Simply put, your back-yard is that space at the back of your house but within the perimeter of your own property or the property you occupy. In many residential properties, the back-yard hosts a back house or boys' quarters, an overhead water tank, borehole or underground water storage, and septic tank; and if there's still space, a garden of flowers and some vegetables or spices and herbs, etc.
The covid19 pandemic has taught us many lessons, one of which is the indispensability of food. As the disease raged globally, many businesses began to encourage their employees to work from remote locations, also known as 'working-from-home' in order to observe the physical distancing rule and stay safe. These continued during the lockdown period wherever there was a rise in coronavirus cases. Schools and market places were shut down except for essential activities.
But while people could work from home, many lacked food at home. The flowers grew beautifully, but they were not edible. The few vegetables, herbs and spices, on their own, couldn't make a meal. The situation worsened when neighbourhood markets opened but many had little or no money to obtain food for their consumption. There was hunger and suffering in quite a lot of homes and families.
The time has come, therefore, for us to consider making use of our back-yards in a more intentional and functional manner - to grow simple and essential foods.
Benefits of a Back-Yard Food Garden
A small food garden in our back-yard can make meaningful contribution to your daily food needs.
1. Convenience. You get to stroll through your back-yard garden and pick different food items to make a meal rather than driving across the town to shop for same. It cuts short time spent to prepare meals and is less stressful.
2. Healthy Food. Food items from the back-yard garden are guaranteed to be fresh unlike the ones sold in the market, that have been harvested for quite some time and the quality of storage and transportation is suspect. Fresh foods, cultivated in the back-yards are therefore, healthier for the family and taste better too.
3. Reduced food expenses. Food items from the back-yard garden are also cheaper than the cost from the market, thereby reducing the family grocery expenses.
4. Food safety. When you grow food in your back-yard garden, you have no reason to worry about food contamination as is experienced with shop-bought food items. There, contamination could take place from the farms where the items were produced or from the processing facilities or even during transportation. With food from your garden, you have eliminated such an occurrence.
5. Preserve the environment. You can contribute greatly to save the earth from the adverse effects of climate change when you grow your food in your back-yard. Most, if not all, back-yard gardens have no need for harmful chemicals. As such, they don't pollute the air and water sources. In addition, foods from back-yard gardens don't exert pressure on the use of energy, nor transported from far places, with different logistics modes, to consumers.
Activities for Back-Yard Food Garden
Depending on the space in your back-yard, your garden can supply your household with nearly all the non-staple foods you need, such as livestock, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and root crops, as well as spices and herbs.
You can also sell food items from your back-yard garden to your family members, friends and neighbours. The proceeds from the sale of the produce can contribute substantially, to your family's income and help you buy other goods and services.
Before embarking on a back-yard food garden, make an assessment of the space available and your family's needs. Today, unlike in times past, you can cultivate a good number of crops and raise some livestock using all kinds of suitable materials, such as wire cages, tubs, plastic buckets, old tyres, grow bags, sacks, etc. You can also make use of your walls to hang your plants.
Suitable crops for the back-yard food garden include: cassava, cocoyam, potato, yam, plantain, banana, maize, beans, peas; leafy vegetables (fluted pumpkin, waterleaf, lettuce, bitterleaf, cabbage, ewedu, shoko, igba, mushroom, etc); fruit vegetables (okro, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, squash, eggplant, etc); root vegetables (carrots, beetroot, onions, etc); herbs (mint, curry leaf, efirin, parsley, celery, lemon grass, etc); small fruit trees (dwarf citruses, pawpaw, coconut, mango, guava, banana, soursop, avocado, etc.
Your back-yard food garden can be integrated with small livestock activities like rabbits, grasscutters, poultry, fish, and snail.
Setting up a Successful Back-Yard Garden
1. Ensure that you have good soil or if you intend to go soilless, then get good quality materials. For the livestock, ensure a suitable area for their comfort and nurturing.
2. Obtain species that are hybrid, with good yield and are disease-resistant. Ensure that you are knowledgeable about their care.
3. As much as possible, keep your garden free of pests and unwanted insects.
4. Ensure that water is available in your garden. Plants and livestock need water for survival and growth. In order to manage your water resources, ensure that the receptacle used to serve your livestock with water is properly secured so they don't spill the water and waste it; cover the soil around your plants with leaves and grass, manure/compost to conserve moisture. Remove weeds regularly.
5. Ensure that the plants have access to sunlight and rain while the livestock have their cages well-shaded from harsh sunlight and rain.
A lot of this information on the back-yard garden is based on the premise that the house residents have the full use of their backyard. Residents in apartments can also grow crops and raise livestock on their decks, balconies, walls and window boxes.
Besides getting fresh, nutritious and safe food from your back-yard garden, you get a special satisfaction growing food for your meals, and that of your family. There's just this sense of pride and accomplishment. Depending on where you live, you could easily be an inspiration to many others and in times of crisis, such as the COVID19 pandemic, you are safe at home; can work from home; and more importantly, have good food at home.