure community and ultimately a food-secure nation.
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