Most people who own houses in Zimbabwe have backyards, some large and some small, some fully used and some underutilized or just lying idle. This article aims to inform those with underutilized backyards on horticultural projects they can embark on to bring productivity to their land. These projects help in contributing to the food and nutrition security of their households. In addition, they can also act as a source of income if the horticultural produce is sold commercially. Because of the lockdown, we are currently experiencing, many people have plenty of idle time on their hands. The horticultural projects l have listed below will help people make money, be active, productive and relieve stress. As one great philosopher once said, “gardening is food for the soul”, therefore it is definitely a hobby everyone should consider during this lockdown.

What is Horticulture

Experts define horticulture as the growing of garden crops such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and ornamental plants. The field of horticulture is diverse, and it encompasses the growing of plants for food (olericulture and pomology) and ornamental purposes (landscape horticulture and floriculture). Olericulture refers to the cultivation of edible vegetables, for example, Rape, African Kale (covo), Tomatoes, Lettuce, and Peas. Pomology deals with the cultivation of fruits and nut crops such as bananas, cucumbers, and butternuts. Landscape horticulture is a diverse field that involves the growing of lawn turfs, trees, and shrubs. Floriculture involves the growing of flowers and other ornamental plants (plants grown for decorative purposes). This article will highlight 5 horticultural crops which can be grown by people during the lockdown, namely tomatoes, potatoes, peas, covo, and butternuts.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes
Figure 1: Tomatoes

Preparation for planting

Before the production of tomatoes, there is a need to select a site that is free from frost, with a reliable water supply and no pests/animals which can affect the crop. In addition, it is important to choose the right variety of tomatoes for cultivation because it can be the difference between success and failure.

General guidelines on growing tomato crop

There are two main types of tomatoes, namely indeterminate and determinate. The variety that is recommended by Seed Co is the Daisy F1 which is tolerant to fungal diseases and also does well during the rainy season. The best time to plant tomatoes in Zimbabwe is between March and April.

We can transplant tomato seedlings into the garden when they are 6 weeks old. Planting should be done early in the morning under cool weather. The spacing used for tomatoes should be 90 cm inter-row and 30 cm in-row. Tomatoes need consistent watering about 5 times a week.

 For tomatoes to produce big quality fruit, there is a need for fertilizer application and the best is Compound S or C. This is because Compound S fertilizer contains all the essential nutrients which tomatoes require, namely Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorous, Molybdenum and Zinc.

Pests and diseases

Tomatoes are very sensitive plants hence they are susceptible to various pests and diseases. Examples of the most common tomato pests and diseases are red spider mites, aphids, blight, and bacterial wilt. Red spider mites and aphids can be controlled by spraying Dimethoate 40EC. Bacterial wilt can be controlled using crop rotation and avoiding water-logging. In addition, blight can be controlled by spraying with copper oxychloride.

2. Potato

Potatoes
Figure 2: Potatoes

Preparation for planting

The site that can be used for the production of potatoes should be free from any potential freezing, have a consistent water supply, and have no stray animals which can attack the crop. Loam soil which is high in organic material is most ideal for the production of potatoes.

General guidelines on growing potato crop

It is very important to use certified potato seed from reputable suppliers like Seed Co as this will enhance crop productivity, reduce the risk of pests, diseases, and uneven tuber sizes. Potatoes are a seasonal crop and they grow well under warm weather. The favourable planting time in Zimbabwe is November or from late July to early August.

Potatoes do best when they are grown in ridges that are about 20 cm high. In addition, the in-row spacing should be at least 30 cm and inter-row 90cm, This ensures that tubers can fully spread and develop to maximum capacity. Potatoes need compound S fertilizer during the early phases of growth, and ammonium nitrate for top dressing.

Pests and diseases

Specialists recommend regular weeding to prevent several potato diseases. Ridging and earthing up should be done continuously to prevent diseases like late blight, tuber moths and greening of tubers. Examples of common potato diseases are black dot, bacterial soft rot and early blight. The aforementioned diseases can be controlled by spraying with herbicides, for example, Sencor, Topoguard, Dual or MPCA.

Peas

Pears
Figure 3: Pears

Preparation for planting

Peas grow well in well-drained soils, for example, sandy and loam soils. Peas do not grow well in acidic soils. Experts recommend testing the pH before planting. The most ideal pH for peas is 5.3 to 6.5. Dolomitic lime can be used to correct the pH. Peas are seasonal crops. For the best results in Zimbabwe, planting time is from March up to May.

General guidelines on growing peas

Peas are susceptible to soil-borne diseases, so fungicides like Thiram must be used to reduce any future risk. The inter-row spacing for peas should be 45 cm and the in-row spacing should be 5cm. Peas should be planted at a shallow depth of about 2.5 cm for early sprouting. In addition, peas should not be over-watered as this can lead to leaf spot disease. To improve crop yields, Ammonium nitrate can be used as top dressing fertilizer.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids, powdery mildew, and black spot are the most common pests and diseases which affect peas. Aphids can be controlled using Dimethoate 40Ec. Powdery mildew can be controlled using flower powder, and black spot can be eradicated using copper oxychloride. Regular weeding is also important in controlling any threat of pests and diseases.

4. Covo

Covo
Figure 4: Covo

Preparation for planting

Covo is a very easy crop to grow and is arguably the most grown crop in Zimbabwe. It is very adaptable to a lot of soils nationwide, but fertile loam soils are the best for growing this vegetable. Covo needs organic fertilizer, for example, chicken, cattle, and goat manure for optimum growth. It is, therefore, one of the cheapest or cost-effective crops to grow.

General Guidelines on growing covo

Covo can be planted using shoots that grow on the side of older plants. These shoots can be transplanted into the soil and hydrated consistently to grow roots and be firmly established in the soil. Covo seedlings with roots are the best to grow and take a shorter time to be firmly established in the soil. The inter-row spacing for covo should be 40 cm and in-row spacing should be 15 cm. Covo needs to be regularly pruned to attain bigger yields.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids and cutworms are the most common pests which affect covo. Aphids and cutworms usually occur during hot dry months from September to October in Zimbabwe. Aphids can be controlled by spraying with Rogor. Cutworms can be controlled using Karate pesticides. The most common disease which affects covo is damping-off and this can be treated using Apron Star 42WS herbicide.

5. Butternuts

Butternuts
Figure 5: Butternuts

Preparation for planting

Butternuts are crops that many people in Zimbabwe do not even dare to consider growing, but they are worthwhile if good agronomic practices are applied. Butternuts require soils with good drainage, for example, sandy and loam soils. In addition, they do not tolerate water-logged soils. Ridges should be used in areas that are susceptible to water-logging. For good yields, farmers are recommended to use certified seed and avoid using kept seeds.

General guidelines on growing butternuts

Butternuts require a lot of spacing to develop fully into big crops. The recommended spacing for butternuts is 1.5m inter-row and 40 cm in-row. Butternuts are a seasonal crop and grow best during the summer under warm temperatures. They should be planted in August to grow throughout the summer. In addition, top dressing fertilizer should be applied in average quantities because an excessive application can lead to excess growth of leaves which hinders fruit-bearing.

Pests and Diseases

The most common pests and diseases that affect red spider mites, aphids, fusarium wilt and powdery mildew. Red spider mites can be controlled by spraying Nuvacron 40 pesticide, and aphids can be controlled by spraying Dimethoate 40EC. In addition, fusarium wilt can be controlled by using seed treated with thiram powder. Powdery mildew can be controlled by spraying with bavistin.