The art of vegetable gardening

Smruthi Marathe takes you through the basics of setting up a kitchen garden.

While everyone thoroughly enjoys a meal made out of garden-fresh and chemical-free vegetables, it is not impossible to continue using fresh, organic vegetables on a regular basis. Those who stay in an apartment or a big housing colony, metres above the ground,  too can find solace for the stomach through a kitchen garden.

The traditional kitchen garden, also known as a kailyard or potager, is typically cut away from the rest of the garden. The soil is inherently richer and receives better attention.

With worsening economic conditions and increased interest in organic and sustainable living, Indians too are turning to vegetable gardening to supplement the family diet. Food grown in the backyard consumes little, if any, fuel for shipping or maintenance, and the grower can be sure of what exactly was used to grow it.

Organic horticulture or organic gardening, is popular with the modern home gardener.  It’s fresh, clean, and less expensive. You can grow basic vegetables in spaces like balconies, galleries or window panes — where there is a source of natural light.

Trivia: During World War II, people relied on a ‘victory garden’ to provide food to families in order to free up resources for the ongoing war.

Don’t be intimidated by an overcrowded apartment to start cultivation. It is not necessary to have large spaces to have a kitchen garden. 

Here are a few tips on how you can own a small vegetable farm and eat fresh and feel contended in the stomach as well as in the mind.

Choose a place: Your balcony could be the best place. Both clean air and sunlight are ensured to the plants. So start out, clean up the balcony and remove all trash that you have dumped there. The railings of the balcony could help even climbers grow.

Preparation: You could use broken buckets or metal tins and even wide-mouthed good cartons to grow leafy vegetables like spinach, mint and coriander. Clay pots are the most commonly used for vegetable plants. Fill the containers with a mixture of soil, vegetable waste and coconut fibres in a 3:1:1 proportion respectively.

Planting: Vegetable seeds are readily available in the market. You could make seeds at home by drying the seeds obtained from the vegetable you use to cook regularly. Take some soil in a waste cloth, sow the seeds in it and tie it up in a bundle. Keep the packet moist for about twodays and the seeds will germinate and are ready to be planted in the pots you have prepared.

Plant food: Use daily kitchen waste to nurture growing plants. Organic compost (chemical-free) is also readily available to be used once a week. Water the plants twice a day and within a fortnight the plants will be ready to flower. Ridge gourd and bitter gourd climbers survive for three months and keep flowering. Seeds of green leaves need to be sown in installments every five  days to keep a constant supply.

Tending to the plants: There is no fear of disease to the plant because you are growing them on a small scale and worms can easily be removed. An infected leaf can be removed and the spread controlled. Using a handful each of groundnut and neem cakes, soaked for two days in water, once a fortnight is an eco-friendly method and gives the best results. Using coconut fibres in a pot helps to retain water and keeps plants fresh and green.
Keep a couple of chairs in the green balcony of yours and enjoy your evening cup of coffee beaming with pride and satisfaction, in the midst of your own small farm.

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