Growing Vegetables

If you’re new to gardening, growing your own food is one of the most exciting and fun experiences you’ll have. Apart from learning new things, harvesting and consuming your own vegetables is truly satisfying. Anyone can start their own vegetable garden at home.

To help you start your vegetable growing journey, here is a step by step process you can follow:

Consider Your Location

Your current location is the major deciding factor on what type of garden to establish. If you have a vacant lot, it’s best to use that for in-ground or raised bed gardening. However, if you’re living in apartments, condominiums, or other places where space is limited, the best option is to do container gardening or hydroponics.

Some communities agree to have a common garden. This type of garden is being tended and shared among members of the community.

Plan on What Vegetables to Grow

The next thing you have to consider is what types of vegetables to grow. This requires careful planning. First, what are the vegetables that you would like to serve on your table or share with your neighborhood? What are the vegetables in season? What are those vegetables suited to grow in your climate?

It is a good idea to check a crop calendar to confirm what vegetables can be easily grown in your agro-ecological zone. Here is a table of the common vegetables grown in Nigeria depending on the season and agro-ecological zone where you’re located.

Vegetable Crop Sowing/Planting Season Agro-ecological Zone
Cabbage, common August to December Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah, Sudanese Savannah
Carrot May to December Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah,
August to October Sudanese Savannah
Cucumber May to December Humid Forest, Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah
August to September Sudanese Savannah
Pumpkin November to December Humid Forest, Derived Savannah
January to April, November to December Northern Guinean Savannah,
Sudanese Savannah
Groundnut March to September Humid Forest, Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah
July to September Northern Guinean Savannah,
Sudanese Savannah
Millet January to December Northern Guinean Savannah,
Sudanese Savannah
Onion November to December Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah, Sahelian Savannah
Pepper, hot February to June Humid Forest, Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah
May to July Sahelian Savannah
Sudanese Savannah
Pepper, sweet February to June Humid Forest, Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah
May to July Sahelian Savannah
Sudanese Savannah
Cowpea September to October Derived Savannah
July to September Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah, Sudanese Savannah
Eggplant May to December Humid forest, Derived Savannah, Southern Guinean Savannah, Northern Guinean Savannah

Once you’ve chosen which vegetable crops to grow, you may start purchasing the seeds or seedlings.

Layout of the Garden

There are strategic ways to plant your veggies to maximize yield. Plant taller crops on the north and west portions of your location so they won’t shade the shorter plants. Make sure they receive at least 6 hours of full sun everyday.

Provide pathways so that you’ll have a space to walk through when watering, fertilizing or just checking on your plants. Provide a sheltered space for your garden tools as well.

Consider intercropping or intensive gardening for better pest and disease management. This also provides variety on the crops to be planted. In intercropping, you can grow two or more vegetable crops close to each other. It encourages beneficial interaction between varying crops such as reduced pest destruction, lesser amount of inputs, improved biodiversity, and better productivity. Intensive gardening is almost the same, however, it is more applicable on raised bed gardens.

Prepare the Soil

After planning on what vegetables to grow, you may proceed with preparing the soil. Clean the area and remove weeds and obstructions. Level the ground. In-ground gardens need to be tilled to break the topsoil. For raised beds, there’s a need to construct borders made from materials such as bricks, stones, or wood boards to keep the soil elevated from the ground.

The next step is to test the soil. Soil testing is very important in determining the pH, organic matter content, and nutrient levels. From there, you’ll have an idea of how to improve the quality of the soil you’re going to use in your vegetable garden.

After testing, start improving the soil quality, if needed, by adding organic materials such as compost or manure. For garden beds, mix compost and garden soil ratio of 1:2 or 1:1. For in-ground gardens, apply organic matter on the top 8 inches of soil so it comprises 25% to 30%.

For container gardens, you have to prepare a separate mixture known as the potting mix that contains different materials including from compost. Amendments such as vermiculite, perlite, coco coir, or peat are also needed to improve the potting mix’s physical and chemical properties.

Start the Seeds

While improving the quality of the soil, you may start the seeds in a seedling tray or other seed propagation container. By the time your seedlings are all ready for transplant, you should have finished preparing the beds or containers. Vine crops such as cucumber, watermelon, and pumpkin should be sown directly on the ground.

When starting the seeds, fill the seedling tray with a sieved potting mix. Sow in each hole one or 2 seeds and cover lightly with a thin layer potting mix or a thin layer of vermiculite. Don’t sow the seeds too deep especially if it’s of small size, they will have trouble germinating if that happens. better yet follow the sowing instruction on the seed packet.

Carefully water the seedling tray everyday. Make sure it is placed in a well-lit but shady area but avoid direct sunlight because it may scorch the seedlings. Thin out the weaker seedlings in each cell so you are left with one strong seedling.

Plant Your Crops

Transplant your seedlings once they’re ready. The exact days are normally indicated in the labels of each seed pack. The best time to do transplanting is in the late afternoon when the sun is no longer scorching hot. This lessens the stress that your seedlings will experience during the transplant process.

Remember to transplant only the vigorous looking seedlings and be careful not to damage the roots. After the seedlings are transplanted, water them thoroughly. It’s best to provide shade to the newly transplanted vegetables when the sunlight gets too intense. Do this until they get accustomed to their new environment.

Take Care of Your Garden

The most rigorous job after planting the vegetables is taking care of them. Make sure to water them everyday. Check for any presence of pests or diseases, fertilize when necessary and remove weeds from time to time.

It takes patience and perseverance to be successful in your gardening journey. What we can guarantee is that it will be worth the time and energy. So, start your own vegetable garden now!