GCL started DoorStep gardens to improve children's health and help families become more self-sufficient.
What Are Door Step Gardens?
DoorStep Gardens are gardens planted in burlap or woven plastic bags. Great for growing greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, etc.), tomatoes and other vegetables, they save a tremendous amount of space and fit 20 or more plants into an area only 18 inches in diameter. Arranged either vertically or horizontally and packed with rich organic soil, the bags produce extremely healthy and prolific plants. They're also very easy to care for (no weeding!) and conserve water. So far, GCL has built approximately 1,000 bag gardens in Kiandutu.
- Providing about 300+ families with young children with gardens that produce greens year-round.
- Offering weekly gardening training at the GCL Compound in Kiandutu.
- Sustaining GCL's daily feeding programs with vegetables.
- Operating a demonstration center at the local government health center.
- Maintaining seedling beds at the government health center.
- Providing vegetables as needed to children and families in crisis.
Watch Making A Bag Garden
Who Uses Door Step Gardens?
Large-scale bag gardening started in East African refugee camps around 2003. Camp organizers recognized them as a great way to provide fresh, healthy vegetables to thousands of refugees, who could plant and maintain the bags themselves. Five years later, after Kenya's slums erupted in violence during the presidential election, providing food inside the slums became a real problem. So international nonprofit organizations began teaching residents how to plant bag gardens. Within a year or so, thousands of families had gardens outside their doorsteps.
Today bag gardens are part of an international movement to grow food in small urban spaces. At Give A Child Life, the gardens contain vegetables highest in the nutrients most needed by young children: Vitamin A, zinc and iron. One serving of kale provides 85% of the vitamin A needed per day. Sweet Potato 89%. Pumpkin 53%. Spinach 59%. Chard 38%.
What Is Needed To Build A Door Step Garden?
- Burlap or woven plastic bag, about 18" x 36-48."
- 1.5-2 liter plastic water or soda bottle, with top cut off and holes cut in the sides and bottom.
- Rocks to fill the soda bottle. Rocks or gravel to put in the bottom of the bag (if vertical).
- Rich soil mixed with manure to fill the bag. About 3 cubic feet total.
- Plant starts or seeds to plant in the top and on the sides.
- Water meter (optional) to monitor when the bag needs watering.
- Location with at least 3-4 hours of sun a day for greens and 6 or more hours of sun a day for other vegetables.
Why Do Door Step Gardens Work?
- Almost free. Gardens are made with used burlap or plastic woven bags, empty soda bottles, rocks and dirt. Cow, chicken or goat manure can be used as fertilizer.
- Space-saving. One vertical bag 18 inches across can grow as many as 25 plants at a time. Multiple bags can be put into a compact space.
- No need for good ground soil. You can put a bag on concrete or on rocky, sandy or even contaminated soil.
- Great drainage. Woven bags breathe.
- Easy. No double digging or working large areas. You can mix the soil and compost in a big tub or on the ground.
- No weeding.
- Natural pest control. Little soil is exposed to pests. To control gophers, just put hardware cloth under the bag.
- Saves water. A rock or soda bottle core helps water flow down into the bag, making every drop count.
- Need few tools. After using a shovel to fill the bags in Kenya, sharp sticks were enough to cut holes in the bag for planting (you could use a knife, too).
- Vegetables love the bags! Look at the results.