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Reap what you sow!

Seven months into the pandemic and micro farmer, Javid Frith, is growing cabbage, lettuce, spinach, papaya, bananas, herbs for tea, okra, cucumbers, pineapple, tomatoes, and the list goes on!

Feeling left out yet?  Thinking that maybe YOU haven’t been up to much in your garden or, maybe you haven’t yet thought about eating what YOU grow?  

Well, it’s time to jump onboard because, reaping what you sow is easier and more rewarding than you think!

Backyard gardening in Antigua and Barbuda has been around since the recession of 2008, which reduced local employment opportunities and incomes just as we are now experiencing with Covid-19.

Over the past 7 months however, more persons have started gardening and the interest is growing (pun intended). According to Petranilla Estreada-Joseph, Agricultural Assistant III, Agricultural Extension Division, “I’m hoping that the interest won’t die after Covid-19,” she said. “Gardening takes time and patience but has many benefits such as free exercise, which in turn improves health and wellness.”

So, I get it, you are reading and thinking how can I get onboard? Can I really do this? Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have a green thumb? Well, we’ve got you! Here are some top tips and tricks:

• Backyard gardeners are not limited to what they grow and you can grow crops in different ways such as the standard plant-in-the-ground, in tyres, raised beds made from palettes or even plastic bottles. Some people have even upgraded to using soilless technology (hydroponics). Pick the best method for you and let your creativity run wild like a pumpkin vine, especially if you have children.

• Start small and use the space you have.

• Have a plan; know what you are going to grow and what quantity. Most importantly, grow what you eat!  

According to Mr. Frith, “I started farming as a way to feed myself and my family with food that I am certain has been grown organically and healthy by me. Farming has become a way of life for me.”

• After planting, water twice a day before the sun comes up and before it goes down. Do not water at night.

• Scout for insects daily making sure to check under the leaves of your plants.

• Be sure to feed your plants the required nutrients. (NPK) – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are NOT the only nutrients required by plants however, they will take the plant a long way.

• There is a misconception where persons believe that their soil is not good. Soil structure can be changed and dormant soil can be reactivated over time by adding compost, which can be made by using vegetable and kitchen scraps.

Javid has worked in the Hotel Industry for the past seventeen (17) years and farming for the past 6 years. He has become even more aware of the importance of being self-sufficient and growing his own crops. According to Javid, “Farming has allowed me to really enjoy spending my time connecting with nature on a different level. I tend to share any inspirational thoughts, ideas and practices that I’ve learnt with others. So yes, I’m constantly trying to encourage others to walk the same path.”

We’ve given you some tips but you also have to bring the right attitude.  According to Petranilla “you will need enthusiasm, willingness and patience”  

The possibilities are endless for both young and old. If you don’t know what it feels like to pick your first cucumber, eggplant, sweet pepper or lettuce, you have no idea what you’re missing!

Reaping what you sow is rewarding and getting started is easy! For added information on backyard gardening please contact Petranilla at 772-6503 or the Agricultural Extension Division at 462-1069/1065.

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