As I started reading more about vegetablegardens, especially urban gardens, I began to see the link between gardening, food security and poverty. Even in the US, many families struggle to eat healthy because packaged foods are more readily available in urban settings and often are more costly. But, the negative side effects of the lifestyle and eating habits which have resulted are plaguing the US population with health issues such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and so forth. We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables, but the modern city lifestyle simple isn’t conducive to it.
As people are increasingly realizing this link, more and more people have begun to start urban gardens to increase their ability to easily integrate fresh produce into their diets. For urban apartment or condo dwellers, the garden may be a few plants in containers. For urban or suburban home owners or dwellers, they may have room for a small in-ground or raised bed garden. Some lucky urban residents may have access to a community garden where they usually have more area to work with in collaboration with a group of other urban gardeners.
The Dinner Garden is a non-profit focused on increasing the trend of people to grow their own fruits and vegetables, even in small areas. They distribute seeds for free to families and school children in an effort to encourage gardening and increase food security for families across the US. As any teacher or parent knows, eating fruits and vegetables is extremely important for children’s development and studies show that it can improve energy and brain function. By getting kids involved with gardening at a young age, it can help promote healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
The Dinner Garden has accomplished so much since their beginning in 2009 and the work they are doing is amazing. Check out their website or read some other blogs which feature this organization.
In 2008, food prices soared,along with fuel prices, reaching their highest level in 30 years. This created the worst food crises in recent memory. In 2010, food prices grew again, amidst natural disasters and drought hitting countries around the globe. Of course, high food prices make farmers happy, as it encourages them to plant more crops. But, what is the typical consumer to do when food and fuel prices continue to rise.
One answer to this problem to grow some of our own food. This can be done, even on a small scale, if one can grow vegetables and herbs in containers or a small garden. All it takes is a little soil and a little care to grow your own food.
Luckily, in Thailand, we are blessed with great conditions for growing food all year round. It’s been said that you can throw seeds on the ground and things will just grow. However, to get a good production of vegetables, it’s best to do a little preparation to make sure you are improving the conditions for your plants, since it will all determine the quality of the products that you get out. You need to “feed” the plants for them to produce well. It’s all going into your body, so we want to grow high quality vegetables.
Of course, when you grow our own vegetables you do not want to use pesticides. This is another benefit of growing your own vegetables. Many growers use pesticides to make sure their crops are unblemished since those are the beautiful fruits and vegetables we all look for when we got to the market. Some of the crops which use the most pesticides are watermelon and cabbage (at least in Thailand.
If more people grew their own food, it would help promote food security and development. As we saw with the recent flooding, there are times when food production areas are hit by disasters, thereby reducing the supply of food at those times. In think this idea is something that is well promoted by HRH King Bhumphipol’s Sufficient Economy (Por Peang) and goes in line with leading a sustainable lifestyle.
It won’t solve all of the problems resulting from high food prices, but spending a little less at the market each week will all add up.
An excellent example of a rooftop garden in Bangkok which is cared for by the District Office in Laksi, Bangkok, Thailand. The main purpose for growing rooftop gardens is to increase the productivity of the area, increase the green area, decrease global warming and increase the amount of healthy vegetables grown for household consumption. By using household organic waste in composting, it is also a way to decrease the amount of waste that needs to be managed by the municipality. As you can see in the video, rooftop gardening is done in raised beds which are placed on the concrete roof. The beds raise a variety of vegetables, including climbing vines and salad greens. The district office at Laksi is open to all Bangkokians who is interested in gardening, getting advice and they will even give you some seeds to get your garden started.
Language: Thai only
In Thailand’s warm, tropical climate plants are easily grown with a little care and water. The provincial office of Agriculture in Phuket demonstrates in this video how residents can plant their own herbal plants at homes, even with limited space or budget. The Agriculture Chief suggests hanging pots of herbal or kitchen vegetables that can easily be planted in reused or reclaimed materials such as plastic containers, paint buckets or even old motorcycle helmets. The plants that are recommended because they are easily grown and commonly used in Thai cuisine include lemongrass, sweet basil, basil, morning glories and chillies. He suggests that it not only helps cut costs in the household budget, but is also organic and healthy for family members. Some of the pungent plants also serve as natural insect repellent, such as lemongrass.
outh and entrepreneurship are two great elements for social change because young people really have the drive and creativity to push the limits and help people. These two brothers are a wonderful example of young people who are looking to help people in developing countries by spreading information about gardening systems.
They started by developing an idea similar to the Earthbox but used 5 gallon buckets. They filmed an intro and various how-tos for making their Global Buckets using 2 5-gallon plastic buckets, a plastic cup, PVC pip, drill/hole drill bits, black plastic, soil and vegetable plant (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) The video are narrated by the two brothers and are very easy to follow. The benefits of their system is that it reduces water loss, reduce time needed for weeding and can easily be used in small spaces, even urban rooftops.
Furthermore, these guys are great experimenters. After some feedback from users in Jamaica that told them that 5-gallon buckets in Jamaica are too valuable to put holes in, they decided to try to make similar system out of garbage and recycling various materials. So now, they have suggested other ideas such as growing bags and using dirt, instead of potting soil. They hope to lower the cost and make these systems more applicable to developing countries. I wish these two young social entrepreneurs the best and will try some of their ideas out in my own garden.
The last few weekends I have been working on the
preparations for my vegetable garden. During the last few months,
my father put some of the leftover pulp from composted pineapples
in the ground. Now, we added more layers of organic compost, this
time mostly from leaves and grass clippings, as well as cow manure.
We also put a fence with netting around the area. This is to make
sure the dogs don’t get into the garden, since they love to dig and
chew. Three weeks ago, we started some seeds in small folded-paper
pots filled with a mixture of soil, coconut coir and manure. Most
of the vegetables have sprouted and the seedlings are ready to go
into the ground. I’ve also started more seedlings last week. This
time I have some sage, Thai pumpkins, Baby Boo pumpkins, dipper
gourds, and butternut squash. The last three were from seed packets
that I bought at the Jim Thompson farm for 20 baht. Each packet
only had 4-6 seeds so I take extra special care of those ones. This
Bangkokian can wait to see it when everything is in the
Based on this video, one of the most difficult issues with growing an urban garden is actually starting. For the sunny, hot climate in Thailand, providing enough water for the plants will be one of the trickier aspects of caring for the plants. The plants which are recommended are pak boong and basil as being hardy plants for beginners. If you have a concrete slab and no place to grow your vegetables, coconut husks can be used to provide a layer of insulation before putting some soil over. The coconut husks help to maintain the moisture in the soil and helps keeps the plants cooler throughout the day. Manure is added to fertilize the soil instead of using chemical fertilizers.
Seeing as buying organic vegetables can be expensive, this urban dweller in Thailand decided to grow his own fruits and vegetables. Buy using the small area around his house, including the car park, the formerly unused area has been turned into an area for producing food. Amazingly, he even grows mushrooms and composts in this small area. This is a very practical approach for urban Bangkokians and a good model for anyone looking to trying growing more than landscape or ornamental plants. It’s very encouraging to see that some people are producing their own food, even in an urban jungle like Bangkok. For me, I think it definitely proves that small, urban food gardens are possible in Thailand.
Starting this year, I’m trying to eat healthier by increasing my intake of vegetables. In Thailand, fresh local-grown fruits and vegetables are easily bought from the store year. However, with my recent working habits, I’ve been eating food more for the convenience than for taste, quality or nutrition. While food in Thailand is generally served in small, appropriate portions compared to Western countries, many of the restaurants near my work place serve larger portions. Additionally, Thai food can be carb-heavy because it is served with rice or noodles and many of the quick dishes are fried and oily.
One solution to my lunch time dilemma would be to pack my own lunch such as salads and lean meats. Most supermarkets offer a range of salad greens and fresh vegetables to choose from. However, purchasing vegetables regularly can be troublesome as making time for multiple trips to the supermarket during the week can be time-consuming. It can be difficult to gauge how much vegetables will be required for one week so I’m often either buying too many or too few vegetables. So, in order to make obtaining vegetables regularly a little bit less cumbersome and a bit more fun, I’ve decided to try and grow some vegetables in my yard.
Being fortunate enough to have a large enough property to have a vegetable garden in Bangkok, I’ve decided to start some seeds out in folded paper pots. The paper I used was already used on both sides and will be the temporary home for my seedlings before they will be put into the ground. Initially, I’ve started some cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy, long green beans, pak boong, and Chinese broccoli (pak kana). Afterward, I plan to plant everything into the plot of land which has been prepared by mulching some manure and organic matter a few months before. Once this first lot of seedlings goes into the ground, I’ll be starting the next lot of seedlings which will include some pumpkin, watermelon and lettuce. If everything goes as planned, I’ll have various fresh vegetables that I can pick from my own garden and eat, without the hassle of going to the supermarket. At the very least, it can supplement whatever is store bought and reduce my expenses on vegetables that I can grown myself.
This video provides introduction to maintaining a useful vegetable garden. The school garden is cared for by the teachers and students at a border police-run school in Ban Pha Kha, Fang, Chiang Mai Province. The teacher discusses methods for caring for the various plants in the garden ranging from climbing plants which are trained on a bamboo trellis to salad greens and local fruits. She also talks about the fence that was built around the garden to prevent pigs from neighboring farms from coming into the garden and eating the vegetables. Shan and Thai language spoken in this video. (No English!)