Sack Plants: Go Landless
Sack Gardens Can Help You Grow Surplus
By Anita Stone, North Carolina
When you think about the cost of goods and work involved in traditional land gardening, the first item is ground soil, which has to be tilled and fed properly. Tools are required involving shovels, spades and a bevy of other instruments. Planning, designing and planting are relevant to a landscape garden. If you want to avoid traditional gardening, then a landless sack garden is an excellent choice. You can sack garden any time of the year because the sun is always available, or covering during wind and frost is also doable.
Homesteaders, farmers, gardeners and agriculturalists are always seeking new ways to increase crop production without sacrificing water conservation, without increasing financial stress and using only a small amount of space to provide nutritional needs. An idea that originated in Kenya, known as Sack Farming, has become popular among farmers. Growing landless plants using burlap sacks has become an urban gardener’s paradise. The process allows you to grow food in areas with limited access, little water, and could improve dry communities across the globe.
Imagine living in an environment where food is scarce and almost non-productive riverbeds exist, where areas of dry land spread across the globe, including those arid landscapes in the United States where water is at a premium.
Animal herders in Kenya discovered sack farming, which has been executed in some of the driest places in the landscape. This type of farming continues to grow in popularity as an alternative method for crop production lessening the use of land space. Sustainable food growth ensures proper nutrition to families who live in areas where crop yields are extremely low. The most important asset is that gardeners can plant their own seeds and become producers of large crop yields for families and extend the crops to nutritionally deprived communities.
So what is sack farming? It is a process of filling a series of individual burlap sacks with soil, manure and pebbles for drainage. The rocks release micronutrients into the soil, including boron, cobalt copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, chlorine and zinc, all essential for high yields and healthy plant growth. Once seeds are planted inside each sack, plants grow up to the top and in the sides of the sacks with the use of stakes. This method works well for anyone experiencing limited access to proper soil and ample water.
Families are learning to switch from a trade existence, to a healthy agriculture existence where crop growth is limitless. According to Caroline Wambul of Thompson Reuters Foundation, families struggled to feed their families until they discovered sack farming. “Two years after setting up a sack farm, one family now grows enough vegetables, including spinach, lettuce, beets and arugula to feed the family and sell the surplus,” Wambul reports.
Another benefit of sack gardens becomes evident when you situate an empty burlap sack in a raised bed garden or on a higher construction type of elevated structure, then fill with proper ingredients. This works well for those have difficulty bending, those with back problems, people in wheelchairs and anyone who has a disability, limiting them from planting in the ground. Sacks can be placed and filled anywhere there are stoops, porches, decks, and even parking places.
Chard, kale, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and even herbs can become a community aide for yourself and for those less fortunate. If more farmers and homesteaders utilized sack farming, they would discover that the method requires a small amount of space, as little as only two square feet or up to one-fourth of an acre. This is an example of the theory that less is more because using less space frees up more area for multiple crops, which under traditional soil planting would not produce multiple high crop yields.
Because water conservation has become a major environmental issue, sack gardening offers a method to save and utilize water to the fullest capacity. A free flow of water to the roots, whether through rainwater or gathering of saved buckets of water, helps to maintain moisture on a daily basis. Plants remain hydrated with less water than by traditional watering methods. If you use recycled water, such as rainwater or laundry water, that makes your farming even more economical. Rainwater, for example, proves to be useful where there is no water reservoir to save the liquid.
Because of low overhead, both urban and rural families are offered the opportunity to create income and employment by utilizing sacks. Repurposing burlap, which is often free, saves money. And when growers save seeds from the previous year’s crops, they simply replant the seeds, thus saving more money. When planted into the sack, seeds are protected from wind and harsh weather, where they can be controlled to yield high crop production. The sack method creates income and employment to both urban and rural families. And can be used in any climate change due to its adaptability.
Using healthy soil promotes a more productive garden and a high quality harvest. When you use sack gardening as the basis of crop production, you also have the choice of using organics. There is full control of whether or not herbicides, fungicides or insecticides are used in sack gardens and because of the small space contained inside the sacks, you can mulch and compost easily. Natural doses of fertilizer can also be controlled to increase productivity within the small areas. Growers also have the choice as to planting heirlooms seeds and organic seeds, and prohibiting the use of GMO (genetically modified) seeds. Several countries have successfully outlawed the use of GMOs distributed by large corporations.
A global network of women-led groups, which help women solve community problems by changing some of the ways people live, continue to learn and utilize new methods of crop growth. The group is known as Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood or GROOTS.
After having planted a variety of vegetables in burlap sacks, I found crop production and yields above average using half the money, half the time and half the space usually spent growing and maintaining fresh healthy foods on the land.