Small space, lush garden

Urban farming
Last Updated 24 August 2015, 18:37 IST

When Mhon Chumi Humtsoe shifted to Bengaluru 15 years ago, she dearly missed the greenery  back home in Nagaland. She hoped to create some space for herself and toiled to put up a terrace garden on her rented premises.

The owners of the house were apprehensive about her enterprise initially, but got their doubts cleared as she shared information about the new form of kitchen gardening. Since then, there has been no looking back; she has grown greens, beans, chillies, brinjals besides exotic varieties of orchids and geraniums season after season. The new mode of kitchen gardening is gaining momentum in Bengaluru and other cities, thanks to an increased awareness about safe food and the necessity of developing a healthy lifestyle.

New concept

“Grow what you eat and eat what you grow,” says B N Vishwanath, president of Garden City Farmers, a forum of terrace gardening enthusiasts in Bengaluru. He initiated efforts to spread the green word 10 years ago and inspired many people to tread the new path. To create better awareness and ensure the availability of necessary gardening tools and plants, the forum has been organising a quarterly event, ‘Oota from your Thota’, which has caught the imagination of many urbanites, specifically beginners. It has also played a crucial role in connecting like-minded people, providing them a platform to exchange experiences and inputs, taking the efforts to the next level. This event is being held across the City and is being popularised using social media.

Terrace gardening has enthused people from different walks of like. Take S Lakshminarayana, a City-based engineer, for instance. The recession in 2008 ushered in a green change in his life. It was then he came in contact with this initiative and gradually became a key member of the forum. What started as a stop-gap arrangement has hooked him for life. He is working towards taking the effort to a sustainable stage and is hoping to involve children in the process.

Vinay Magadi, a businessman, has come up with a simple solution to tackle the space problem. He has opted for vertical gardening and has used specially designed PVC pipes, from where plants branch out. Vinay states that he is in no hurry to be self-sufficient. He understands that gardening is a process which requires patience and perseverance and he cannot hope to have instantaneous results. Architect Vivek Halbe, who owns a thriving terrace garden, also supports those who are planning to have one. He owns a terrace garden supply store and offers consultation and maintenance services. Anusuya Sharma, one of the pioneering urban farmers, owns a two-decade-old terrace garden in Sanjay Nagar, Bengaluru. Many of these gardeners ensure that  kitchen and garden waste is recycled and optimally used through manuring.

Mass movement

If one is under the impression that only civil society organisations and enterprising individuals are working towards the green goal, then one must stand corrected. The State Horticulture Department is also successfully promoting kitchen gardening in urban areas. Kavitha A S, senior assistant director at the Horticulture Department, Dharwad (ZP), has been actively initiating the urban population in her jurisdiction towards having a green space of their own. She explains that the government conducts demonstration on the subject in public places like parks, hostels and open grounds. Sometimes, they also arrange guest lectures by local people who have been successful in this venture. A complimentary exhibition at the venue often encourages the public to pick up the nominally-priced seed kits to commence their terrace garden. The Department not only gives a step-by-step guidance to freshers but also reimburses 50 per cent of the amount invested, in the hope of spawning a new batch of vegetable gardeners.

The project has also roped in public buildings to expand the reach of the initiative. Major Siddhalingaiah Hiremath, a district officer in Dharwad, has been able to create a rooftop green space at the Post Metric Girls Hostel, located in the Karnataka College campus in Dharwad in a few months. The inmates of the hostel, who work in the garden by taking turns, are happy as they see the fruits of their dedicated work emerging in the garden. Jayashree Hendegar, the warden of the hostel, who has taken the responsibility of watering the garden during vacations, proudly says that they got around 15 kg of brinjal and four kg of beans in their first harvest. They might not be able to fulfill their vegetable requirements for the hostel accommodates 200 residents, but the new activity has helped students understand the basics of nature.

More than one reason

According to the Department statistics, over 50,000 households have benefitted from the project in the last two years. This year it aims to reach about 20,000 households spread over 30 districts of the State. Despite all these efforts, less than 10 per cent of our terraces have gardens on them. Though many do understand the need for having a useful green space over their roofs, most of them are hesitant to go ahead for reasons like inhibitions about the quality and the strength of their buildings. People living in gated communities and apartments cannot always have the co-operation of their fellow residents. Then there are many more out there with corrugated tin or plastic sheets over their heads, while some of them do not have even that. Heavy subsidies on garden supplies do not seem to attract people in the middle and lower income groups because there are other priorities to deal with. Today, more than ever before, there is a need to look beyond the general misgivings and seek plausible solutions.

Gardening has come a long way from the days when people grew fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamental plants besides vegetables. There was a time when the products of HOPCOMS used to be on the sidelines of the annual flower show. Over the years, preferences changed to flowers and ornamental plants. Though people enjoyed the beauty of the colourful blooms, when it came to the take-home factor, they searched for fruits, vegetables and honey. The scene has changed again, albeit in a slow pace.

The plant nurseries that dot the City see an increased demand for seeds and saplings of vegetables as compared to that of rose and hibiscus, which were very popular a decade ago. The government, civil society organisations and innovative individuals have taken up green cudgels to fight nutrition problem, ill health, inflation, and pollution. Terrace gardens and kitchen gardens that punctuate the cities of the State are but the results of their sincere efforts. What started as a trend has become a way of life today. If you are interested to try your hand at home-grown food, there could be no better occasion to take the green pledge and plant a seedling, than the Kitchen Garden Day that falls on August 30.  Happy gardening!

Tending crops on rooftop

Get your terrace evaluated for garden feasibility and step up its viability, if necessary.
Buy a nominally-priced kit and work on it. Take help from practitioners, whenever there is a need.
Start with one or two pots and easy-to-grow vegetables and gradually increase the number and variety.
Prepare a proper schedule for garden work and follow it.
 Spend time in the garden on a regular
basis — watering and observing the plants.
Gardening helps you practice three ‘R’s —
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Biodegradable waste can be converted into fertile manure by following simple steps.

(Published 24 August 2015, 16:24 IST)

Follow us on