As you sow, more you reap

Healthy trend
Last Updated 22 January 2015, 16:55 IST

Terrace gardening has caught the fancy of people in Bengaluru. It is a simple, effective step towards increasing our green cover, says Anitha Pailoor

Safe food is the latest fad among city dwellers. And they have come to realise that terrace gardening is the key to it. A well-planned green space on the roof indirectly leads to a healthy lifestyle.

A garden without chemicals is closer to nature and helps us sustain through the harsher consequences of climate change. How, you ask. Here’s an example.

“The temperature in our house is noticeably less than that of the outdoors,” says Anusuya Sharma. Neighbours invariably spend a lot of time in her house during summer, to escape the harsh summer heat.

One of the pioneers of terrace gardening in Bengaluru, 65-year-old Anusuya started growing plants on her terrace three decades ago, when the city still possessed vast expanses of open space. Over the years, she has developed one of the finest gardens in the city, with active support from her husband.

Anusuya has given importance to plant symbiosis in her kitchen-centric garden in Sanjayanagar in the city. As many as 400 plants of different species, including leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs and tubers provide a green cover to the terrace of her 30x40 site. These plants are chosen keeping their utility value in mind; and she manages to obtain a good quantity of vegetable ‘harvest’ from the garden.

Indigenous methods

“We should grow what we eat and eat what we grow. This is the philosophy behind my kitchen garden. Similarly, a kitchen garden should be able to cater to our basic requirements of health and nutrition,” says Anusuya.

She has grown commonly used vegetables including Indian spinach, fenugreek, amaranthus, coriander, curry leaves, mint, tubers like radish, carrot, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, mango ginger, yam, elephant yam, potato, other vegetables like chilli, tomato, ladies finger, beans, brinjal, lemon fruits like avocado, gooseberry, papaya, spices like pepper, herbs like neem, lemon grass, tulsi and the like.

According to Anusuya, gardening is not a costly affair. She doesn’t get any inputs from outside either. She has always preferred locally available solutions for day-to-day problems. “Every plant has a unique feature and utility value. We have to observe them and apply accordingly,” suggests Anusuya. Concoctions of  herbs available in the garden are used as pest repellants whenever necessary. Trap crops like marigold and mustard keep the garden pest and disease free,” she explains.

Crop rotation, too, helps the proper nurturing of plants, ensuring regular harvest of vegetables. A good combination of plants that require shade and sunlight increases plant density and facilitates space utilisation. Fresh, chemical-free vegetables reduce the family’s carbon foot print, too. Value-addition is another outcome of successful gardening.

Tomato ketchup, strawberry jam, turmeric powder and dried ginger are some value-added and fun products she makes throughout the year.

Such gardens are also a very good source of home remedies for some common ailments. For instance, lemon grass tea is a good remedy for cold, while a concoction of jasmine leaves relieves one of toothache. Kitchen gardens can also cater to the food requirements of the next generation.

Reuse and recycle

The concept of reuse and recycle can also be realised in Anusuya’s garden. One can see plants bearing fruits and flowers in old tyres, gunny bags and thermocol boxes. After re-potting, she revives old soil through solarisation as it ensures that the same soil can be used another time.

Bio-waste from the garden is collected and mixed with kitchen waste to prepare compost. Earthworms develop naturally in this compost, adding nutrition to it. Organic compost maintains moisture and thus reduces water requirement by half.

She also does waste segregation at home. Rainwater harvesting and water reuse are the other factors that keep her garden eco-friendly. The garden, which has developed into a thick green zone, has become a breathing space for birds and insects that have lost their living space in the ever-growing city.

“It is better to start with a couple of plants and then increase the number depending on one’s interest and requirement. Knowledge and expertise can be acquired in the process of nurturing plants,” she says. The avid gardener advises beginners to coat the terrace with a waterproof paint before placing the pots. Anusuya believes that gardening strengthens family bonds and thus stresses on the active participation of all the family

(Published 22 January 2015, 16:55 IST)

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