Backyard Gardening in Tanzania

One of the things that I truly enjoy about working with Plant With Purpose is discovering new ways in which Plant With Purpose’s work overseas “crosses over” to gardening and creation care opportunities here in the U.S.  I discovered one of these recently in Tanzania in the shape of the “Bag Garden-“ (see picture below.) There are lots of cool things about the bag garden. It allows you to grow a lot of vegetables in a small space, it saves water, keeps pests away and lasts about 4 years before it needs to be redone.

For Plant With Purpose’s farmers in Tanzania, the bag garden does all of this and more- it also provides an additional source of income, as extra vegetables can be sold in the local market and provide much needed funds for school fees and books, medical bills and other necessities.


In the case of Leni, pictured here with one of her bag gardens, the bag garden is one of the things literally saving her life. Leni is living with AIDS. Abandoned by the husband who infected her and ostracized by her community, she is nevertheless bravely continuing to raise her children. Government-provided drugs are controlling the disease, but for lasting improvement in her health, medicine must go hand in hand with improved nutrition. That’s where the bag garden comes in. Since working starting to work with Plant With Purpose. Leni has put on almost 30 pounds and has hope for the future.

You and I may not share Leni’s dire circumstances, but we do have other things in common- such as a need for healthy, organic food, and, oftentimes, limited space in which to plant. If you’d like to learn a great new way to grow food, here’s how you can make Leni’s bag garden.

(Needed: soil, feed sack or burlap bag, about 2 gallons of gravel, broom or axe handle, vegetable starts)

First, thoroughly mix a pile of equal parts garden soil and compost. (You can also use potting soil from the garden center.)

Second, get a large burlap bag or feed sack and fill the bottom six inches with soil. Insert the broom handle into the middle and hold it upright while filling the rest of the bag with soil.

Third, compact some of the soil around the handle by gently pushing it outward. The idea is to compact enough so that you can then remove the handle and pour the gravel down the center hole. This provides a way for the water to reach all the way through the bag.

Fourth, with a sharp knife, cut three-inch slits space about 6 inches apart, all over the bag.

Finally, carefully insert vegetable starts in all the slits and water thoroughly. You can also plant starts around the top of the bag. Your bag garden is ready to grow! After a plant has been harvested, simply put another one in its spot. Your garden should be good for four years, or until the bag wears out.

Remember when starting your garden that they are not that easy to move once completed. So be sure to build it where you’d like it to grow, in a place that is convenient and that gets enough sun for what you want to grow. (And remember that seedlings are always best transplanted late in the day, after the afternoon heat has passed…)

Gardening is that it is an activity that we can share with brothers and sisters all over the world, regardless of our background or circumstances. It also gives us great opportunities to learn from each other. People like Leni have a lot to teach us about living in harmony with creation and growing some great vegetables in the process.



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4 responses to “Backyard Gardening in Tanzania

  1. Joshua Michael Peete

    Hello, my name is Joshua Peete and I’m a cause curator at Live58 and write for a few cause area, including Environmental Stewardship. Plant With Purpose is our alliance partner and I came across your blog on Backyard Gardening, this was a great read.

    • Thanks so much Joshua, I really appreciate the feedback! We’re really grateful for our partnership with Live58, too. I’ll be in Haiti next week visiting Plant With Purpose’s work there and will be posting about what I experience there. Thanks again.

  2. Awesome post, Doug – gardening is truly an activity that connects us as friends and family around the world. I hope to have a sack garden someday for sure and thanks for sharing on how to make one!

    • Thanks so much Colin! I agree- there are so many ways in which gardening connects us. Thanks for you’re blog, too. Next trip we need to try to be in the same part of Tanzania at the same time…D

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