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The best way to obtain fresh, healthy vegetables with the highest nutritive content (in these days of chemically-grown ones) and discovering new taste experiences, is to grow your own; whether in your backyard or in pots on the roof or balcony.

It doesn’t take much to get started. Ordinary clean soil, some plant-based compost and seeds, a digging tool, a small watering can or hand bottle-sprayer and some clay pots (all available at nurseries), old crates, buckets or any container with a small hole punctured at the bottom to enable excess water to drain out. Mix equal amounts of soil and compost for pots.

The basic lesson is to sow seeds just below the surface of the soil – not deep down – and never to over water. Plants can die by drowning like people can. The tiniest seeds need only be mixed with a handful of compost and sprinkled over the prepared soil and covered with another light scattering of compost.

Start with something easy and year-round; herbs and leafy vegetables such as coriander, spinach and lettuce are the fastest to grow and are ready for harvest in two months or less.

Different vegetables have varying needs and here the nursery will guide you. Many are seasonal, so pick accordingly. If your first try fails, don’t despair! You will soon get the hang of it. But you don’t need a college course; the best teacher is practice.

Remember, the original farmers who invented settled agriculture were women, and they learned by observing nature, constant experimentation, and trial and error – and by never giving up.

Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22.

— Najma Sadeque
The writer is Director, Green Economics Initiative, Shirkat Gah.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 17, 2011.