Cooking is an art, a collection of different ingredients, which in the hands of the right artist brings about a unique taste, coriander locally known as dhania is one of the few ingredients with the power to transform any meal it features in. Additionally, it has health benefits including management of diabetes, moo, and long-term memory enhancement. Better still, coriander is one of the easiest vegetables to grow as it requires little management, is not attacked by pests due to its strong aroma and requires very little space. So whether you need it as a spice or to make coriander leaves tea, here is how to grow healthy dhania and in a way that you can harvest every day.
There are two varieties of dhania in Kenya, the long and the short variety, personally, I prefer the long variety as the leaves are bigger. You can either buy the seeds from companies like Simlaw Seeds, East African Seeds or Safari Seeds or visit your local market where you will find home-made prepared seeds sold cheaper.
I have had problems with low germination rates with dhania before but I found my way around it by soaking the seeds in warm water for a minimum of 24 hours. Some people soak them until the seeds start to sprout before planting, you can do this too (soaking seeds in warm water helps break dormancy). As a precaution, make sure you don’t buy seeds which are more than six months old otherwise getting good germination rates will be an uphill battle.
You have two options you can work with here and both maximize on space, you can either plant on containers or use seed trays, both of which can easily fit on balconies, backyards, on top of roofs or old cars etc. Mix a good chunk of organic dried manure with soil if possible in the ratio of 1:1, if you don’t have animal manure there are organic compost manures you can buy from agro vets at about 250 per kilo. PS, if you don’t have either have manure nor compost, please don’t plant dhania for they will quickly turn yellow due to undernourishment.
Seed trays, on the other hand, are plastic manufactured trays with holes that can fit 3-5 seeds (depending on the size of the hole), there are trays with 280, 230, 160, 60 holes-the bigger the hole the more seeds you can plant per hole.
Take your soaked seeds out of the water; if planting on a cylindrical container, make circular trenches half an inch deep in the soil while spacing the trenches about 10 centimetres from each other. If using a square or rectangular container make trenches in lines spaced 10 centimetres from each other and thinly spread your seeds. Alternatively, if you are using a 60-hole seed tray, sow three seeds per hole at a maximum depth of half an inch and cover with soil.
You can modify this process, to what fits you, just so long as you don’t throw in an excess amount of seeds per container. Cover with the container/seed tray with grass or porous piece of clothing so that the seeds are not displaced whenever you are watering. Use a watering can with a sprinkler head if you don’t have one-improvise- take a 2-litre plastic water bottle, puncture the bottle top and use it for watering.
Watering and Management
After planting your dhania should germinate after 7 days, remove the grass or piece of cloth and continue watering them twice everyday (morning and evening). Remove any weeds that grow, immediately you see them. It is normal for the dhania to look overcrowded in the containers and if so, uproot the bigger ones and use for cooking; the smaller plants that are left will grow better. To ensure a steady supply of dhania (where you can harvest daily for cooking); sow a container/seed tray of dhania every week so that they mature on different days.
Assuming everything goes well, this type of relay planting will ensure that as soon as you are through with one container, the other is ready for harvest. Unless you are planning to sell to neighbours, never sow all your seeds on the same day, otherwise, they will mature at the same time and even refrigeration won’t help much here. Dania plants mature in six weeks and thereafter start producing seeds which too have uses as spices and herbal medicine.
For more ideas on what you can plant in urban farming Here is How To Grow Healthy Sukuma Wiki And Spinach In Your Backyard