A father and his young daughter are reaping the rewards of their thriving vegetable garden set up in their Dubai villa.
Jamie Carroll, who lives with his wife and daughter, used to grow vegetables back home in Ireland with his parents. He passed on his agricultural expertise to Amirah, 5, who then helped him build a flourishing garden in a small space in their Arabian Ranches home.
The garden has made the family self-sufficient during the pandemic, greatly reducing trips to the supermarket.
“When my daughter was about a year and a half old, she absolutely loved eating cherry tomatoes," Carroll, 40, tells The National. "So, I asked her one day if she wanted to start to learn how to grow them, and she said yes. That’s how we started our own little vegetable garden in Dubai.”
Amirah is actively involved in watering the plants, digging the soil, making compost and harvesting. When asked what her favourite thing to grow is, she says “tomatoes and pears, as I can pick and eat them directly from the plant”.
The family also harvests cucumbers, peppers, squash, bok choy, lettuce, green beans, dragon beans, beetroot and aubergine. During summer, they grow watermelons and melons.
Amirah, a student of Kings School Al Barsha, occasionally invites her friends over to see the fruits of her labour.
“Amirah is my little sidekick in the garden," says Carroll, who works as an air-traffic controller. "Her favourite part of gardening is probably harvesting and immediately popping some of the stuff into her mouth and eating it. A lot of our stuff doesn't make it to the kitchen. She helps us sow seeds. You know, kids love getting their hands dirty.
“We have four raised beds, they're six foot by three foot each. We have some pots and other ways of growing."
The garden also includes a huge bin for making compost using fruit and vegetable scraps and cardboard.
Carroll routinely blogs for Emirates Bio Farm where he shares tips on successfully growing a garden at home. He says one of the biggest pieces of advice he can give to budding gardeners is to start small. “If you have a small balcony, you can grow. If you've got a big garden, start small, because it can quickly become overwhelming, if you feel you're not sure of what you're doing.”
His second tip is to pick your soil carefully. "Get good potting soil and compost, and that will certainly help with the growth. People worry about what seeds to get. Any seed will grow. It's just how much you're growing is probably the biggest factor.”
Carroll says he hopes more people will start to play their part in promoting sustainability through initiatives like his and Amirah's.
“Small things can make a huge impact. For example, for us, all of our cardboard gets recycled and used in our compost. All our fruit and vegetable scraps get put in the compost, and we turn that into soil that we can use then in our vegetable garden.
“As a country, our water conservation is really important. We obviously live in a desert. Everything is manmade out here. So, we feel that if we can bring a little bit of that sustainability, you can offset the big city living.”