Greta Davey kindly agreed to undertake a marathon by giving three lectures/demonstrations in three areas (Kilifi, Watamu and Malindi) in as many days! Every location had a capacity audience of keen and eager people wanting to learn. In each area Greta was asked to ‘target’ a different audience. In all about 150 people attended these lectures – let us hope some of her “seeds of knowledge has fallen on fertile ground”!

In Kilifi and Watamu Greta gave her talks in Kiswahili. The 40 people who attended in Kilifi were gardeners and small farmers while in Watamu, the lecture was given to some 60 children with 20 more gardeners present. It is so encouraging to note that the children in Watamu showed great interest.


Greta showing all attending the nutrition chart

Greta had all sorts of tips for creating the vegetable garden in an inhospitable climate, including demonstrating a variety of watering devices made from old plastic bottles and containers. She advised using grey water from washing clothes by sprinkling it with ash from a jiko leaving if for 24 hours to allow the fats and chemicals to sink to the bottom: the resulting water now usable on the garden. Ash makes tomatoes flower, Ann Robertson added at the Malindi talk.

The useful watering can – at no cost.

Home made sprayer

“Insects” Greta said, “are a sign of weak vegetables, use more compost to make them stronger – if they persist make a strong spray of a sollution made of chiles”.

At the start of each lecture Greta gave a short talk on nutrition. She said that it was important to eat 5 different vegetables every day and it was not necessary to go and buy them, they could easily be grown in a 4 x 4 meter area in the garden, especially as there a lot of indigenous edible plants that are not only delicious but very healthy. Greta’s plan was to demonstrate to everyone how they could do this and so eat better and feel better.

The practical demonstration started with preparing the 4 x 4 area. Divide the bed 1 meter beds with a small path between each bed for walking and tending the plants. It is important to prepare the area properly, digging as deep as possible and whilst digging incorporate compost and any sort of well rotted manure chick, cow. Whilst digging the soil, don’t ever tread on the freshly dug part, dig the woil walking backwards. When the beds are prepared cover them with dry milch ready for planting the vegetable seedlings, plant tomatoes, which require staking and if possible some marigold plants, these are considered to help ward off aphids and other sap sucking dudus. Plant the different seedlings quite close together then water.

The important message was NOT to use any artificial fertliser or chemicals.

Preparing the new vegetable area

Measuring the 1 meter distance between each bed

Tree Planting

It is so important to grow more trees in Kenya and if the tree is given a good start to life it will do so much better. The hole for the tree needs to be 1 x 1 x 1. Fill the hole with a good mixture of well rotted manure, and compost. Plant the tree making sure that the roots are straight and not going round and round from being grown in a pot. give the tree a good drink of water and watch and notice how well it grows.

Compost Making

The size of the heap should be 1 x 1 and reach 1 meter high. To start lay on the ground four or five posts about 12 centimetres in diameter. These are the base for the compost heap, they are required to ensure a good circulation of air/oxygen, which is required to make the compost. On top of the posts place some large leaves – these leaves are necessary to prevent the compost material falling through to the ground and so preventing air movement.

After the first layer of leaves start to add the waste vegetation, this should be chopped small, it increases the surface area of the material and so decomposes faster. Use green then brown foliage or paper, ash, kitchen waste (except for meant or cooked food) and manure. These materials should be laid on the heap when ever they become available, then give the heap a generous watering. Use ‘grey’ water that can be washing up, clothes, and bathing water. Take four heavy sticks and ‘screw’ them through the compost so that the water can penetrate to the base of the heap. It will take a period of time to reach the 1 meter high, till then just keep adding the compost material when ever it becomes available. Even if nothing is added to the heap it needs to be kept damp. When the heap is not been worked at a light covering of large leaves should be laid on the top to prevent the moisture evaporating. Once the heap reaches 1 meter high start another, close by and leave the firt to decompose giving you lovely fresh compost for your vegetable garden.

When the heap is not been worked at a light covering of large leaves should be laid on the top to prevent the moisture evaporating. Once the heap reaches 1 meter high start another, close by and leave the first to decompose giving you lovely fresh compost for your vegetable garden.

The posts ready with compost material prepared to add

Greta advised to half fill a sack with some manure and then put it into the water drum – this enriches the water

Some of the audience helping with choppping the compost material

Screwing in posts to help the water reach all compost material

Cover the compost with large leaves to prevent evaporation

In Malindi the lecture was given in English at Liz Gregory’s house where about 40 members including their gardeners met to hear Greta, who lives on Black Cotton soil at her Kiserian shamba, give her talk about creating food plots from poor soil. “Good soil takes time,” she said cautioning that compost should never be left in the sun.

Ann Robertson’s gardener William Kitsao brought along a variety of pots of indigenous vegetables from the Malindi area, including one of the nine species of Mchicha whose gorgeous ornamental leaves sport a purple centre. These plants complemented Greta’s chart about the nutritional value of native vegetables compared with other veg. Her FAO chart indicated that one helping of say Terere (Amaranthus) contains 50 times more Vitamin A than kabich.

A final non-gardening tip she shared: put a bowl of ash in an airing cupboard and it will take away the smell of mould!