Farming experts have said that it is possible to grow seasonal vegetables, usually cultivated in summer, through tunnel farming. This method allows farmers to grow these vegetables ahead of the season and earn extra revenue that way, they said.
Vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet chillies, green chillies, pumpkins, sponge gourds, bitter gourds, vegetable marrows, red gourds, aubergines, water melons and musk melons can be cultivated in low, walk-in, and high tunnels during winter season.
Vegetables cultivated in tunnels are covered by green fibre sheets that protect vegetables from severe cold and frost, especially during December and January.
With the intensive care, the farmers can manage an early production of summer vegetables and earn more than if they continue with seasonally-sown vegetables.
Experts have recommended that vegetables growers should get proper training in tunnel farming and start nursery cultivation of tomatoes, sweet chillies, green chillies, and aubergines from the mid of September. Loamy soils that have good drainage are best for cultivation of these vegetables, the experts said.
The selection of vegetables varieties, disease-free seeds and building nurseries are important steps in the process of tunnel farming, they said. The selected nursery fields should be away from tree shade and be built near a tube well. They said before they sow seeds, soil in the nursery should be mixed with well-decayed farm yard manure and organic fertiliser.
They said levelled nursery fields should be prepared with rota vators and 3-4 ploughing with planking. The prepared fields should be divided into small units and vegetable seeds should be sown in rows at three inches plant-to-plant distance, experts said.
After sowing the seeds, the soil must be covered with mixed decayed plant leaves (vegetable compost) and sandy-norm soil particles.
After seeds are sown, the nursery must be covered with a net of cloth and rice husk and date palm leaves must be spread on the nursery lines. They said sprinkle irrigation is necessary to allow for the germination of seeds.
The experts said after the seeds germinate, the cover should be removed so that nursery plants get maximum light and air for better growth.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.